Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in October 1986 and celebrated its 10,000th performance in 2010 and 30th anniversary in 2016.
The story of a deformed musical genius’s obsession with a talented soprano, Phantom has won more than 70 major theatre awards and has been seen by more than 140 million people. It is the longest-running show in Broadway history and the first to reach 10,000 performances in New York.
4. The Woman in Black 1989 – present.
The Woman in Black is a 1987 stage play, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt. The play is based on the book of the same name, which was published in 1983 by English author Susan Hill. The play is currently being produced by PW Productions, led by Peter Wilson. It is notable for only having two actors perform the whole play. It was first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, in 1987.
5. Blood Brothers, 1988 – 2012.
Originally conceived as a school play, Blood Brothers is a musical about twin brothers who were raised separately but fall in love with the same woman.
It debuted and had a moderately successful but short run in the West End in 1983. A national tour in 1987 reignited interest in the musical, and it returned to the West End in 1988. It ran for more than 24 years before finally closing in November 2012.
6. Cats, 1981 – 2002.
An Andrew Lloyd Webber-scored musical, Cats is about cats—specifically, a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and their decision as to which cat is to be reborn into a new life.
Cats opened in the West End in 1981 and closed 21 years later in 2002, making it London’s longest-running musical until Les Misérables overtook it in 2006. An updated West End revival of Cats ran from December 2014 through April 2015, then again from October 2015 through January 2016.
7. Mamma Mia! 1999 – present.
Another world premiere that took place in the West End, Mamma Mia! opened 23 March 1999 at the Prince Edward Theatre. It transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre in June 2004, before moving to the Novello Theatre in September 2012.
This jukebox musical is the story of a young bride seeking her father on a Greek Island, told through the music of Swedish band Abba. It has been seen by over 60 million people in 50 productions in 16 different languages.
8. Disney’s The Lion King, 1999 – present.
While many blockbuster musicals are adapted for the big screen, Disney’s The Lion King is a musical that was adapted from a film, specifically the 1994 animated Disney film of the same name.
Like the movie, Disney’s The Lion King follows the Hamlet-inspired story of Simba, a young lion who challenges his murderous uncle for the throne of Pride Lands, and features music by Elton John. The Lion King recently overtook Starlight Express to become the 6th longest-running show in the West End.
9. Starlight Express, 1984 – 2001.
Performed by actors wearing rollerskates and featuring sets with racetracks extended into and around the audience, the rock musical Starlight Expresswowed West End theatregoers for 17 years, finally coming to a halt in 2001.
The story of rival trains battling for supremacy lives on in Germany, where it has been performed continuously since 1988.
10. No Sex Please, We’re British 1971-1987.
No Sex Please, We’re British is a British farce written by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott, which premiered in London’s West End on 3 June 1971. It was unanimously panned by critics, but played to full houses until 1987 at three theatres (the Strand, the Garrick and the Duchess), totalling 6,761 performances. It did not share the same success with American audiences, running for only 16 performances on Broadway in early 1973.
Other shows just missing out on the Top 10 include: Wicked, Chicago, We Will Rock You, Miss Saigon and Thriller Live.