All London shows have a shelf life. The capital's longest-running show, The Mousetrap, has recently celebrated its 60th year onstage, but that is truly one of the exceptions. There are few heavy hitters that have managed to keep their grasp on the West End - Phantom Of The Opera is the next longest, now going into its 26th year and Blood Brothers is nearing its 24th. The Woman In Black is the second longest play currently still in the West End now in its 23rd year with the recent film version giving sales an extra boost. Longrunning shows are the exception rather than the rule in theatre - in the years these shows have been playing literally thousands have shows have begun and ended in their wake.
There are a few show that seem to keep popping back every few years for another bite of the cherry. Grease first opened at theNew London Theatre in June 1973 with a then unknown Richard Gere as Danny. The show was revived in 1979 at the Astoria with Su Pollard and Tracey Ullman, and returned again in 1993 with Neighbours star Craig McLachlan and 80s teen pop queen Debbie Gibson. August 2007 saw a further incarnation with tie-in tv show Grease Is The Word searching for new stars to fill the roles of Danny and Sandy, with the eventual winners being Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden, sister of ex-Westlife singer Bryan. The show's 4 year tenure there was the longest in the Piccadilly's history. It vacated in April 2011 prior to a national tour, but could the West End already be ready for it to come back? The show has cross generational appeal and always sells well.
It's almost surprising that Fame isn't yet back in the West End. The global success of American tv show Glee and new hit series Smash show that there is a market out there for a show of its ilk. Inspired by the classic 1980 film and mid 80s tv series, the musical version opened in the West End in 1995 and has since had seven separate West End runs, the longest of which from 2002 to 2006 at the Aldwych Theatre. Set in a college of performing arts and following the intertwining lives of fame hungry students the show has a great score and seems ripe for a new incarnation. The original West End show was nominated for three Laurence Olivier awards.
When ticket agent London Theatre Direct posed the question which musical would you like to see back in the West End on its Twitter feed, the overwhelming frontrunner was Miss Saigon. Based on Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly it tells the tragic tale of an American GI stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam war and the geisha girl he falls in love with. Widely regarded as one of the most compelling musicals of all time it features beautiful songs such as I Still Believe, The Heat Is On In Saigon, Sun and Moon and The Last Night Of The World. The show has had only one West End run at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane between September 1989 and October 1999 and made a global star of original Kim, Lea Salonga. Jonathan Pryce was the original Engineer, with Simon Bowman as Chris. The show opened on Broadway in 1991 and currently stands as the eleventh longest-running musical in Broadway history.
There are many other shows that have come and gone that could make a welcome return. Noises Off is considered by many to be the ultimate farce and it enjoyed an incredibly well received revival at the Old Vic late last year. Tickets sales were so brisk that when it was scheduled to close to make way for another previously booked show it has now transferred to the Novello. Denise Deegan's jolly hockeysticks comedy-mystery play Daisy Pulls It Off is always welcome back in the West End, and who wouldn't want camp-tastic Prisoner Cell Block H: The Musical with Lily Savage back? The good thing about the high turnover of London shows is that you never know which old classic is just around the corner.
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