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The West End's Longest Running Shows

Posted by Curtain Call on 9 May, 2019

There's nothing worse than missing the show everyone is talking about. But what about the shows that just run and run..... and run? Here's a rundown of the West End's top 20 longest running Theatre shows (so far)*.

 

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1. The Mousetrap - 27,627 performances!

Yup, taking the top spot with a whopping 27,627 performances is Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap'. Opening on the 25th November 1952, this classic is currently playing at the St. Martin's Theatre which it moved to in 1974. Six decades have done nothing to dull The Mousetrap, the story of an odd assortment of guests snowed in at Monkswell Manor, whilst a murderer is at large and en-route. But could they be already here? When bodies start showing up, it's up to the stranded troupe to solve the mystery, before they become a part of it?

2. Les Misérables - 13,785 performance.

Opening at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Barbican Theatre on October 8th 1985, Les Mis transferred to the Palace Theatre the following month where is ran until moving over to the Queen's Theatre in 2004, where it is still running. The original production will close on the 13th July 2019 to be replaced by a concert version at the Gielgud Theatre and a revival of a separate, downsized production at the refurbished Queen's theatre.

3. The Phantom Of The Opera - 13,450 performances.

Currently playing at Her Majesty's Theatre, Phantom Of The Opera has been a staple of the West End since October 1986 and on Broadway in 1988. It won the 1986 Olivier Award and the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical, and Michael Crawford (in the title role) won the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical. It is the longest running show in Broadway history by a wide margin, and celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance on 11 February 2012, the first production ever to do so!

4. The Woman in Black - 12,147 performances.

First performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 1987, it transferred to the West End in June 1989 and is still running at The Fortune Theatre. The Woman In Black is based on the 1983 novel by Susan Hill. If you've seen it, you'll know how scary this play is and it stays with you long after the curtain comes down.

5. Blood Brothers- 10,013 performances.

Opening at The Albery Theatre in 1988 and winning Best New Musical at the Olivier Awards, Blood Brothers found its longterm home at the Phoenix Theatre 3 years later where its epic London run came to a close in November 2012. Originally developed as a school play, Blood Brothers debuted in Liverpool, where the musical is set.

6. Cats - 8,949 performances

Based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats opened in the West End at the New London Theatre in 1981 and ran for 21 years! Directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne it won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards. By 1994, the musical had grossed over $2 billion worldwide. Now thats a lot of kitty litter!

7. Mamma Mia! - 8,318 performances

Currently running at the Novello Theatre, Mamma Mia! opened in 1999 and has just celebrated its 20th anniversary! Based on the songs of ABBA, over 60 million people have seen the show, which has grossed $2 billion worldwide since its 1999 debut. This 'jukebox musical' shows no sign of dwindling with the 2008 film adaptation and subsequent 2018 sequel also riding high at the box office.

8. The Lion King - 8,079 performances

Speaking of shows that go on and on, The Lion King continues to roar in the West End, celebrating its 20th anniversary in October this year. Its home has been the Lyceum Theatre here in the UK but it originally opened in Minnesota in the USA before transferring to Broadway in 1997 where it is currently the third longest-running show! In September 2014, The Lion King became the top-earning title in box-office history for both stage productions and films, surpassing the record previously held by The Phantom of the Opera.

9. Starlight Express - 7,406 performances

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe's rock musical might not be that familiar to a younger audience but this spectacular show, famously performed entirely on roller skates, has some amazing tunes and a rather unique plot. The musical tells the story of a young but obsolete steam engine, Rusty, who races in a championship against modern engines in the hope of impressing a first-class carriage, Pearl. If that doesn't impress you, well, it is also the most successful musical in Germany, where it has been performed in a purpose-built theatre since 1988.

10. No Sex Please, We're British - 6,761 performances

Yup! Sneaking in at number 10 is this classic (and unanimously panned) British farce written by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott. It opened in the West End in 1971 playing at The Garrick, The Strand and The Duchess Theatres to full houses until it closed in 1987. It didn't share quite the same success on Broadway where it ran for just 16 performances before closing early. Sorry America, sometime our British humour just doesn't translate. :-?

So, that was the top 10. But how close are some of our current West End staples to making it into single figures? Well, take a look below...

 

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 -image Alex Brenner

11. Stomp - 6,512 performances

Stomp closed last year before heading off on a global tour.

12. Chicago - 6,187 performances

After closing in 2012, Chicago returned to the West End last year closing in January.

13. Wicked - 5,202 performances

Defying gravity and continuing to play at the Apollo Victoria Theatre

14. Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story - 5,140 performances

Ran for 12 years in the West End and currently on tour.

15. We Will Rock You - 4,659 performances

Closing in 2014, this show was a firm favourite with fans (though not so much with critics), it ran for 12 years at The Dominion Theatre

16. Billy Elliot the Musical - 4,566 performances

Brought audiences to tears and its feet for 11 phenomenal years, closing in 2016

17. Miss Saigon - 4,264

The musical based on Puccini's Madame Butterfly ran for 10 years in the West End, closing in 1999 before a revival in 2014-2016.

18. Thriller - Live - 4,186 performances

Currently running at the Lyric Theatre

19. Jersey Boys - 3,787 performances

Ran for 9 years, closing in 2017.

20. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) - 3,744 performances

Famous for holding the world record for the shortest-ever performance of Hamlet, clocking in at 43 seconds and the fastest performance of Hamlet backwards, 42 seconds. Ran for 9 years in the West End and closed in 2005.

 

*All currently-running shows are updated as of 30 January 2019

Topics: Blog

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