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© Matthew Murphy

A-Z: West End theatre shows on now in London

Every single play currently running in Theatreland, in a handy alphabetical order

Written by
Time Out London Theatre
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It can be diffiult to keep up with everything on in London’s West End, which is full of more theatre shows, musical productions and ticket offers than you can shake an interval ice cream at. So where to start? We’ve pulled together literally everything currently running in the West End, from new plays to long-running musicals, for YOUR delight.

Want to shortcut to the good stuff? Check out our pick of the top ten West End theatre shows in London.

West End theatre shows on now

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Charing Cross Road

Musicals don’t come much more low-key, wholesome or Canadian than ‘Come from Away’. Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein cook up the straightforward world of the Newfoundland town of Gander using a very straightforward set of ingredients. The cast wear sensible shoes and lumberjack shirts. They tramp across a wood-decked stage that evokes the huge skies of their tiny island. They sing their way through a set of folk-tinged songs that tell stories of the five days after 9/11, when 38 planes made emergency landings on the island’s huge, disused airstrip. And it’s all totally, soul-feedingly wonderful. ‘Come from Away’ has been a massive sleeper hit across North America, Broadway included, and it’s easy to see why: it mixes down-home authenticity with the desperate intensity that comes in times of crisis. This is a moment where 7,000 temporary arrivals join a community of just 9,000 people. Logistics might not be the sexiest of topics for a musical, but one of the many surprising joys of this show is how gripping it makes things like the struggle to rustle up transport at a time when the local school bus drivers were on strike and had to be coaxed into crossing the picket line. Then there are beds, food, medication and interpreters to be sourced for passengers from across the world: one non-English-speaking couple communicates by cross-referencing Bible verses. Based closely on interviews with real Newfoundlanders, this is a picture of a community that stretches itself to break

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

This wildly hyped Broadway hit musical is basically ‘Faust’ for high-schoolers. A nerdy, anxiety-ridden teenage boy sells his soul (well, his integrity, anyway) for the popularity and appreciation he’s spent his whole life craving. But his guilt makes every YouTube follow or Twitter retweet become excruciating – and then the whole fragile edifice comes crashing down. It’s easy to see why ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ has won so many fans since it first premiered in 2015: it mixes agonising tension with surgingly catchy songs by songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who’ve also worked on movies ‘La La Land’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’. The standout numbers are emotive rock ballads like ‘You Will be Found’, the kind of thing you’d wave your lighter along to if the West End’s theatres weren’t imperilled enough already. But the score’s also stuffed with inspirations from emo to bluegrass, and Evan’s mum gets a gravelly howl of frustration that could be straight out of Alanis Morissette’s back catalogue.   The intense emotionalism of the score is characteristic of a musical where everything’s dialled up to 11. Evan Hansen isn’t just your archetypal teen movie loser; he’s as fragile as a peeled egg, bouncing from humiliation to humiliation in a high school that’s like a machine designed to slice him up. A West End newcomer, 21-year-old Sam Tutty glows with sweat and goodness, bringing integrity to a storyline that’s somewhere between ingenious and tortuous. Evan’s mother gets him treatment f

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‘Frozen’ review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

Alas poor Marshmallow! The inscrutable, inept snow monster that ice mage heroine Elsa conjures to guard her palace is the highest-profile casualty of ‘Frozen’s journey from screen to stage. Michael Grandage’s musical version of Disney’s animated enormo-smash is almost identical to the film in terms of plot beats. But he dials down the wilder fantasy, steering the show – within obvious constraints – to something a little closer in tone to ‘The Snow Queen’, the Hans Christian Andersen tale that it’s based upon. It’s still a dazzling spectacle that the film’s legions of kiddie fans will love. But adults will note that it’s more serious, sadder and wiser than the film. Some New York critics didn’t seem to be entirely happy with this when it opened on Broadway in 2018, criticising it for being dour. But I liked Grandage’s more melancholy spin, which is written by the film’s screenwriter and director Jennifer Lee, with new songs (and old songs) from the film’s songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. To be clear, the talking snowman and the goofy reindeer are still in it, but it does land a bit differently.  In particular, it feels like less of an ensemble piece and more focused on the relationship between Samantha Barks’s troubled, sensitive Elsa and Stephanie McKeon’s loveable goofball sister Anna. There’s more about their lives in the royal palace where they grew up, first as best friends, and then kept separate by their over-protective parents after Elsa's growing m

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Shaftesbury Avenue

Blessed with a megastar turn from Arinzé Kene and what is surely the loudest bass ever heard in the West End, ‘Get Up, Stand Up!’ is one heckuva Bob Marley tribute concert.  And that is underselling it: aside from a sound quality (and volume!) that most scrappy tribute bands could only dream of, Kene’s performance is genuinely towering stuff, a febrile mix of messianic charisma and puppyish charm that feels like it should be able to solve armed conflicts. Yes, he’s putting on the Jamaican patois, prodigiously dreadlocked wig, and several of Marley’s mannerisms - notably a delicately fluttering hand when making an earnest speech. But there is a molten core of joy and pride in performing this extraordinary music that is all Kene’s. Long established as a gifted musical performer – in leftfield works like ‘Been So Long’ and ‘Girl from the North Country’ – and having recently stormed the West End with his own brain-melting play ‘Misty’, ‘Get Up, Stand Up!’ sees Kene try his hand at something more mainsteam and pull it off with aplomb: he looks delighted to be here, and we’re delighted that he is. And yet, despite his performance, and the unrelenting surge of energy that is Clint Dyer’s production, there’s ultimately something a bit lacking about ‘Get Up, Stand Up!’. It covers an enormous amount of ground, from Marley’s childhood to his death from cancer at the peak of his fame. But it never really drills down into any of it. We first meet Marley as a youngster, sent away by his mo

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‘Hamilton’ tickets and review
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Victoria

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. ‘Hamilton’ is stupendously good. Yes, it’s kind of a drag that there’s so much hype around it. But there was a lot of hype around penicillin. And that worked out pretty well. If anything – and I’m truly sorry to say this – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the US Treasury, is actually better than the hype suggests. That’s because lost in some of the more waffly discourse around its diverse casting and sociological import is the fact that ‘Hamilton’ is, first and foremost, a ferociously enjoyable show. You probably already know that it’s a hip hop musical, something that’s been tried before with limited success. Here it works brilliantly, because Miranda – who wrote everything – understands what mainstream audiences like about hip hop, what mainstream audiences like about musical theatre, and how to craft a brilliant hybrid. Put simply, it’s big emotions and big melodies from the former, and thrilling, funny, technically virtuosic storytelling from the latter. ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the opening tune, exemplifies everything that’s great about the show. It’s got a relentlessly catchy build and momentum, a crackling, edge-of-seat sense of drama, and is absolutely chockablock with information, as the key players stride on to bring us up to speed with the eventful life that Hamilton – the ‘bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman’ – led before he emigrated to America in 1772 as a teenager. (

  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • South Bank

Richard Bean's farce ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ has been one of the National Theatre's biggest hits of recent years, so it's no surprise that he's loosely adapting another historical comedy for the theatre's massive Olivier mainstage. Co-written with actor Oliver Chris, ‘Jack Absolute Flies Again’ is based on 1775 Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’, which follows competing suitors who are after fashionable lady Lydia Languish's hand in marriage. Bean and Chris’s vigorous rewrite sets the action during WWII, when fighter pilot Jack woos a young heiress. One of the final cancelled plays from the NT’s 2020 season to finally be staged, ‘Jack Absolute Flies Again’ is no longer being helmed by original director Thea Sharrock, but rather NT assistant director Emily Burns. She directs a cast led by Laurie Davidson as Jack Absolute, Caroline Quentin as Mrs Malaprop, Natalie Simpson as Lydia Languish, Kelvin Fletcher as Dudley Scunthorpe and Kerry Howard as Lucy.

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  • Theatre
  • Immersive
  • City of London

Think the past couple of years have been rough? Try surviving a Martian invasion only to be captured by an enormous fighting machine and having your blood harvested, ‘The Matrix’-style, in a stifling capsule. That’s the 1898 envisaged by H.G. Wells in his pioneering sci-fi thriller ‘The War of the Worlds’, which was then adapted by Jeff Wayne in his 1978 prog sci-fi album, which imbues Wells’s Victorian tale with rock-opera camp and steampunk kitsch. It’s this rather Marmite pop culture relic that forms the basis of this immersive theatre experience. It launched back in 2019, but it’s changed a fair bit since then. Presumably, techy immersive theatre company Layered Reality has finessed the VR and AR (augmented reality) tech, because now it’s slick AF. In fact, at times it’s terrifying… in the best possible way.  Take for example the moment that I stood, ensconced in a VR-enhanced Fighting Machine capsule, and felt something actually pinch me. I screamed into what (through my VR goggles) I perceived as a hellish Martian human-blood farm. I heard other screams in the distance – my fellow survivors in the booths beside me.  But it’s not all jump scares. The 24 scenes that make up the experience are incredibly varied; as per Jeff Wayne’s album, we follow the path of The Journalist, starting with his first glimpse through a telescope of noxious green gas emerging from Mars. We duck through tunnels, climb through windows and ride hot air balloons, encountering actors who are, for

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Soho

Hot on the heels of autobiographical shows by Ian McKellen and David Suchet, here’s one from fellow stage legend Dame Judi Dench. ‘I Remember It Well’ is an ‘in conversation’ between Dench and her pal Gyles Brandreth that was supposed to run for a season at the Bridge Theatre in 2020 but got scuppered by Covid (despite managing a few dates in other places). It’s not as overtly theatrical as whippersnapper McKellen’s show, based on an old school Q&A format, but at two hours it’ll be pretty substantial as these sorts of nights go, and naturally it will all be based around one of the most extraordinary careers in British acting, from acting opposite Laurence Olivier and originating the UK role of Sally in ‘Cabaret’, on to winning Oscars, Oliviers, starring in ‘James Bond’, and much more. This new run will take place lover three weekends at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End, with the final date being streamed worldwide.

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‘& Juliet’ review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Shaftesbury Avenue

A new cast featuring ‘The Greatest Showman’s Keala Settle as Nurse will take over from March 29 2022. ‘& Juliet’ is a heavily ironic Shakespeare rewrite based on the songs of super-producer Max Martin. And with the gift of that knowledge, I can fairly confidently state that you’ll probably like ‘& Juliet’ almost precisely as much as you expect to like ‘& Juliet’. Me, I grew up with Martin’s greatest hits: Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys dominated the radio when I was at school, and while I’ve never spent a single penny on his music, I’ve probably spent days of my life listening to it. These were Big Tunes to start with, and in ‘& Juliet’ they sound immense, reconfigured into lush new Tudor-nodding arrangements (a harpsichord features prominently). Most crucially, in a musical that Martin is heavily involved with, they’re deployed in ways that always find some emotional connection to the plot (by no means a given in a jukebox musical – *takes a long, hard stare at ‘Mamma Mia!’*).  The plot is fun provided you refuse to take any of what happens seriously. It’s basically ‘Romeo & Juliet’ rewritten into a sort of woke panto. The Bard of Avon (Oliver Tompsett, channelling a mid-tier ‘Love Island’ contestant) is very pleased with himself for having written the play. But his wife Anne Hathaway (Cassidy Janson, scene-stealingly bolshy) has other ideas. She browbeats Will into allowing Juliet to survive then persuades him to let her rewrite the play as an empowering feminist road t

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Circuses
  • Marylebone

This review is from 2019. ‘La Clique’ returns for 2022 with a new line-up. Leicester Square isn’t usually known as a visitor destination for Londoners. But when Underbelly pops up its much-loved Spiegeltent there, and throws in legendary cabaret show ‘La Clique’, it’s worth a punt to venture back to tourist central.  Practical tips first. Get to the show early as it’s unreserved seating. Also, avoid the front row unless you want to get drenched (more on this later). Buy a drink from the bar before you go in to find your seats: you’ll feel more in the spirit of the night with a glass of wine, I promise.  The show has all the elements of cabaret you might expect: a garish host with a poor German accent, a bit of striptease, some scantily clad acrobats and a dash of fire-blowing to boot. One highlight was Zoe Marshall, an aerialist who somehow hangs from the roof only by her hair and manages to make it look rather effortless. The performance by Jamie Swan, which is a sort of ‘Magic Mike’ on water affair involving an iron-cast bathtub, also brings some much-needed uniqueness to the line-up. Swan kicks a lot of his watery spectacular into the audience so unless you’re the type who really loves the water rides at Thorpe Park, it’s best to sit a bit further back.  Sadly, several of the other acts, as well as the singing throughout, didn’t deliver. They felt a little tired and passé compared to other shows of this type, though you can appreciate it’s a tough gig when you’re up agains

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‘Les Misérables’ review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Soho

I would seriously question whether any other show on the planet bar ‘Les Misérables’ could get away with junking its original production and carrying on as if nothing had changed. But ‘Les Mis’ could be transposed to space, or underwater, or to the height of the Hittite empire and it would basically be the same show as long as the singing was on point. In case you missed it: the world’s longest-running musical that’s still playing shut for six months recently while the Sondheim Theatre (née Queen’s Theatre) was renovated by proprietor and producer Cameron Mackintosh. It has returned, not in the original Trevor Nunn RSC production, but a new(ish) one from Laurence Connor and James Powell that has already been rolled out around the globe, with London the last bastion of the ‘classic’ ‘Les Mis’. The ditching of the original has caused disgruntlement in certain quarters: hardcore stans distraught that the exact show they grew up with no longer strictly exists; and the original creative team, notably director Nunn, who understandably feel a little betrayed by the whole affair. All I can say is: yup, I really dug the old revolving stage too, but its loss is bearable. The songs are the same, the score is the same (accepting that it was tweaked to make it a bit less ’80s a few years back), the costumes are the same, many of the current cast are veterans of the original production, and the text is still Nunn and John Caird’s adaptation of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s o

‘Magic Mike Live’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Charing Cross Road

Magic Mike on stage feels a bit like dating in London in my thirties: all the young, hot people got it on while I sat on the sidelines. But as a voyeur at this expensive strip-meets-cabaret show, there was some serious titillation: pains are taken to remind you that it has very much been made with the female gaze in mind. The romp unfolds in a faux-club built in Leicester Square’s already-slightly-seedy (in a good way) Hippodrome Casino, based upon the Xquisite strip joint from Steven Soderbergh’s surprise 2012 cinematic  smash. The movie’s star Channing Tatum – whose IRL undressing escapades originally informed the film’s plot – is behind this theatrical reimagining, with London the second destination of ‘Magic Mike Live’ following a hugely successful run in Vegas. But it’s important to note that co-director Tatum (who, alas, merely lends his voice to the performance) has worked with a gender-balanced team and the sense that this is a safe space for women enshrouds the entire show, despite it being filled with semi-naked men.  The plot (in the loosest sense) centres on Michelangelo – Mike to you – a waiter plucked from the crowd and trained in showing a woman a (consensual) good time by our female emcee, played by actor Sophie Linder-Lee. She sounds a bit like Jane Horrocks and makes a lot of jokes about ‘jizz’ and the tightness of her own vagina. Most of the ladies pulled to the stage for some public gyration were mega hot (so hot, it almost felt like they’d been planted),

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Mamma Mia!
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Aldwych

Judy Craymer's bold idea of turning the insanely catchy songs of ABBA into a musical has paid off splendidly, in every sense – box office figures for 'Mamma Mia!' are as eye-watering as its outfits. This is largely because Catherine Johnson had the sense to weave the 1970s into her script, and director Phyllida Lloyd to cast accordingly. Heroine Donna Sheridan lived the free love dream (if only because her boyfriend ran out on her), wound up pregnant and survived to see her daughter, Sophie, reject all her principles in favour of a white wedding and the kind of certainty that comes from knowing which of your mother's three consecutive lovers ought to be walking you down the aisle. If you wanted to, you could see this as a conversation about feminism. But you'll look pretty silly debating patriarchal oppression while on your feet clapping to 'Dancing Queen'. Some of the songs are oddly static, but when the choreography does get going – for instance, when Donna's friend Tanya stylishly quashes a libidinous local puppy in 'Does Your Mother Know?' – it's terrific, and makes great use of props: I wonder if the producers can assure us that no electric drills or hairdryers were harmed in the making of this musical? The current cast appear to have been chosen more for their singing voices than their serious acting ability. But who needs dramatic conviction when you have purest pop to do the convincing for you? Given the songs, a story just about solid enough to stay upright on its pl

‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Immersive
  • Greenwich Peninsula

For the price of a ticket to ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’, an immersive Abba-themed dinner experience set in a ropey taverna on an idyllic Greek island, you could fly out to an actual idyllic Greek island and probably find a ropey taverna playing Abba songs.Okay, there are some practical reasons why you probably wouldn’t do that on a school night. And sure, it’s not like these are the only expensive theatre tickets in town. But the fact is most London theatre shows have a bottom price of £15 or thereabouts; ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ starts ten times higher than that.Of course, dinner theatre is a somewhat different game to theatre theatre. And the fact is that there are plenty of people who can afford it: the London debut of ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ is a roaring sellout success already. Masterminded by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus, it’s an established hit back in Stockholm. Which is not really a surprise: people love Abba, and ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’, though not formally affiliated to ‘Mamma Mia!’ (the blockbuster musical), is pretty much the same idea, except with the plot mostly replaced by food. After a prodigious wait to get in, we’re spirited away to an attractive, convivial mock-up of a taverna on the island of Skopelos, where the ‘Mamma Mia!’ movie was filmed. The wittiest touch of the whole production is to make it ‘post’ the film: the walls are bedecked with dodgy mocked-up Polaroids of the cast of the show posing with Meryl Streep et al, and the wafer-thin plot revolves around the prem

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‘Mary Poppins’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Soho

Much like ‘Paddington’, ‘Mary Poppins’ is a gorgeously warm kids’ story that’s burrowed deep into the hearts of Londoners of all ages. It creates a seductive myth of a city that’s awash with cheery cockneys and lovable upper-crust eccentrics who roam picturesque tree-lined streets with a spring in their step. Cameron Mackintosh’s returning 2004 musical version couldn’t look more magical; the Banks family’s Cherry Tree Lane residence becomes a giant doll’s house of wonders, opening up to reveal charming Victorian interiors and plenty of magical surprises. Writer Julian Fellowes (‘Downton Abbey’) is clearly in familiar territory here. Where the 'Paddington' movies updated the setting to a warm, inclusive vision of 21st century London, his script opts for period-drama archness. The story is a hodgepodge of the movie, PL Travers’s original books and a few ideas of Fellowes’s own: he shifts the setting back a few decades to Queen Victoria’s heyday, and makes Mrs Banks a frustrated former actress instead of a militant suffragette. The effect is jarring at first, especially if you’re a fan of the movie: many of its most memorable scenes get scrapped, like the bit where Poppins summons up a hurricane to whisk away rival nannies, or the bit with the dancing penguins and carousel horses, or the ‘I Love to Laugh’ tea party where everyone ends up giggling on the ceiling. They get replaced with much, much weirder interludes that presumably come from Travers’s original book. The kids’ supp

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Soho

The friend who was supposed to come with me to ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ dropped out because of a migraine, and honestly, hard relate: director Alex Timbers’s dementedly maximalist ‘remix’ of Baz Luhrmann’s smash 2001 film is pure sensory overload. Frequently I found myself cackling hysterically at it, on my own, for no particularly good reason, other than how *much* it all is. If you can remember any of the 2001 film’s music beyond ‘Lady Marmalade’ (here present and correct as show opener, complete with sassy, snappy choreography from Sonya Tayeh) you’ll remember that the soundtrack largely consists of medleys of other people’s songs. So we have ‘Sparkling Diamonds’, aka ‘Diamonds are Forever’ smushed into ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ or the semi-infamous ‘Elephant Love Medley’, a wilfully preposterous amalgam of the cheesiest lines from myriad famous pop tunes, a veritable one-track sex mix. You have to think that it’s essentially this that drew Timbers and music supervisor Justin Levine to ‘Moulin Rouge!’, as they’ve gone absolutely nuts with the idea, pumping the story full of pop songs old and new, fragmented and whole. Like a glittery cow jacked up with some fabulous experimental growth hormone, ‘Moulin Rouge!’ is now bulked into a veritable behemoth of millennial pop bangers. There are the ones that were in the film. There are some that were around when the film was made but weren’t included (‘Torn’; no kidding, the theme from ‘Dawson’s Creek’). Then there are

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Leicester Square

If there’s a screen still flickering in the UK at the end of the world, it’ll probably be playing on loop that bit where Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter falls through the bar. John Sullivan’s ‘Only Fools and Horses’ has long since transformed from being just a TV show into a cultural phenomenon, annually topping those breathless audience polls as ‘Best British Comedy Ever, Ever, Ever’. It’s on that tidal wave of public adoration that this musical version of the misadventures of wheeler-dealer Del Boy, his hapless brother Rodney and their granddad, living together on a Peckham council estate at the tail end of the ’80s, sails into the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket. It’s co-written by Jim ‘son of John’ Sullivan and comic actor extraordinaire Paul Whitehouse (who’s also on stage as Granddad). Director Caroline Jay Ranger sets out her market stall early, as Del Boy (Tom Bennett) promises ‘plonker’ Rodney (Ryan Hutton), ‘This time next year, we’ll be millionaires.’ What follows is a blizzard of catchphrases, quotes and characters. Boycie and Marlene, Trigger, Mickey and Denzil are all crammed on stage and into the Nags Head. When Del tries hawking dodgy Eiffel Towers to the audience, he’s also selling us easy nostalgia. His battered Reliant car turns up like a guest star. It’s affectionate fun. There are some good gags – including an early tease of Del’s bar fall – and the sitcom's iconic theme tune works well as a refrain (sung by the cast) for the twinkly cheekiness of this show’s

‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ review
  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Strand

Yes, it is a big mistake. Yes, it is a huge mistake. It wafted over from Broadway on a miasma of bad reviews, so I was braced for this musical version of the clearly quite dated 1990 Julia Roberts smash to be a touch problematic.  In fact, ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ is so witless that it defies any serious attempt to scrutinise its politics. Telling the story of Edward, a ruthless businessman whose life is changed on a visit to LA after he picks up Vivian, a free-spirited hooker, it is in fact no more about capitalism or sex work than it is about sports cars or cruise liners – all of these things are just plot points as Gary Marshall and JF Lawton’s book hauls itself wearily through its ‘Pygmalion’-like paces.  The film, of course, had Julia Roberts and Richard Gere to style it out. With the best will in the world, leading man Danny Mac is no Gere. But he doesn’t have much to work with. His Edward is a respectful, teetotal, pleasant guy whose only discernible personality traits are a fear of heights and being a remorselessly destructive vulture capitalist, something that is vaguely intimated as being down to daddy issues, but goes unexplored.  By the same token, Aimie Atkinson can hardly hold a candle to Roberts. But her Vivian is winningly goofy and the clear highlight of the production. Yet bulked out with songs, the whole set-up is baffling. Edward hires Vivian for six days on the grounds that he needs a dinner date, and a live-in hooker is less hassle than a girlfriend; 

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‘Six the Musical’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Strand

‘Remember us from your GCSEs?’ It’s Henry VIII’s six wives – and they’ve back, bitch, to re-tell ‘her-story’ as a slick, sassy girl band. Think Euro-pop remixes of ‘Greensleeves’, Anne Boleyn spouting tweenage text-speak (‘everybody chill/it’s totes God’s will’), and K-Howard warbling #MeToo tales of gropey employers. ‘Hamilton' looms large here, and although ‘Six’ has its own moments of clever-clever hip-hop rhymes, it’s a tough comparison: this musical started life as a student show (Cambridge, obvs). But its creators, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, have succeeded in crafting almost brutally efficient pastiche pop songs – here a ballad, there a ballsy, blinging R&B number – performed with snappy dance routines by a talented, diverse cast (and all-female band). Since inception the show seems to have been given a good lick of gloss, too; it stands up in the West End. But beneath its super-shiny surface, ‘Six’ is totes vacuous. And so basic in its feminism that it’s hard to believe it’s written by, like, actual Millennials. The whole thing is staged as a deeply unsisterly competition, each wife getting a song in which to prove they’re the biggest victim, the one who suffered the most at Henry’s hands. This is treated weirdly as comedy though, OTT shrieks and snarks escalating until they’re actually in a catfight, pulling each other’s hair. Several of the wives are characterised as dim and ditzy; some also as sexually provocative and vain. But by adopting the contemporary pop conce

The Book of Mormon review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • West End
  • Leicester Square

Brace yourself for a shock: ‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Broadway-munching musical is not particularly shocking. Sure, there are ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ and gags about baby rape – but most of it is deployed ironically; beneath it all, this is a big-hearted affair that pays note-perfect homage to the sounds and spirit of Broadway’s golden age. The strapping young Latter Day Saints missionaries in ‘The Book of Mormon’ are as cartoonish as any ‘South Park’ character, with the endearing alpha-male woodenness of the ‘Team America’ puppets. In other words, they are loveable, well-intentioned idiots, traversing the globe like groups of pious meerkats, convinced they can convert the heathen through sheer politeness. And if they have doubts, then as Stephen Ashfield’s scene-stealingly repressed Elder McKinley declares in glorious faux-Gershwin number ‘Turn it Off’, ‘Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!’ His advice is ignored by the show’s heroes, narcissistic, highly strung Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and dumpy, lying Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner). The pair are sent to Uganda in an effort to convert a village to Mormonism, a religion that essentially tells the penniless villagers how great distant America is. The locals are not keen: Price cracks and unwisely clashes with a crazed local warlord; Cunningham makes up his own version of Mormonism which involves fucking frogs to cure oneself of Aids. ‘The Book of Mormon’ is, above all, very funny, breathing

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  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Charing Cross Road

If you think it’s a stretch to make The Drifters’ female manager the lead character in a musical about the famously all-male vocal group… then you don’t know The Drifters. Yes, some of their songs are incredibly famous: ‘Under the Boardwalk’, ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, etc. But the turnover of members has been truly bewildering, with some 60 individuals passing through their ranks over the decades. There was only one constant: their manager, Faye Treadwell. She didn’t do any singing. But in a musical it’s hardly a massive flex to give her some songs and make ‘The Drifters Girl’ a vehicle for Brit soul star Beverley Knight. And as a musical it certainly has its moments: basically any time Knight gets to sing. Her hardworking supporting cast – Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud – are gifted multitaskers with fine voices who nail the many incarnations of the band’s mannered, lovelorn, doo-wop harmonies. But her voice is the big one, an elemental force that sets the air aflame – truly a master at work. However, she doesn’t actually get to sing that often, because it’s a musical based on the songs of, y’know, The Drifters. Tunes are rearranged for Knight’s voice and she nails them, but as a singer she’s only really here as a guest star. In fact, she’s mostly employed to act, which she does decently: her Arkansas accent sounded fine to me, and she imbues the role of Treadwell with a sort of tough maternalistic charm, the stern mother trying to

The Phantom of the Opera review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • St James’s

I’m not sure any show ‘deserves’ to be the most successful entertainment event of all time, but I’ll hand it current holder of that title, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – it still works hard for its audience. Sure, chunks of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opus have never left 1986. But whereas describing a musical as ‘stuck in the ’80s’ is usually shorthand for cheap, thin synth orchestration, nothing could be further from the truth here: the portentously swirling keyboards and crunch of hair metal guitar that powers ‘Phantom’s title song have a black hole-like immensity, sucking you in with sheer juggernaut bombast. Mostly, though, ‘Phantom…’ remains strong because its high production values haven’t been allowed to sag. The late Maria Björnson’s design is a heady barrage of ravishing costumes and lavish sets that change frequently, working in everything from pastoral jollity to an ancient Carthaginian theme on the way to the Phantom’s stunning underground lair. It’s totally OTT – in one scene the Phantom zaps at his nemesis Raul with a staff that fires actual fireballs – and anybody who describes the plot (homicidal lunatic grooms girl) as ‘romantic’ should probably be put on some sort of register. But its blazingly earnest ridiculousness and campy Grand Guignol story are entirely thrilling when realised with the show’s enormous budget. And while Hal Prince’s production may have been hailed as rather gauche back in the day, in 2013 it all comes across as rather more tasteful than the av

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Leicester Square

‘The Seagull’ flies again! The Jamie Lloyd Company’s 2020 production of Chekhov’s masterpiece marked the West End debut of Emilia Clarke: and it started previews before being shuttered by the pandemic on the week it was due to open. Now it’s it’s back, with a largely unchanged company headed by Clarke, who’ll be trading in dragon riding for the role of vain young actress Nina in Chekhov’s great play in a version by Anya Reiss (presumably the same one that played at Southwark Playhouse in 2012, starring a young Lily James). She’ll be joined by an excellent returning cast of Tom Rhys Harries (Trigorin), Daniel Monks (Konstantin), Indira Varma (Arkadina), and Sophie Wu (Masha), with other roles TBC. As ever, Lloyd directs and Soutra Gilmour designs.  

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Tower Bridge

Two years after it was first supposed to have its premiere at the Bridge, Nicholas Hytner directs this a new play that takes the slightly unlikely subject of a struggling rural priest. 'The Southbury Child' is written by Stephen Beresford, whose play 'The Last of the Haussmans' was a hit under Hytner's regime at the NT. It'll star Alex Jennings as a drunken, raffish man who finds that he's losing the faith of his parishioners. 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Covent Garden

It's been decades since this skillful adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 Gothic horror story first started setting West End audience a-shiver. 'The Woman in Black' remains perennially popular – particularly, it seems, with generally hard-to-please teenagers – which is testament to its rough-theatre appeal and the extraordinary and enduring potency, not of guts, gore or special effects, but of simple suggestion. Ageing Arthur Kipps is haunted by sinister events that befell him 30 years earlier. In an effort to exorcise his demons, he hires an actor to help him tell his story for an invited audience. As they rehearse, though, their staging itself becomes prey to supernatural visitations from the titular hatchet-faced, whip-thin, funereally garbed woman. Stephen Mallatratt's dramatisation and a deft production by Robin Herford exploit the peculiarly spooky atmosphere of an empty theatre, making us, as an audience, feel almost like spectral voyeurs. And the chills are irresistibly effective: swirling fog, a creaking rocking chair, a locked door, a pale visage looming out of the gloom. Only occasionally does the staging show its age. The projected image of the gaunt, sinister house of Kipps' tormented memory looks hopelessly cheap and crude, and a graveyard conjured with dust sheets struggles to convince, even within the low-tech aesthetic parameters of the piece. Yet the shrieks and gasps that greet the performance demonstrate that, even in the twenty-first century, this doughty lit

‘Tina – The Tina Turner Musical’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Aldwych

Aisha Jawando and Jammy Kasongo star as Tina and Ike as ‘Tina’ returns from closure in 2021. Is a feelgood jukebox musical the absolute best medium to tell a story about domestic abuse? Put crudely, that is the problem at the heart of big-budget global premiere ‘Tina – The Tina Turner Musical’. The erstwhile Anna Mae Bullock’s eventful life and beloved back catalogue are perfect subjects for adaptation. But too often Phyllida Lloyd’s production struggles to make a sensitive synthesis of the two.Where ‘Tina’ undoubtedly succeeds is in the casting of its lead. Broadway performer Adrienne Warren is virtually unknown over here, but it’s instantly apparent why she was tapped up for this. She doesn’t so much imitate Turner as channel her: her technically dazzling but achingly world-weary gale of a voice feels like it should be coming out of a woman decades, if not centuries, older. And while Warren doesn’t really look anything like Turner, she perfectly captures that leggy, rangy, in-charge physicality. From a musical standpoint, she virtually carries the show, singing nigh-on every song and even giving us an encore at the end.Almost as good is heavyweight Brit actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who brings a demonic charisma to the role of Ike Turner. Tina’s abusive bandleader and husband is monstrous in his self-pitying, manipulative rage, but it’s not hard to see the appeal of his raw wit and powerful sense of certainty. It is a deadly serious performance.But the talented creative tea

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Soho

Meet Atticus Finch: centrist dad. Aaron Sorkin’s smash Broadway stage version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ makes a fair few tweaks to Harper Lee’s 1960 literary masterpiece.  Most predictably, there’s the ‘West Wing’ mastermind’s trademark sparkling dialogue. Yes, he remains faithful to the idea that we’re in ’30s Alabama, but his polished wit is very much present and correct, most especially in the goofily pinging three-way narration provided by his child characters: plucky Scout (Gwyneth Keyworth), chippy Jem (Harry Redding) and dorky Dill (David Moorst). The narrative structure has been tinkered with: the climactic trial scene is now parcelled up into chunks throughout the play rather than included as a single sweeping sequence.  The plot, however, is essentially unchanged. By far Sorkin’s most significant intervention via Bartlett Sher’s production is to pointedly reimagine the play’s white lawyer hero Atticus Finch. Rafe Spall’s interpretation of the role steers well clear of Gregory Peck’s immortal screen version and, to a large extent, the book. Peck’s Finch was famously sonorous-voiced and saintly. In both book and film, Finch was explicitly seen through the adoring eyes of his daughter Scout. Here, with his chipmunk Alabama twang, Spall simply *sounds* less like a wise statesman than Peck ever did. And his behaviour is different: he’s thinner-skinned and more erratic as he sets about defending Jude Owosu’s resigned Tom Robinson, a young Black man accused of rape. Atti

Witness for the Prosecution
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • South Bank

It wasn’t all about Poirot’s little grey cells or Miss Marple solving murders at the vicarage. In her lifetime, crime writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie wrote 16 plays and a massive 73 novels. Apart from the immortal ‘Mousetrap’, ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ – which Christie adapted in 1953 from an earlier short story – is one of the most famous. Like most of Christie’s work, you can’t say much for fear of ruining the ending. Leonard Vole (a butter-wouldn’t-melt Jack McMullen) is on trial for murdering an older woman who has left everything to him in her will. He insists he’s innocent, but it all rests on the testimony of his wife, Romaine. What will she say on the stand? When Christie adapted her original story, she shifted the focus almost exclusively to the Old Bailey courtroom. Here, Lucy Bailey’s production has the gift of being in the main chamber of London County Hall. Big, austere and grand, it’s the perfect setting for the legal theatrics of Christie’s forensically precise plotting. Some audience members are even addressed as the jury. If the courtroom is a stage, this play is all about performance. Few are as good as Christie at leading us down the garden path, expectations-wise. She constructs her plot like Vole’s barrister, Sir Wilfrid Robarts QC (a charismatic David Yelland), builds his case, before knocking over apparent ‘revelations’ like dominoes. Bailey plays up the melodrama beautifully, in some scenes lighting the judge’s bench like something from a ho

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