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Photo credit: Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! (Photo courtesy of Jersey Boys and by Brinkhoff/Mogenburg)

West End musicals that celebrate great musicians and pop music

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Great musicians and composers have inspired countless theatrical productions over the years, from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical to the David Bowie show Lazarus. The best versions capture something innate about the artist's voice and how they connected to their fans, as well as celebrating their incredible back catalogue.

London's West End is currently home to several of those brilliant productions, including some exciting new entrants. Here's our pick of the best - tickets are on sale now.

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, Lyric Theatre

This highly anticipated show tells the story of Jamaica's reggae superstar Bob Marley, from his groundbreaking songs to his political and social activism and enduring rebellious spirit. It stars Arinzé Kene as Marley, directed by Clint Dyer and with a book by Lee Hall. You can expect all of Marley's greatest hits, including "No Woman, No Cry", "Three Little Birds", "I Shot the Sheriff", "Could You Be Loved" and "Redemption Song".

The Drifters Girl, Garrick Theatre

Another intriguing new West End musical gives long overdue recognition to Faye Treadwell, the pioneering African-American manager of The Drifters. Treadwell spent years crafting the look and sound of the group, as well as dealing with legal issues and personal challenges. The cast is led by Beverley Knight, Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud, and you can hum along to Drifters hits like "Save the Last Dance for Me", "Under the Boardwalk" and "Kissin' in the Back Row of the Movies".

Jersey Boys cast (Photo by Darren Bell)

Jersey Boys, Trafalgar Theatre

The boys are back in town! The much-loved musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, which tells a rollicking rock 'n' roll story from four very different perspectives, returns to London. Ben Joyce, Adam Bailey, Karl James Wilson and Benjamin Yates play the bandmates, who fight over money, mob dealings and who's in charge - and yet, together, make pop music magic with songs like "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)", "Beggin'", "Let's Hang On" and "Bye Bye Baby".

Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Piccadilly Theatre

Baz Luhrmann's spectacular 2001 movie, set in fin-de-siècle Paris, was bolstered by a revolutionary jukebox mash-up score, using dozens of pop songs to fuel its heightened, giddily romantic and hauntingly tragic drama. The stage musical version goes even further, embracing a dizzying range of tracks (around 75 in total), from Adele, Beyoncé, Sia and Rihanna to Lady Gaga, Elton John, Bowie and the Rolling Stones. The London cast is led by Jamie Bogyo, Liisi LaFontaine, Clive Carter, Simon Bailey and Jason Pennycooke.

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Aldwych Theatre

From humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her discovery by eventual husband and manager Ike Turner, and then escaping an abusive marriage in order to strike out on her own and become a rock star: Tina Turner's story is an extraordinary one. This compelling bio-musical, scripted by Katori Hall and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, does full justice to it, and, as Turner, Aisha Jawando belts out indelible numbers like "A Fool in Love", "River Deep, Mountain High", "Proud Mary" and "Simply the Best".

Mamma Mia!, Novello Theatre

This iconic long-running musical celebrates two of the all-time great songwriters: Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA. Their richly emotional work powers this tale of love, heartbreak, friendship and family. The hits just keep coming in the show: "Super Trouper", "Dancing Queen", "Knowing Me, Knowing You", "Money, Money, Money", "Thank You for the Music", "The Winner Takes It All", and of course the title track. The current West End cast is led by Mazz Murray, Emma Mullen and Josie Benson.

& Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre

Max Martin is also a legendary songwriter, responsible for chart-topping favourites for numerous artists - including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and the Weeknd. It's an inspired choice to pair his popular hits with a contemporary script from Schitt's Creek writer David West Read that subversively riffs off Shakespeare. The talented cast, including Miriam-Teak Lee, Cassidy Janson, Oliver Tompsett and David Bedella, have a ball with songs like "...Baby One More Time", "Can't Feel My Face", "I Want It That Way" and "Roar".

Photo credit: Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! (Photo courtesy of Jersey Boys and by Brinkhoff/Mogenburg)

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