See incredible child actors take centre stage in West End shows
Discover the stars of tomorrow as performers play schoolchildren in Matilda, Simba and Nala in The Lion King, and young characters in Les Misérables.
London theatre is teeming with established stars — big names from stage and screen — and it’s often a reason to book for particular shows. But another fun game is trying to spot the stars of tomorrow. Which of those talented child actors might grow up to become the next Sheridan Smith, who once performed with the National Youth Music Theatre, or Carrie Hope Fletcher, who began her West End career as little Eponine in Les Misérables aged nine?
Numerous musicals in London showcase impressive up-and-comers, from Disney’s Frozen to, yes, Les Mis, as a new batch of youngsters sing about that castle on a cloud. It can be particularly inspiring for young audience members to see child actors performing, giving them a way into theatre by identifying with kids like themselves on that stage.
But this isn’t just about adding a youthful touch to shows: some gifted child actors match or even outperform their fellow cast members, handling pivotal roles, challenging songs, and complex dramatic material with aplomb. Here are some of the incredible London shows you can book for now featuring impressive child actors.
The responsibility of kicking off the beloved Disney animated movie-turned-stage musical lies with the child actors as they play the younger versions of leading princess pair Elsa and Anna. The West End cast features eight rotating performers, four for each character, and there’s plenty of diversity in the casting.
The Young Elsas are played by Asanda Abbie Masike, Elizabeth Lyons, Kaci Theobalds, and Felicity Tong. At the same time, the Young Annas are Martha Bailey Vine, Maddy Collings, Wren Erskine, and Tabitha Storton. That means audiences have the opportunity to see themselves represented on stage by this gifted mix of child actors.
Book Frozen tickets on London Theatre.
Extra! Extra! The rousing musical about a real-life newsboys’ strike led by child workers also features a youthful cast — including four kids taking on the key role of Les. In the story, brothers Davey and Les are newcomers to the business: their father was injured at work, and now the family needs extra income.
Les immediately bonds with veteran newsie Jack, learning how to use his adorable looks to win sympathy and sell papers. It’s a role that requires plenty of charisma, comic instincts, and the ability to keep up with the energetic, high-flying company. Nesim Adnan, Ben Dalton, Harry Newby, and Ethan Sokontwe all have that in spades — they're definitely tomorrow’s front-page news.
Book Newsies tickets on London Theatre.
Many successful performers starred in The Lion King while at school, and the show offers great roles for child actors. Like Frozen, it’s up to these young talents to draw us into the story and get us invested in lion cubs Simba and Nala before — in the circle of musical theatre life — their adult counterparts take over.
The West End production has four actors rotating in each role. The current Young Simbas are Khylan St Paul Mark, Emrys Zeph Adamah, Theo Querico, and Sam Stephens, while Isabelle Dawodu, Mia-Nicole Alexander, Ava Rae Douglas, and Divine Cole share the role of Young Nala. They just can’t wait to be stars!
Book The Lion King tickets on London Theatre.
Several of the Matilda alumni have gone from being a little bit naughty as the Wormwood child to excelling in other roles: Eleanor Worthington Cox currently leads The Secret Life of Bees at the Almeida Theatre, while Kerry Ingram was in Game of Thrones. Broadway Matilda Gabriella Pizzolo went on to Fun Home and Stranger Things. The show has numerous other child roles, too, including Lavender, Bruce, Hortensia, and Nigel.
That makes it a brilliant showcase for youth talent — as well as adding real energy and fun to the production. The West End company currently features four rotating Matildas: Victoria Alsina, Sophia Goodman, Laurel Sumberg, and Heidi Williams. When they grow up, they could well become the next generation of West End musical leads. Meet the Matilda the Musical cast.
Book Matilda the Musical tickets on London Theatre.
The premise of this heartfelt comedy is a divorced dad trying to spend more time with his kids — leading him to the outlandish idea of disguising himself as a Scottish nanny. We’ll forgive him some of his wilder antics as long as we believe in how much he loves them, and that he really does become a better father to them.
That means casting the children in the stage musical version of the movie is crucial. There are three kids playing son Christopher in the West End: Max Bispham, Elliot Mugume, and Frankie Treadaway, and three playing daughter Natalie: Scarlett Davies, Ava Posniak, and Angelica-Pearl Scott. Mrs. Doubtfire is undoubtedly a great opportunity for the children — so watch this space.
Book Mrs. Doubtfire tickets on London Theatre.
Like the adored TV series, this warm, funny show digs into the (fictional) Bake Off contestants’ lives to discover what inspires them. In the case of widower Ben, he uses baking to wrap up his grief as he uses his late wife’s recipes. In fact, his daughter Lily entered him into the contest, as she explains in the sweet song “My Dad.”
The forthright, wise-beyond-her-years Lily is a fantastic role for an assured child actor, and the West End cast of the Bake Off musical has three on hand: Maisy Mein, Amelie Rouse, and Aanya Shah. They're making a delicious start to whip up a long-lasting musical career.
Book The Great British Bake Off Musical tickets on London Theatre.
Last but certainly not least is the West End’s long-standing favourite, which continues to showcase great child actors as they launch their careers. In fact, it was another youthful performance that inspired Alain Boublil to adapt Victor Hugo’s novel in the first place: when he saw the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, he thought of Gavroche.
That cheeky street kid plays a vital role in the revolutionary story, and Les Mis also features younger versions of Cosette and Eponine — the former getting her own solo number. Currently, the West End has Thommy Bailey Vine, Finley Burrows, Cian Eagle-Service, Luca Fone, Rudy Gibson, and Jacob Merrien as Gavroche; Daisy Bryant, Anna Deikalo, and Mimi Soetan as Little Cosette; and Ivy-Rose Mann, Mia Strong and Chloe Sullivan as Young Eponine. They all dream a dream of great careers.
Book Les Misérables tickets on London Theatre.
Photo credit: Laurel Sumberg in Matilda the Musical (Photo courtesy of production)
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