Everybody knows the West End’s most acclaimed for its theatres, but if you’re a soon-to-be London visitor, exactly which should you make a beeline for…?
(17 Wilton Road SW1V 1LG)
Art-deco beautiful, this one-time cinema’s now a 2,200-seater giant, first playing host to the roller-skate-tastic 1984 debut of ‘Starlight Express’, where it remained for 18 years. Recently, its auditorium’s been bathed in green thanks to the fantastically popular ‘Wicked’.
Her Majesty’s Theatre
(Haymarket SW1Y 4QL)
Host of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mega-musical ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ since 1986, Her Majesty’s still puts on this mega-musical partly because some of the show’s clever effects are pulled off via the venue’s surviving Victorian stage machinery. It was originally established as a theatre in 1705 – on the site of a stable-yard.
(30 Argyll Street W1F 7TE)
If Old Trafford is football’s ‘theatre of dreams’, then the Palladium is, well, the real theatre of dreams, being arguably the most prestigious of all West End theatres; so perfect for a pilgrimage should you be making the most of one of the West End hotel offers and packages. Recent big-budget musicals to grace its stage include ‘Sister Act’, ‘Scrooge!’, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘The Sound of Music’.
(21 Wellington Street WC2E 7RQ)
It’s impossible to think of the Lyceum without thinking of Disney’s hugely successful stage adaptation of ‘The Lion King’. The show’s eye-popping orange banners have become as recognisable as the theatre’s exterior as its elegant 19th Century frontage. In times past it was a rock venue for acts including The Clash and The Who.
The Old Vic
(The Cut SE1 8NB)
As legendary a theatre as they come, the Old Vic has enjoyed celebrated associations with great thesps right up to the present. Over the last decade, it’s achieved notoriety thanks to the artistic direction of Hollywood’s Kevin Spacey, leading to several starry productions, not least an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III featuring the latter in the lead.
The St Martin’s Theatre
(West Street WC2H 9ND)
A relatively tucked-away venue this one, it wouldn’t stand a chance of getting on this ‘highlights’ list were it not for the fact it’s hosted the same absolutely record-breaking play since as far back as 1974 –Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’. Originally, this whodunnit opened way back in 1952 at The Ambassadors Theatrenext door, but moved here after a relatively short 21 years, ensuring the original version of said production has been playing without break for, yes, an extraordinary 64 years and counting.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
(Catherine Street WC2B 5JF)
Finally, arguably the grande dame of London theatres – its history dates back to the 1660s. In recent years it’s put on lavish productions of the musicals ‘Miss Saigon’, ‘Oliver!’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and (fittingly, given part of it is setjust around the corner in Covent Garden) ‘My Fair Lady’. It also holds a particularly popular behind-the-scenes tour that’s worth looking out for, named ‘Behind the Stage Door’.