The West End’s Longest Running musicals

With the imminent arrival of Cats back on London West End and the arrival of a new Forbidden Broadway, the satirical show that lovingly pokes fun of all West End and Broadway shows I thought it would be fun to look at the longest running musicals in London’s West End.

  • Les Misérables – Written by Boublil and Schonberg way back in the eighties (1985 to be exact), the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic is still one of the best loved shows in town. It’s popularity was helped by the success of the recent movie. Over 11,600 and still no sign of fading.
  • The Phantom of the Opera – Whilst Phantom of the Opera is still on at the Her Majesty’s theatre, London’s Theatreland will continue to thrive: the granddaddy of all West End shows with over 11,300 performances
  • Blood Brothers – Another creation of the 80’s love for musicals, producer Bill Kenwright refused to let Willy Russell’s tale of twin separated at birth to be separated from the Phoenix Theatre where it ran for 10,013 performances before closing in 2012.
  • Cats – everyone said Andrew Lloyd Webber was mad to think that a musical about cats would be any good… how wrong we were! And just to prove it, the show will return to the London Palladium in December of this year… I wonder if it has another 8,949 performances left in it!

cats at the London palladium

  • Starlight Express – crazy Andrew Lloyd Webber again! A musical about trains? On Roller Skates? 7,406 performances later we understood not to underestimate ALW.
  • Chicago – The Bob Fosse production of Chicago was my favourite show for a long time. Another victim of Olympic year, got through more tights than performances, of which there were 6,187
  • Mamma Mia! – The ABBA-tastic musical set on a Greek isle is another show to enjoy a new lease of life after it was made into a hit Hollywood movie: 6,120 performances and still going
  • Disney’s The Lion King – The only thing odd about the success of Disney’s The Lion King is that it remains the only Disney film on in London at the moment. You would have thought that after 5,900 performances Walt would have got the hint!
  • Buddy – 2002 did for Cats, Starlight Express and Buddy, the life story of Buddy Holly who died so young but left us with so many great songs. It was a great favourite with theatregoers and entertained us over 5,140 performances
  • We Will Rock You – after 4600 performances at the Dominion Theatre the Queen musical hung up its guitars in 2014 and characters such as Britney Spears and Galileo were confined to history – very sad!
  • Miss Saigon – No wonder it is back in London! The original production opened on 20 September 1989 and didn’t close until 10 years later chalking up 4,264 performances. The new show has been enthusiastically welcomed into town so I wouldn’t be aat all surprised if it were to do another 10 year stint… I might take my dad to see it for his 80th birthday!
  • Billy Elliot The Musical – The last of our Top Twelve list is the joyful story of little Billy Elliot who doesn’t want to be a miner, or a boxer, he just wants to be a dancer… and a ballet dancer at that! 9 years after opening it is still ratcheting up the number of performances: over 3,450 now.

So that is our top 12. Which of the current crop of shows will we be adding to the list in years to come? Matilda? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Once? Wicked?

Whatever is still showing there will probably be a version of Forbidden Broadway to burst their balloons with its satirical look at all things Broadway and West End