The 10 Longest-Running West End Musicals

Les Misérables. Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench
Les Misérables. Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench

Ever wondered what are the longest-running West End musicals? We’ve delved through the archives to bring you to top ten.

1. Les Misérables – Since 1985 – 35 Years

Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Boublil and Schönberg’s magnificent score of Les Misérables includes the songs, I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Stars, Bring Him Home, Do You Hear the People Sing?, One Day More, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Master Of The House and many more. The production has now been playing since 8 October 1985.

Book Les Misérables Tickets Here

2. The Phantom Of The Opera – Since 1986 – 34 Years

In October 2016 the London production of The Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a special gala performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre. In October 2011 the London production celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a spectacular staging of “The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall” which was screened live in cinemas all over the world and subsequently released on DVD. The production has now been playing since 9 October 1986.

Book The Phantom Of The Opera Tickets Here

3. Blood Brothers – From 1988 to 2012 – 24 Years

Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret. The memorable score includes A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True. The production opened on 28 July 1988 and closed on 10 November 2012.

4. Cats – From 1981 to 2002 – 21 Years

Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats this wonderfully imaginative show features breathtaking music, including one of the most treasured songs in musical theatre — Memory. Cats tells the story of one magical night when an extraordinary tribe of cats gathers for its annual ball to rejoice and decide which cat will be reborn. Featuring a cast of beautiful dancers and singers and the original Tony-winning sets and costumes, this beloved hit is still Broadway’s most unforgettable event. The production opened on 11 May 1981 and closed on 11 May 2002.

5. Mamma Mia! – Since 1999 – 21 Years

The sunny, funny tale of a mother, a daughter and three possible dads on a Greek island idyll, all unfolding to the magic of ABBA’s timeless pop masterpieces, has now been seen live on stage by 65 million people across the world, and turned into two record-breaking movies – MAMMA MIA! The Movie and MAMMA MIA! Here We Go Again. The production has now been playing since 6 April 1999.

Book Mamma Mia! Tickets Here

6. Disney’s The Lion King – Since 1999  – 21 Years

Since the UK premiere in London on Tuesday 19th October 1999, The Lion King has entertained over 15 million theatregoers and remains the West End’s best-selling stage production and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.

Book The Lion King Tickets Here

7. Starlight Express – From 1984 to 2001 – 17 Years

A child’s train set magically comes to life and the various engines compete to become the “Fastest – engine in the World”! The underdog, Rusty the Steam train, has little chance until he is inspired by the legend of the “Starlight Express” and ultimately defeats his arch-rivals Greaseball and Electra before going on to win the hand of the lovely first class coach, Pearl. The production opened on 27 March 1984 and closed on 12 January 2002.

8. Chicago – From 1997 to 2012 – 15 Years

Winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy, Chicago is the dazzling and dangerously exciting tale of jazz slayer Roxie Hart, her cell-block rival Velma Kelly and the smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn has thrilled audiences across the world since 1996. With the original Broadway choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse and a sizzling score featuring the classic songs Razzle Dazzle, Cell Block Tango, and All That Jazz. The production opened on 18 October 1997 and closed on 1 September 2012.

9. Wicked –  Since 2006 – 14 years

Wicked tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba.

Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West. The production has now been playing since 27 September 2006.

Book Wicked Tickets Here

10. Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story – From 1989 to 2003 – 14 Years

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story tells the true story of Buddy’s meteoric rise to fame, from the moment in 1957 when ‘that’ll be the day’ hit the airwaves until his tragic death less than two years later on “the day the music died”. The incredible legacy of the young man with glasses, whose musical career spanned an all-too-brief period during the golden days of rock & roll, continues to live on in Buddy. The production opened on 12 October 1989 and closed on 3 March 2002.


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