Top 10 List of the longest-running West End shows

10 top west end shows

These 10 top London shows sustained success for years—some for decades—as they entertained both residents and global visitors performance after performance.

1. The Mousetrap1952 – present.

The Mousetrap is a murder mystery play by Agatha Christie. The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952, and has been running continuously since then. The longest running West End show, it has by far the longest initial run of any play in history, with its 25,000th performance having taken place on 18 November 2012. The play is known for its twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre.

2. Les Misérables1985 – present.

Les Mis debuted in Paris in September 1980, before arriving in London’s West End on 8 October 1985. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel and set in revolutionary era France, Les Misérables is the story of former convict Jean Valjean and his quest for redemption.

Its first three-month engagement at Barbican Theatre sold out, and the show has been running continuously in the West End ever since, making it one of the longest-running musical in the world.

3. The Phantom Of The Opera, 1986 – present.

Ben Lewis (The Phantom) and Kelly Mathieson (Christine Daae) in The Phantom Of The Opera (Photo: Johan Persson)

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.

Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre (Photo: Brinkhoff & Mögenburg)

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.

Disney's The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre (Photo: Dewynters Photography)

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.[1] 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.

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Mark Meets
Mark Meets
MarkMeets Media is British-based online news magazine covering showbiz, music, tv and movies
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