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West End shows based on 1980s films and stories

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

Have you ever put together a mixtape for that special someone? Spent hours snapping the best camera angles on your Polaroid? Worn multiple bright scrunchies in your hair? They’re all current trends taking over our social media feeds, but they’re not new ideas — they came from the 1980s. The 1980s clearly serves as inspiration for exciting West End theatre too, as many musicals are jumping on the 1980s bandwagon and adopting the coolest trends from the decade.

There are West End musicals based on 1980s films to enjoy in London, like Back to the Future and Heathers. Or if you want to reminisce about the 1980s television days (pre-streaming and pausing live TV), then Only Fools and Horses: The Musical is the show for you. Once you’ve seen all the 1980s London theatre, then travel a decade ahead and see how the 1990s come to life in London.

Go back in time to the 1980s via the West End. Here are all the West End shows with a 1980s flair you can see now.

Dirty Dancing - 750 - 130122

Dirty Dancing

The 1980s ushered a new era of film musicals: Hairspray, Fame, Footloose, and Little Shop of Horrors all came out in the 80s. But toward the end of the decade, audiences couldn’t get enough of Dirty Dancing! The 1987 romantic musical film follows a developing summer relationship between teenager Frances “Baby” Houseman and dance instructor Johnny Castle. Audiences swooned over Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s sizzling chemistry, and viewers wished they could recreate the infamous Baby and Johnny lift. The Dirty Dancing music is still popular too, and you can relive all your favourite Dirty Dancing moments on stage, as Dirty Dancing returns to London.

Book Dirty Dancing tickets on London Theatre.

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Only Fools and Horses - 750 - LT - 030322

Only Fools and Horses: The Musical

Some TV shows enter the cultural zeitgeist from a few episodes. But then there are a few television series that continue for decades, pulling in generations of viewers for years on end. Scenes in television shows can also hold their own many years after they were first broadcast, and the Only Fools and Horses TV show has plenty of stand-out moments.

Only Fools and Horses aired throughout the 1980s, packed with popular TV moments to watch: the chandelier scene, falling through the bar, dressing up as Batman and Robin, and many more. If you wished that Del Boy and Rodney were your best friends and that you could be part of the Trotters’ gang, then now is your chance, as Only Fools and Horses: The Musical turns the West End into the East End.

Only Fools and Horses: The Musical honours the original TV series while adding in original storylines for the musical adaptation. There’s also new music to complement the musical’s East End setting, as well as the TV theme tune. If you’ve watched Only Fools and Horses on TV, then get ready to visit Hooky Street for a lovely jubbly musical!

Book Only Fools and Horses: The Musical tickets on London Theatre.

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The Woman in Black - 750 - LT - 030322

The Woman in Black

Sure, The Woman in Black doesn’t contain all the flashy 1980s outfits. There are no legwarmers, ra-ra skirts or crazy makeup. However, The Woman in Black play started out in the 1980s, and it continues to entertain and spook audiences today. At this show, the past comes back to haunt us.

The Woman in Black follows a lawyer named Arthur Kipps who visits an eerie Eel Marsh House to sort out the late Alice Drablow’s possessions. While working, he sees a ghost on numerous occasions. Years later, Arthur hires an actor to recount his past in the hopes of a clear mind. Will the woman in black visit again? Make sure you see the 1980s play The Woman in Black in London to discover what lurks around Eel Marsh House.

Book The Woman in Black tickets on London Theatre.

LT - CTA - 250

Heathers - 750 - LT - 030322


Honey, what are you waiting for? The 1980s on stage, of course! What show is better to bring the thrilling decade to life than Heathers at The Other Palace? The cult movie Heathers tells the story of Veronica Sawyer, an innocent high schooler who finds herself part of the popular crowd. Very quickly, Veronica stands out from everyone around her, attracting wanted — and unwanted — attention. Will Veronica’s newfound ways impact her future? You’ll have to step into the candy store to find out.

After the Heathers film found a theatre life off Broadway, Heathers arrived with a bang in London. Then following a London premiere at The Other Palace and two West End runs, Heathers now returns to The Other Palace for a theatrical homecoming. Say hello to the Heathers and get ready to have big fun at the theatre. How very.

Book Heathers tickets on London Theatre.

LT - CTA - 250

Back to the Future - 750 - LT - 030322

Back to the Future: The Musical

We don’t know what people in the 1980s thought of the “future.” It’s likely that they’d see us cruising around in hovering cars and robots would do everything for us. Few 1980s communities probably predicted a global pandemic to change everything. They also wouldn’t expect 1980s films to hold a special type of nostalgia, or that the stories would still entertain today. But Back to the Future: The Musical pieces the original 1985 film Back to the Future scene-by-scene, and the result is truly spectacular!

Back to the Future: The Musical sees teenager Marty McFly and mad-scientist-turned-accidental-time-traveller Dr. Emmett Brown sent back to 1955. The pair can only return to the “future” by making sure Marty’s parents fall in love — again. The Back to the Future musical is jam-packed with 1980s-style costumes, cheesy dance routines, catchy songs, and a light display similar to 1980s raves. But there are also the classic Back to the Future songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “The Power of Love” to look forward to. Dress like Marty McFly and wear your neon orange jacket at Back to the Future: The Musical now.

Book Back to the Future: The Musical tickets on London Theatre.

LT - CTA - 250

Cruise - 750 - LT


Jack Holden's Olivier-nominated play Cruise encapsulates what it means to live with HIV in 1980s London. In 1984, a young man named Michael is told he's got four years left to live. Everything's counting down to February 29, 1988, his last day. Wanting to leave with a bang, Michael embarks for a final night of farewells saying "yes" to everything without anything consequences. But the morning of March 1 approaches, and Michael's still alive. What does it mean to survive in 1980s Soho?

Book Cruise tickets on London Theatre.

LT - CTA - 250

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