Recently, quite a few shows have been making a comeback to the West End stage.
Miss Saigon's triumphant return earlier this year, starring the incredible teenager Eva Noblezada in the lead role (if you haven't seen the show yet, you should buy your Miss Saigon tickets now because it's amazing, but be prepared to cry your eyes out). Evita is back for a limited run with Marti Pellow as Che, and soon we'll have another chance to see Cats, following the slightly surprising - but potentially interesting - casting choice of Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella. I didn't see Cats first time around, mostly because T.S. Eliot and I have had a somewhat strained relationship ever since English A-Level. But that was a long time ago, so I should probably get over it and check the show out - it is a classic, after all.
Since comebacks seem to be in fashion, I’ve come up with a few other musicals that I’d love to see again. Just in case anyone’s listening…
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
The first show I ever saw in the West End, when I was eight and a little bit in love with Phillip Schofield (don’t judge me, I had my reasons). Joseph already made one comeback, starring the lovely Lee Mead – what can I say, I guess I just like a man in a loin cloth – but I think it’s time for another one. Joseph is the perfect family show; there's enough colour and action to keep children entertained, along with a strong message - don't sell your brother into slavery because one day he might become vice-Pharaoh of Egypt and have you arrested - but there's also plenty of humour for adults, and the music draws on just about every style there is, from country to calypso and everything in between. Also, Pharaoh as Elvis? Come on, that's genius.
And yes, I still know all the colours of Joseph’s coat. In order.
One of the campest shows I’ve ever seen, and not only because it features a man in a dress. Hairspray is the story of Tracy Turnblad, a teenager in 1960s Baltimore who loves to dance but unfortunately doesn't fit the perfect stereotype expected by society. It's a story of being an outsider, and deals with some pretty serious issues – body image and racism among them – but somehow still manages to be pure joy from start to finish. Tracy is a fantastic heroine, standing up for what she believes and cares about, and you really want her to get a happy ending, however unrealistic that ending might be.
Hairspray also has, in my opinion, one of the best closing numbers of any show; if you don’t leave the theatre singing, I think there might be something wrong with you. And let's not forget the man in a dress, who when I saw the show was Michael Ball. I have no idea why Tracy's mum is traditionally played by a man, but it's very funny - particularly when he and his 'husband' get the giggles during a romantic duet (something I've reason to believe happened more than once).
I often shed a tear at the theatre, with shows like Les Mis and Miss Saigon shamelessly tugging on my heartstrings, but Blood Brothers is the only show that’s had me openly sobbing throughout the curtain call. Willy Russell's tragic story of twins separated at birth ran for 24 years in the West End, although I only got to see it a few months before it closed and was replaced at the Phoenix Theatre by the equally brilliant Once (Read: 5 Reasons You MUST See Once Before It Closes!). I'd love to see it again, although this time I'll be prepared - despite moments of humour provided mostly by the two boys, who unusually are played by adults throughout their childhood, there's always a sense of impending doom, as you wait to see the consequences of Mrs Johnstone's fateful decision to give up one of her babies. If Hairspray has the most fun closing number, Blood Brothers has perhaps the most powerful, and stays with you for a long time after you leave the theatre.
Whistle Down the Wind
Although many people have probably forgotten this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical from the 1990s, I recently rediscovered the soundtrack and remembered why I enjoyed it. Like most West End shows, this one's a bit difficult to sum up in one sentence, but let’s give it a go – essentially it’s the story of a bunch of kids in 1960s Louisiana who find a man in a barn and think he's Jesus, when in fact he's an escaped convict. Or is he...? What I find particularly powerful about this story is the questions it leaves you with. For instance, who's worse - the escaped killer who sits in a barn telling stories to children, or the good citizens who are prepared to hunt him down and shoot him without a word of warning, in the name of their Christian faith? Questions like this seem just as relevant now as they were in the 60s, perhaps even more so.
Also, Whistle Down the Wind was the show that gave Boyzone their hit single, No Matter What, in 1998. And if that’s not a reason to bring it back, frankly I don’t know what is.
All I really remember about Avenue Q is that there were puppets, and that it was very funny but also quite naughty. Definitely not a great choice for anyone who’s easily offended (a couple of song titles: 'The Internet is for Porn’, and 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist', to give you an idea what we're talking about) and also not ideal on a second date with someone you really don't know very well. Trust me, I speak from experience. For that reason, I'd love to see the show again in more relaxed company, because I think I'd laugh a lot more and squirm in embarrassment a lot less.
Obviously there are many, many shows that have come and gone in the West End over the years, and everyone will have their own favourites that they'd like to see revived. (I've thought of another one already.) Maybe we should start a campaign. But until then, luckily there are plenty of other fantastic shows to watch, so let's get out there and see them while we still can!
Don't miss your chance to see the great comeback shows currently on in the West End! Book your tickets for Miss Saigon, Cats, and Evita now!
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