We ask blogger Sian Gwilliam from My Culture Club what’s hot in the West End and beyond this year, and she shares the best family musicals in London.
Theatre is one of my favourite things in the world. I was raised seeing West End shows with my loving Father, and jumped at every moment to sing, dance and act at school. Those are two reasons I launched My Culture Club, a family concierge company, which organises group trips and bespoke itineraries for private clients.
THE GIRL AND THE GIRAFFE, Presented by Half Moon. A Floods of Ink Production. Little Angel Theatre, Wednesday 15–Friday 17 February, 2017
Whether you choose a puppet show at The Little Angel in Islington, or fringe theatre above your local pub (try Theatre503 in Battersea), a spectacular West End musical or the exciting new performance of Oliver at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre this summer, I can promise you that you will enjoy a truly memorable family time, wherever you choose to go.
Here is my pick of the best family West End musicals to get you started (children’s fringe theatre will come in the next feature), and please, if you have any recommendations or tips for taking your family or yourself to the theatre, do leave a comment below with the My Baba team, so we can share the theatre ‘love’.
School of Rock, New London Theatre (Age 8+), booking until 14 January, 2018
This show from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group is based on the book by Julian Fellowes (he of Gosford Park Oscar and Downton Abbey Fame). It’s a rags to riches story, where a rock guitarist called Dewey Finn, who is down on luck, manages to grab a job to be a supply teacher at a private prep school by pretending to be his flat mate. Whilst there, he discovers that his class are musically talented, and then enters them into a Battle of the Bands contest. I’ll leave it to you to guess the ending! It has extended its booking period to 28 May 2017, and seats are booking fast.
Fun fact: In May 2014, it was revealed that the show was likely to receive its world premiere on Broadway rather than in London’s West End due to more relaxed Child Labour laws in the United States. (Ref. Wikipedia)
Wicked the Musical (Age 6+), Apollo Theatre, Runs until 26th May 2018
This show is now London’s 8th longest running musical. It is based on the acclaimed novel by Gregory Maguire that re-imagined the stories and characters created by L.Frank Baum in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. The musical is based on the friendship between two girls who meet at university studying sorcery (why not?) and explores the good vs evil theme of their roles as Glinda the Good and The Wicked Witch of the West. It is jammed with belting show stopping numbers, high end special effects, and of course not forgetting a man in tights declaring true love.
Fun fact: It has been revealed that Stephen Daldry, the director of such films as ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘The Reader’, and ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ has been attached to the film version of Wicked for the past couple of years. Wicked is preparing to welcome its 8 millionth theatregoer. (Londontheatre.com)
The Wind In The Willows (6+), London Palladium from June 29th, 2017
I think you will agree that Julian Fellowes is fast becoming a national treasure. Not only has he been involved with the play Mary Poppins, Half a Sixpence, and School of Rock he also adapted Kenneth Grahame’s much loved book written in 1908, The Wind in the Willows for the stage. This new play starring comic actor Rufus Hound, features a score by the Olivier Award-winning team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Looking at the trailer and the production photos, and knowing how much fun producers can have working at the Palladium Theatre, I would bet that this production will bring to life a novel originally set in Edwardian England, with some serious West End dazzle.
Joining the previously announced Rufus Hound who will reprise his role as Mr Toad from the world premiere production in 2016 will be Neil McDermott as Chief Weasel, Jenna Boyd, Abigail Brodie, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall, Nicole Deon, James Gant, Evan James, Michael Larcombe, Bethany Linsdell, Ryan Pidgen, Adam Vaughan and Georgie Westall, with further casting to be announced.
Fun fact: Julian Fellowes proposed to his wife 20 minutes after meeting her at a party, “having spent 19 minutes getting up the nerve”. (Wikipedia)
Matilda the Musical (6+), Cambridge Theatre, Booking until 17th December 2017
Until recently Matilda the Musical was the new kid on the block. It broke the mould for the West End, as it was adapted from the famous Roald Dahl book ‘Matilda’ by (at the time) an unknown Australian stand up comic and composer Tim Minchin. He with The Royal Shakespeare Company, and with unique staging by director Matthew Warchus and choreographer Peter Darling. did a truly genius job with this show. This is evident as it has now won over 50 awards, and has recently departed our shores for a stint on Broadway.
I am not going to precis the story for you here, as either you know it already, or if you don’t I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Fun fact: The production goes through over 100 tubs of chocolate frosting each year, and Tim Minchin the composer can’t actually read music. (hersheypa.com)
Mamma Mia, Novello Theatre (Age 5+), Booking until 14 October 2017
I have to share with you that I am not an Abba fan, for reasons I can’t go into now, but I feel I need to be honest with you, as I know that’s what you’d expect from a drama queen! So on that basis, I will do my best to share that this show has been running for a mere 17 years now and seen by 54 million, which gives it a rightful place in the West End Hall of fame.
Be rest assured for all you Abba lovers, this show will deliver and have you toe-tapping all night. The cast perform all the best hits, including “The Winner Takes it All”, “Super Trouper” “Money Money Money”, “Voulez-Vous” and “Take a Chance on Me”.
Fun fact: In the Brazilian production, all three songs from the encore/finale were kept in English. Though “Waterloo” was adapted into Brazilian Portuguese, this version was never used and the lyrics are unknown. (Wikipedia)
Aladdin (6+) Prince Edward Theatre, Booking until 3rd June (and Feb 2018 for groups)
This show is another Disney stage blockbuster. With The Lion King now being in its 18th year in the West End, and having past hits with Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins, it’s no surprise that Aladdin is one of the most popular family musicals in London. When Disney start the production process, they ensure they work with the best talent available. That is why this show includes lyrics from Olivier Award and two-time Oscar®
winner Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), three-time Tony and Olivier Award, three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (Evita, Aida), and four-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), and a book by Beguelin for starters. The music is written by the legend that is Tony®, Olivier© and eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Little Shop Of Horrors), and that’s not even mentioning the direction and choreography from Tony and Olivier Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon). I think you get the picture. This is a show that has to be on your list.
Fun fact: There are rumours in theatre land, that there will be a musical adaptation of Frozen opening in 2018. It’s now time for me to leave that nugget with you and “…Let it Go”.
Other theatre and dance shows that are perfect for families in and around London:
- Adventures in Wonderland (5-10yrs), The Vaults Waterloo, Sat 13th May – Sun 3rd September
Aladdin (5+) Prince Edward Theatre, booking until 3rd June
- Alices Adventures Underground, (5+) The Vaults Waterloo, Runs 15th April to 10th September
- An American in Paris (6+), Dominion Theatre, Runs March 4th to September 30th Arcaladanza Vuelos (all ages), Sadler’s Wells, 14th-15th April
- A Square World, Polka Theatre, 10th to 12th March, 2017
- A Square World (3-6yrs) Polka Theatre, 10-12th March
- A Tale of Two Cities, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 7th July to 5th August
- Bat Out of Hell musical (6+), London Coliseum, Runs from June 5 to July 22nd
- BBC Young Dancer 2017 (all ages) Sadler’s Wells 22nd April
- Beautiful the Carole King Musical (6+), Aldwych Theatre, Runs until Saturday July 22nd Breakin’ Convention (all ages), Hip Hop Dance Festival, Sadler’s Wells, 29-30th April Carousel (5+), London Coliseum, Runs from Friday April 7th to Saturday May 13th David Walliams Gangsta Granny (5+) Runs 26th July to 3 September
- Dick Whittington the Pantomime (5+), Palladium Theatre, runs 9th Dec until 7th January 2018.
- Disney on Ice, Wembley Arena, 29th March to 2nd April (UK Tour)
- Dreamgirls (5+), Savoy Theatre, booking until 6th May
- Dr Seuss the Lorax, Old Vic Theatre, Booking from 20th October to 4th November, 2017 Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo that Can Never Be Caught, The Vaults, 28th Jan to 26th February
- Fantastic Mr Fox, (5+) The Lyric Hammersmith, Runs until 19th February
- Half A Sixpence, Noel Coward Theatre, Booking until Saturday April 22nd
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Booking sold out until 2018, check online
- Heaven Eyes, (9+) Greenwich Theatre, Runs 12-13th Feb,
- Jeramee, Hartleby & Oooglemore (3+), Unicorn Theatre, 12th March – 10th April Junkyard, Rose Theatre Kingston (5+) opens 19th April
- Les Miserables, Queens Theatre (6+), Until Saturday 14th October 2017
- Little Angel Theatre, Puppet shows for babies upwards, check online
- Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures (12+), Sadler’s Wells, Monday 3rd – 8th April
- Mavis Sparkle (4+) Polka Theatre, 3rd-5th March
- Moonshine’s Entirely Necessary Adventure, (8+) Ovalhouse Kennington, 13th to 14th Feb
- Motown the Musical, Shaftesbury Theatre, Runs until 28th October
- My First Ballet, Cinderella (3+) Peacock Theatre, Runs 11th to 22nd April
- National Youth Dance Company (All ages) Sadler’s Wells, 19th April
- Northern Ballet – Goldilocks & The Three Bears (all ages) Sadler’s Wells, 12th May
- Peter Pan National Theatre LIVE screening, in cinemas 10th June
- Romeo and Juliet (8-12yrs) National Theatre, Runs 11th – 24th Feb
- Sarah and Ducks Big Top Birthday (3-6yrs, all ages welcome) Polka Theatre, 6th April – 14th May
- Scattered (dance and acrobatics show), Peacock Theatre, 26th – 29th April Showstopper (12+), Lyric Theatre West End, 20th Feb to 5th June 2017
- Stomp (5+), Ambassadors Theatre, Booking until 8th Jan 2018
- Strictly Come Dancing, 10th anniversary show, 02 Arena, 11th to 12th February
- Summer of Love season, Globe Theatre, 22nd – 15th October (Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Triston and Yesult, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, Boudica & Nell Gwynn)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time (11+), Gielgud Theatre, Booking until 3 June 2017
- The Hunting Lodge (12+) Unicorn Theatre, until 6th March
- The Iron Man, Unicorn Theatre (8+) Runs 24th Jan to 5th March
- The Lion King (5+), Lyceum Theatre, Booking until 11th Feb 2018
- The Magic Paintbrush, (3+) Jacksons Lane, 5th March
- The Magic Paintbrush (3+), Jacksons Lane Theatre , 3rd March
- The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad (5+) Ovalhouse Theatre, 16th to 19th February
- The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad by Bootworks (5+) Ovalhouse, 16th to 19th February The Phantom of the Opera (6+), Her Majesty’s Theatre, Booking until 14th October
- The Pirates of Penzance, London Coliseum, 9 Feb – 25 March 2017
- The Play That Goes Wrong (8+), 5 September – 10 September 2017
- The Twits, (6+) Rose Theatre Kingston, Runs 5th April to 16th April
- The Party (3-7yrs) Polka Theatre, 14-18th March
- The Gruffalo’s Child (3+) Lyric West End,Runs from 22nd Nov to 7th Jan
- The Velveteen Rabbit (5+), Unicorn Theatre 17th March – 15th April
- Thriller Live (5+), Lyric Theatre, Booking until 1st October,
- Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, Leicester Square Theatre, (3+) 8 July – 3 September 2017
- To Dream Again (7+), Polka Theatre, runs 10th March to 2nd April
- Us/Them (12+), National Theatre, Runs until 18th Feb
- War Horse, (UK Tour from September 2017)
- WowHoop (Babies upwards), Jacksons Lane Theatre, 15th to 19th February
- The Taming of The Shrew (11+) Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Runs 4th to 25th March 42nd Street (6+), Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Opens 20th March
- What The Ladybird Heard (3+) Lyric West End, Runs 5th July to 10th Sept
- Stories with Michael Rosen and Chris Riddlell (5-11yrs), Hampstead Theatre, 10th Feb Harry Potter: Boy. Wizard. Hero (7+) Hampstead Theatre, 12th Feb
- Nativity! The Musical, Eventim Apollo, Runs from 13-17th December
- Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox (5+), Lyric Hammersmith, runs until 19th Feb Seventeen (14+) Lyric Hammersmith, runs 4th March to 8th April 2017
- Jack & the Beanstalk (6+) Lyric Hammersmith, 18th November to 6th Jan 2018
- The Little Beasts (7+) The Other Palace, Runs: Thursday 13 – Sunday 30 July 2017
- National Youth Music Theatre Imaginary, The Other Palace, Runs: Wednesday 9 – Saturday 12 August 2017
- National Youth Music Theatre Sunday I The Park with George, The Other Palace, Runs: Wednesday 16 – Saturday 19 August 2017