Extraordinary Theatre: Shows no superfan can miss in 2021

Missing Matilda? Lost without Lion King? Oh boy do we know that feeling! So there’s never been a better time to cheer ourselves up with a look ahead to Springtime for Theatre in London’s West End. With all the uncertainty we’ve faced recently over local lockdowns, tiers and tiaras, it’s been a nightmare for any of us to plan our lives, let alone our diaries. But now, with a vaccine so close we can almost touch it, it’s time to dust off our dancing shoes and trip the light fantastic down Shaftesbury Avenue to see what theatrical treats lie in store for 2021 from spring and beyond!

It can be confusing to know what’s opening when, so we’ve put together this handy guide for our “top tips for 2021” – shows that are opening, or returning, plus the latest news about how the West End is shaping up in the year ahead.

Hot Picks for 2021

Get Up, Stand Up! The Musical at the Lyric Theatre

Following a hugely successful workshop in 2019, this definitive new musical, featuring Bob Marley’s iconic hits, will be brought alive on the West End stage by a multi award-winning team including Lee Hall (Billy Elliot The MusicalNetwork) and Clint Dyer (Death of England). The book takes direct inspiration from Marley’s visionary lyrics to tell his extraordinary personal story as an artist. This is a show with real heart that promises to bring us together – and after a year that’s forced us apart that’s music to our ears! Book now and lose yourself to the rhythm of ‘Exodus’‘No Woman No Cry’‘Three Little Birds’, ‘I Shot the Sheriff’‘Could You Be Loved’, ‘Redemption Song’ and so much more.

From 28 May 2021
Tickets from £18

Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre

This Cole Porter classic last wowed the West End back in 2002-4 when Sally Ann Triplett and John Barrowman starred as delightful Reno Sweeney and delectable Billy Crocker. Part farce, part tap-dancing tour-de-force, the show is one of the great musicals of the 20th Century, and it just about as high-camp & uplifting a night out as you can get! The 2021 production will star Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally as Reno. We NEED this show back in our lives…it’s de-lovely!

From 8 May 2021
Book Tickets from £30

Hairspray at the London Coliseum

You can’t stop the beat! And you can’t stop Michael Ball dragging up either! We last saw Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre back in 2007-10 and we haven’t stopped grinning since. This smash-hit show is the heart-warming tale of Tracy Turnblad who proves that big girls DO get the guy…The show won a staggering 13 Tony Awards on Broadway and it’s not hard to see why. This production sees Michael Ball return to the role of Tracy’s mum, Edna – in the original London production did such an incredible job that some people complained that he wasn’t in the show, not realising THAT WAS HIM IN THE DRESS!

From 22 April 2021
Book tickets from £20.13

Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre

We’ve got high hopes for this brand new rags-to-riches musical and we all know the story, right? This enchanting new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical promises to challenge our ideas about the traditional fairytale Cinders. Starring Carrie Hope-Fletcher in the title role and the utterly fabulous Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as her Stepmother, the show was delayed due to the pandemic and will be the first show to open at the renamed Gillian Lynne Theatre (formerly the New London Theatre). We’re expecting a tantalising glimpse of glitter, a sensationally sparkly set, and a seriously feisty Cinderella!

From 30 April 2021
Book tickets from £23.40

& Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre

When Covid-19 shut down the West End, & Juliet had just been nominated for an astonishing nine Olivier Awards. This bright, brilliant show features some of the greatest ever pop hits from Swedish superstar Max Martin – if you don’t know him, that’s because he prefers to stay out of the limelight…but he’s written some of the catchiest, cleverest pop-hits of the past 30 years for the likes of Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Pink. The show asks ‘what would happen if Juliet hadn’t died’ at the end of Shakespeare’s famous tale of star-crossed lovers. & Juliet is uplifting, fresh, sparkly, fun and one of the most exciting shows to open in the West End in years. It’s already a cult hit…no surprise with a book by David West Read (Schitt’s Creek) and stellar performances! The cast is appearing on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing – The Results Show on Sunday 6th December (check out & Juliet’s youtube channel afterwards if you’ve missed it).

From 12 March 2021
Tickets from £24.60

Back to the Future The Musical at the Adelphi Theatre

We’re as excited as you are to see how they make a DeLorean sports car disappear on a West End stage! The show was thrilling audiences in Manchester when, like the DeLorean, Coronavirus made the show vanish before our very eyes…It will reappear in May 2021 at the Adelphi Theatre with Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and original music my multi-Grammy Award winners Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard. Wouldn’t we all love a car that could transport us from 1955 straight to 2021!

From 14 May 2021
Tickets from £22.48

Moulin Rouge at the Piccadilly Theatre

What started out as a Baz Lurhmann film has now grown wings and turned into a fully-fledged, stunningly beautiful Broadway stage musical…and now it’s coming to London. The show was described by the New York Times as “fireworks, confetti and glittering fragments of what feels like every pop hit ever written” and will open at a Piccadilly theatre completely transformed into the Moulin Rouge – complete with windmill! We’re still awaiting a date for opening night, but keep an eye out because when the show goes on sale, tickets will go like hot chou buns!

Is it safe to go back to the theatre?

If you’re still feeling a little unsure about coming back into the Theatreland, check out See it Safely: Your guide to a COVID-safe theatre experience – handy whether you’re already raring to resume your theatregoing, or just building up your confidence. With a vaccine on the horizon, things are looking great for theatre to roar back in 2021 and in the meantime, masks, hand sanitisers and social distancing will be as second nature as switching off your mobile; rest assured that theatres are taking your safety VERY seriously and many of the shows we mention are booking well into the future.

Which other shows are coming back in 2021?

These fabulous shows are booking now, although exact re-opening dates will be subject to future government advice:

The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre
Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre
Harry Potter & The Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre
Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre
The Prince of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre
Six at the Lyric Theatre (until 18 April 2021 – will then move to the Arts Theatre)
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre

At the time of writing, we’re still waiting to hear about plans for “the big five” – Hamilton, The Lion King, Les Misérables, Phantom, and Mary Poppins as well as return of the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap.

More shows to look out for in 2021

Disney’s Frozen at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Good at the Harold Pinter Theatre (starring David Tennant)
Jersey Boys at the Trafalgar Theatre (back in the West End after 3 years away!)
Songs for a New World at the Vaudeville Theatre
The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Keep an eye out too for announcements about the Stephen Sondheim classic Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal, postponed from 2020.

And with the nights drawing in, if you’re already dreaming of summer, The Open Air Theatre, Regents Park’s summer 2021 season is on sale now with shows including Romeo & Juliet, Carousel and 101 Dalmations (A new musical written by Douglas Hodge, who you may have seen last up to his eyelashes in mascara as Albin in La Cage Aux Folles).