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BLOG : Harriet's West End Top Ten - Part 1

Thursday 14 January 2016

By Harriet Wilson

Out of the various shows that I have seen in London over the last year, I have compiled a 'Top Ten' of my personal favourites. This is Part 1, keep an eye out for Part 2!

10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

At number 10 is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and it is so much more than just a long title! Based on the novel by Mark Haddon, the play is extremely engaging, charismatic and lively. It tells the touching account of Christopher, a boy with an extraordinary mind, as he embarks on a journey to discover who killed his neighbour's dog. You can find my review for the production here: Curious Incident Will Impress You From Start To Finish

So why Is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time in my Top Ten? You don't have to be a really stagey person to love The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – whatever your tastes, it would be hard not to like the production.

Not only that – offten, when it comes to plays as opposed to a musical, the West End can be so bigged up that the productions themselves are a little underwhelming. But The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time offers all the impressiveness of a West End production, without being over the top and is for absolutely anyone.

This show made its West End debut in August 2012. It moved to the Gielgud Theatre (where it is currently playing) in July 2014, and is booking all through next year. The show has remained popular throughout its run but will sadly be closing in June 2016.

All in all, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is a play worth seeing. If you can't think of what to go to, it is a safe bet, because you will almost certainly like it.

9. Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Showstopper is an improvised musical performance. Featuring an exceptionally talented case and superb musicians, this production is, in equal measures, impressive and hilarious. You can find my review here: Showstopper! You Don't Want To Be That Person Who Didn't See This Show

So why Is Showstopper in my Top Ten? I was infinitely impressed by this production. What an idea – to improvise a musical, based entirely on audience suggestions (however ridiculous). If I had not seen Showstopper, I would have said that the idea could never be done very well, but I am happy to have been proved entirely wrong. I walked away from the show humming songs that were composed twenty minutes before. Showstopper has made a lasting impression on the world of theatre, and for good reasons. I cannot think of a single person who would not like this show. The only thing I would say is that the standard shows might not always be appropriate for young children.

Showstopper has become big relatively recently. It made its debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008, and has grown in popularity ever since. It is now playing and London and on tour in the UK. The show's run in London has just been extended, and I would be surprised if it did not stay in London for quite some time. 

If you want to see something that is very clever, and very funny, Showstopper is the show for you.

8. Disney's The Lion King

At number 8, is The Lion King. I am sure that you all know the story of . And you might think that, having seen the film, you've seen it all. And isn't it for children? And won't it look a bit stupid – people pretending to be lions, and birds? But you are very wrong – this production is absolutely epic.

So why is The Lion King in my Top Ten? This show is absolutely magical. It is enigmatic, powerful – absolutely stunning. It will, I can guarantee, have a lasting impact on you. I took a long time to get over the fact that, half an hour into the production, I wasn't even seeing the people on stage, just the masks, and the puppets – the animals, that is. So, if you want to see just how far the West End can go, you need to see The Lion King.

You don't need to be a fan of Disney, or even of musicals to like The Lion King – I know several people who love the production in spite of their general indifference towards theatre. If you are a Thespian, however, you will fall head-over-heels for The Lion King.

The Lion King made its debut in 1997, and Broadway fell in love with it. It came to the West End in 1999, and it is still running at the Lyceum theatre now. I cannot imagine that this show will be leaving the West End any time soon. This one if here to stay.

The music in The Lion King is wonderful. There are some excellent songs that are not seen in the film, all of which can be found on the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

All in all, The Lion King will stun you. You must see it.

7. 1984

Based on the very well renowned book by George Orwell, 1984 is a definite dystopian production. The book and the play both challenge the ideas of perception, leadership, freedom and privacy, in a way that will leave your mind feeling more than a little frazzled. You can find my review for the production here: 1984 At The Playhouse Theatre, An Innovative And Entirely Unique Play

So why is 1984 in my Top Ten? I was shocked at how affected I was by this production. I had read the book, and so I don't know why I was surprised – but there was something about seeing Orwell's ideas on stage that brought everything, chillingly, to life. I like it when a play makes me think, and no play has ever done so more than 1984 did. 1984 was a play that I was thoroughly impressed by – and also a play that made me thoroughly uncomfortable. It was singular is every way, and a huge success.

1984 was the exact opposite of light-watching. It was extremely intense, and nerve-wracking. If you want to be challenged by a production, you would love it. But you will probably feel fairly uncomfortable whist you are watching it. 1984 opened for only 12 weeks in London. Unfortunately, its run ended in September.

6. The 39 Steps

4 actors; 139 characters; 100 minutes – 39 Steps. This production is uniquely hilarious; I could not flaw it. With its tongue stuck firmly in its cheek, The 39 Steps is a production that will make you hurt laughing. It is absolutely saturated with fantastic one-liners, ridiculous characters and an even more ridiculous plot. The play of The 39 Steps is based on the book by John Buchan and also the 1935 film. The idea of playing out the story with only four characters, however, is unique to the stage. If you like British comedy, you will like this production.

The 39 Steps was in London for nine years – an impressive run, to say the least. It ran from September 2006 until September 2015. The show in now going on tour across the UK. If The 39 Steps is going to somewhere near you, I urge you to catch it – especially if you missed it's West End run. For its comedy alone, I would recommend this production to anybody.

 

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of Harriet's West End Top Ten!

tags: Family Friendly, Christmas, Children, Classics, West End Favourites, Critic's Choice, Best Of British, Our Picks


By Harriet Wilson

Please note: Opinions expressed on the londontheatredirect.com blog are those of the relevant contributors, not of London Theatre Direct Ltd, its owners or staff. London Theatre Direct Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by contributors.

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