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Longest-running musicals

Top 10 longest-running musicals currently in London's West End

Will Longman

Will Longman

February 16, 2022 18:48

Whether you're looking to book a ticket to some of the best shows in town, or want a reminder of the best London has to offer, we revisit the 10 longest-running musicals in the West End which are still currently running.


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1. Les Miserables
Opened 8th October 1985

Running in the West End for a whopping 32 years and counting, Les Miserables is the longest-running musical in the West End (and the second longest-runner in the world). With music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, it is about the French peasant Jean Valjean who has served 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family. On the hunt for redemption, he breaks his parole, but police inspector Javert is hot on his heels. It features the songs "I Dreamed a Dream", "Lovely Ladies", "Who Am I?" and "Do You Hear the People Sing?". After initially opening at the Barbican Centre in 1985 as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's programme, it opened at the Palace Theatre later that year, and transferred to its current home - the Sondheim Theatre - in 2004. 

Les Miserables tickets are on sale now. 

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2. The Phantom of the Opera
Opened 9th October 1986

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera opened in the West End in 1986, when Lloyd Webber teamed up yet again with Cats producer Cameron Mackintosh. The composer wanted to write a romantic piece, using Gaston Leroux's book The Phantom of the Opera as a basis. What resulted was one of the most iconic pieces of British musical theatre. It is about the character Christine, a soprano singer who becomes the obsession of a mysterious musical genius who lurks beneath the Palais Garnier in Paris. It has been running at Her Majesty's Theatre since 1986 and even spawned a sequel, Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies. Over the years, The Phantom of the Opera has seen many great actors take on the titular role, including Michael Crawford (originator), Peter Polycarpou, John Owen-Jones and Ramin Karimloo. 

The Phantom of the Opera tickets are on sale now.

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3. Mamma Mia!
Opened 6th April 1999

Written by band members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Mamma Mia is arguably the world's most successful jukebox musical, based on the songs of Swedish pop group ABBA. Featuring the hits "Super Trouper", "Dancing Queen", "Take a Chance on Me" and, of course, Mamma Mia, the story tells of Sophie who invites three men who may be her father to her wedding on the Greek island of Kalokairi. It first opened in the West End in April 1999 at the Prince Edward Theatre, before transferring to the Novello Theatre in 2012. 

Mamma Mia! tickets are on sale now.

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4. The Lion King
Opened 19th October 1999

The first production of Disney's musical The Lion King was mounted in Minneapolis in 1997, just three years after the smash-hit film premiered on the silver screen. The stage show boasts songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, including the classic "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?', as well as additional musical score by Hans Zimmer. It tells the story of Simba, a young lion who must succeed his father as the King of the Pride Lands, with many of the cast dressed as animals or controlling giant hollow puppets. It has been running at the Lyceum Theatre in the West End since October 1999. 

The Lion King tickets are on sale now.

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5. Wicked
Opened 27th September 2006

Based on the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Wicked tells the story of witches Elphaba and Glinda who enrol at Shiz University. The musical phenomenon opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in 2006 following three successful years on Broadway. So successful, in fact, that in March 2016 it joined The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera as the only Broadway shows to surpass $1 billion in total revenue. Fans love to see different actors take on the two lead roles (cast changes are must-see performances for die-hard fans), and the names who have donned the black hat include Louise Dearman, Willemijn Verkaik, Rachel Tucker, Idina Menzel and Kerry Ellis. 

Wicked tickets are on sale now. 

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6. Matilda the Musical
Opened 24th November 2011

Tim Minchin's first foray into musical theatre came when his musical adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel ran at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon. It tells the story of Matilda, an intelligent young girl whose parents would rather she watched television then read her favourite books, and sees her sent to a school ran by the horrible head mistress Miss Trunchbull. Following its success, it opened at the Cambridge Theatre in late 2011. The playful musical was widely praised for its score, which includes the numbers "Naughty", "When I Grow Up" and "Revolting Children". After it opened, the four actresses who shared the lead role became the youngest actors to ever win an Olivier Award. 

Matilda the Musical tickets are on sale now. 

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7. The Book of Mormon
Opened 21st March 2013

The brainchild of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon took the pair eight years to fully develop with Avenue Q writer Robert Lopez. The story is of two Mormon missionaries who try to share their scriptures with residents of a remote Ugandan village. Running at the Prince of Wales Theatre since March 2013, the musical features the numbers "Hello!", "You and Me (But Mostly Me)" and "Tomorrow Is a Latter Day."

The Book of Mormon tickets are on sale now.

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Hamilton Cast (Photo by Helen Maybanks)

8. Hamilton
Opened 21st November 2017

After causing a sensation on Broadway, the musical theatre phenomenon Hamilton found its London home at the Victoria Palace Theatre in December 2017. The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical includes a mash-up of hip-hop, R&B and soul songs to tell the story of the American founding father Alexander Hamilton. Even though it's been in London for just a few years, Hamilton is well on its way to becoming a timeless musical.

Hamilton tickets are available now.

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9. Tina the Musical
Opened 17th April 2018

West End audiences were treated to the world premiere of Tina the Musical on their home turf. Inspired by the life and career of Tina Turner, all of her greatest hits feature, including "Proud Mary" and "Nutbush City Limits." Productions of Tina the Musical are now on Broadway and in Europe, but you can see the original at London's Aldwych Theatre.

Tina the Musical tickets are available now. 

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Six the Musical

10. Six the Musical
Opened 16th January 2019

All you need for a hit musical is a good idea. And that's exactly the case for Six the Musical, the five-time Olivier-nominated smash that's set the world on fire. The historical, musical sensation follows Henry VIII's six wives as they share their stories at the mic. But it's not an ancient relic though, these ladies wear their lipgloss, their fanciest outfits and storm the stage. Since opening at the Arts Theatre in 2019, Six has moved to larger venues to keep up with audience demand, playing at the Lyric Theatre and now the Vaudeville Theatre

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