Enduring the test of time: the West End’s longest running shows

The general worldwide consensus at the moment is clear to see every time we turn on the news, pick up a paper or scroll through Twitter – things are uncertain. This uncertainty is not limited only to politics and the Topic That Must Not Be Named (clue: it rhymes with Frexit); shows are coming and going on the West End like never before, staying for about as long as it takes Marius to get over Eponine’s death – so, not long at all.

There are a handful of shows however, such as the one referenced above, that are bucking this trend, and continuing to thrive in spite of the trying times and ever changing audiences. What is it about these productions that have cemented them in the edifice of theatre? Read on and find out…

The Mousetrap

As it prepares to enter its landmark 68th year, it’s fair to say that Agatha Christie’s ‘whodunit’ thriller won’t be going anywhere any time soon. As the world’s longest running show, and with over 28,000 performances under its belt, The Mousetrap continues to thrill audiences of every generation with its masterful, edge-of-your-seat plot – the kind that we could only expect from the “Queen of Mystery”.

If you haven’t yet experienced the suspense of this timeless classic, you can get tickets now from just £23.40.

Les Miserables

Boasting over 30 years in the West End, four different venues, three live concerts (all starring some of the finest talents the world has to offer) and a three-time Academy Award®-winning film adaptation starring Wolverine himself, Les Miserables seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. From the infamously heart-wrenching I Dreamed A Dream to the spine-tingling chorus of Do You Hear The People Sing?, Les Miserables tells the story of a French revolution, but it’s its own revolutionary triumphs that deserve to be celebrated for many years to come.

Les Miserables re-opens at the newly renovated Sondheim Theatre this December. Get tickets from £33 now.

Disney’s The Lion King

A musical that is both a modern-day classic and a state-of-the-art multi-sensory experience, The Lion King continues to flaw audiences worldwide and go from strength to strength. Adapted for the stage from the Academy Award®-winning beloved film, this multi Tony and Olivier award-winning musical, having just celebrated a monumental 20 years in the West End, will redefine your expectations of theatre.

Book tickets now for Disney’s multi-award winning international phenomenon.

The Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical masterpiece is now celebrating 31 years at the Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. The Phantom of the Opera is gloriously grand in style. The show’s immense plot, scenery and, of course, its music, have drawn over 100 million people worldwide to see it. Powerful narrative and traditional illusion come together in this masterpiece to create one of the most successful theatre shows in history, and one of the longest running that the West End has to offer.

Experience the scintillating tale for yourself, with tickets from £30.

Wicked

Winner of over 100 major awards, including three Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and ten theatregoer-voted WhatsOnStage Awards, Wicked has now been seen by almost 10 million people in London alone. Boasting a stellar soundtrack and a witty retelling of one of the world’s most famous tales, the re-imagined world of Oz offers nothing but spellbinding theatrical magic.

Witness the magic of the Witches of Oz for yourself, with tickets from just £26.50.

With new shows popping up seemingly every week, from classic adaptations to groundbreaking new productions, it’s hard to imagine what the West End might look like in 20 or even 10 years. Which of these shows would you like to see continue on its legacy? Sound off in the comments below!

Meet Janique Charles: The Lion King’s new Nala

Janique Charles officially replaces Ava Brennan in the role of Nala, Simba’s childhood friend, in Disney’s The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. We sat down with her to discuss her journey in getting the role, what it’s like to work for Disney and, ultimately, how it feels to be part of the most successful musical in history.

'Can You You Feel The Love Tonight' - Nick Afoa as Simba, Janique Charles as Nala 2017 ©Disney.jpg

Congratulations on getting the role! Has musical theatre always been the ultimate goal for you?

I’ve always wanted to work for Disney. Whether it was through performing in a Disney musical, on the Disney channel or on a Disney cruise ship – I just knew I wanted to work for Disney. Having grown up endlessly watching Disney movies and Disney TV, I’ve always felt very connected to it – so this is a real dream come true for me.

So how did you get the role of Nala? 

I’ve been working on The Lion King for 4 years. I moved here from Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 to join Disney’s The Lion King UK tour, which also stopped in Basel, Switzerland, and that’s where my journey began! About a year ago, I made it to the West End, playing a number of different roles in the ensemble: the banana lady, a white bird, a hyena (which was so much fun!) and a lioness. Once I had a taste of playing a lioness, it became clear to me how much I’d enjoy playing Nala.

What do you particularly like about her?

She’s sweet, but fierce. She stands up for herself and those she cares about. It’s not in my character to be this fearless, so I love that in this role, I get to be fierce every day.

What’s your favourite thing about being part of such a successful musical?

I think the thing I appreciate the most is having the opportunity to work with so many professional and truly talented people. I learn so much from these world-class performers, whilst playing a part in a story that I adored growing up. It’s a wonderful experience.

'Shadowland' - Janique Charles as Nala 2017 ©Disney

If you could see any other film made into a musical, what would it be?

I’ve always liked the Prince of Egypt, I think that film has potential to be an incredible musical. There are some really underrated, beautiful songs. In terms of Disney films, The Lion King is of course my favourite, however, The Little Mermaid comes a very close second! I love the innocence of Ariel, but if it was made into a musical, I’d have to play Ursula – I have so much fun playing these bolder, more daring characters.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Well, working for Disney is what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve been working for years to get here. So I often have to remind myself to breathe, relax and enjoy what I’ve worked so hard to achieve.

I think on a less serious note, falling over most days in rehearsals is a challenge. It’s a very physical show – particularly the fight scene between Nala and Simba – so it’s bound to happen. It’s past the stage of embarrassing now, but it sure does hurt!

So what’s your relationship like with Nick Afoa (Simba)?

Nick’s great – he’s a really funny, cool guy. He’s from New Zealand – so it’s really interesting learning about his culture and hearing all of his stories from when he played rugby professionally. We’ve had a lot of laughs since beginning rehearsals. But I love every member of the cast; they’re all so inspiring and bring so much to the show.

'The Embrace' - Nick Afoa as Simba, Janique Charles as Nala 2017 ©Disney .jpg

For people who haven’t seen the show yet, what can they expect?

It’s so beautiful. You just can’t even imagine how much you’ll enjoy it. There’s one particular scene with white birds that makes me fall in love with the show more each time; their costumes flow out like a flower in bloom. You can’t put into words how beautiful it is. The music, the costumes – it’s all mind-blowing.

One last question – is there any advice you’d give to aspiring actors/actresses?

To put it simply, never give up. Keep trying, auditioning, playing the smaller parts. I played so many characters in the ensemble for the show and I learned so much. I had to know the show in and out; that experience was truly invaluable.

Janique performs her role of Nala for the first time tonight at 7.30pm.
Book tickets for Disney’s The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre here.

Watch the official trailer below.

Disney’s The Lion King – Up Close and Personal

Getting to romp backstage with the lions at the Lyceum Theatre has to be one of the most fun things we’ve ever done in the West End. The Lion King’s opening Circle of Life is truly one of the great moments of live theatre, and being offered the chance to explore this enthralling backstage world is a genuine thrill.

Backstage photography at Disney's The Lion King in London [Helen Maybanks]
Backstage photography at Disney’s The Lion King in London [Helen Maybanks]
 

We’re with Laura O’Toole, marketing co-ordinator for the London Production of Disney’s The Lion King. From the first moment Laura meets us at Stage Door, we can feel that she has a real passion for the show. There is a buzz about every part of the building and as we walk through to the stage we pass actors, crew, wardrobe and dozens of other people resetting for that evening’s performance. Read more