London’s West End and Manhattan’s Broadway turn over roughly $1bn in annual ticket sales each, and this figure has grown over the last two decades. Clearly, the appeal of a night out to see a professional show isn’t set to wane any time soon.
Some go to the theater more often than they do the cinema, while for others it’s a rare treat. No matter which party you belong to, choosing which show to see can be difficult given the wide variety of productions currently being performed – with this in mind, we have highlighted some of own personal favorites doing the rounds at the moment, including some top picks which are exclusive to either Broadway or the West End (at the time of writing).
The Lowdown: Based on the eponymous novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked has just recently past its seventh Broadway anniversary and has set numerous records during its phenomenal run so far (and it doesn’t look set to slow down any time soon).
What’s It About? The show is a prequel shedding light on the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, characterizing her as a misunderstood and persecuted victim during the Wizard of Oz’ corrupt rule.
It’s a great spin on Frank L. Baum’s classic works and the familiar subject matter has proved to be very accessible with audiences.
Check it out at Broadway: For performances at the Gershwin Theater, Broadway Box has tickets as cheap as $89 and the average Mezzanine seats going for roughly $100. The cast currently features Mary Gonzalez, Katie Rose Clarke and Andy Karl.
Check it out in the West End: For performances at the Apollo Victoria, London Theater Bookings seems to have the cheapest ticket prices starting from £22($28).The cast currently features Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman and Lee Mead.
The Lowdown: Even just seeing the title sets Abba songs off in your head. The show opened in London’s West End in 1999, but toured all around America before reaching Broadway in 2001. It’s the most performed show in the world and the film it inspired became the highest grossing musical of all time based on global figures.
What’s It About? It’s not, as you would expect, autobiographical of Abba, but the hit songs peppered throughout have made it one of the most popular musicals ever. Set on a gorgeous Greek island, the plot follows Sophie as she tries to find her real father (out of a possible three) while in the process of getting married.
Check it out at Broadway: At Winter Garden Theater, the cheapest tickets we can find are around $100 via ticketsmate.com. The cast currently features Lisa Brescia, John Dossett and Alyse Alan Louis.
Check it out in the West End: At the Prince of Wales theater, UK Tickets are offering tickets at just £32 ($41). The cast currently features Jessie May, Linzi Hateley and Harriet Thorpe.
The Lowdown: A relatively new musical, Jersey Boys opened on Broadway in 2005 and went on to tremendous success the next year, winning over 53 major awards worldwide (including 4 Tony Awards). It has received almost universal acclaim throughout its continuous run.
What’s It About? The show charters the rise and fall of The Four Seasons band during the 60s, with each act narrated by a different member of the band. They’re one of the biggest selling acts of all time and were more famous than the Beatles before they turned up, and their story is an enthralling one (regardless of whether you’re a fan of the music).
Check it out at Broadway: At the August Wilson Theater, we can’t find tickets cheaper than those offered here at around $120. The cast currently features Russell Fischer, Cory Grant and John Hickman.
Check it out in the West End: At the Prince Edward Theater, with short-notice tickets on offer and starting from £25 ($40). The cast currently features Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield and Jon Boydon.
The Lowdown: Billy Elliott the Musical cost over twice as much to produce than the 2000 film on which it is based. Nevertheless, after opening in 2005 on the West End, the roaring success saw productions premiering around the world shortly after. In recognition, it has won a staggering 10 Tony Awards and 4 Laurence Olivier Awards, including best musical in each.
What’s It About? The titular character is Billy Elliot, a child growing up in Northern England during the miner’s strikes of 1984. Billy develops a love of ballet, much to the chagrin of his family, as the plot follows his struggle to find acceptance and success. Despite the very localized plot and references, the show has been a hit with audiences the world over.
Check it out at Broadway: At the Imperial Theater, an average ticket costs around $100. The cast currently features Joseph Harrington, Emily Skinner and Will Chase.
Check it out in the West End: At the Prince Edward Theater,BroadwayBox appears to have the cheapest tickets at the moment from £39 ($62). The cast currently features Scott McKenzie, Sally Dexter and James Gaddas.
The Lowdown: Chicago is one of the most popular on Broadway, and is one of the longest running shows of all time (and the number one longest-running musical revival). Based on the 1924 novel of the same name, the story has been reincarnated numerous times on film and on stage. It also features some of the most memorable songs in show business, with ‘All That Jazz’ being a prime example.
What’s It About? A vaudevillian tale of cold-blooded murder, fame and jazz. The two lead characters, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, find themselves on death row after killing their partners. Seeing a chance to escape their fates through fame, they compete against each other for the attention of the press and their shared lawyer as all characters try to manipulate the situation for their own gain.
Check it out at Broadway: At the Ambassador Theater, Entertainment Link beats the competition here with tickets from around $60. The cast currently features Charlotte d’Amboise, Leigh Zimmerman and Brent Barrent.
Check it out in the West End: At the Cambridge Theater, we’d recommend Hit The Theater for cheap tickets at a limited-offer price of £39.50 ($63). The cast currently features Sarah Soetaert, Vivien Carter and Terence Maynard.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Lowdown: The longest running production in Broadway history (and second longest in the West End), Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is the most financially successful single entertainment event in the World. Over 100 million people have seen it across 25 countries, with over 9000 performances in Broadway alone.
What’s It About? Completely deformed since birth, a nameless man terrorizes the Paris Opera House. He falls in love with the House’s chorus singer Christine and tutors her musically, all the while trying to win her lead production roles. When Christine’s childhood friend appears as a love interest, The Phantom attempts to kidnap her.
Check it out at Broadway: At the Majestic Theater, The NYtix site offers seats for $81, and standing tickets for around $20. The cast currently features Hugh Panaro, Sara Jean Ford and Ryan Silverman.
Check it out in the West End: At Her Majesty’s Theater, Superbreaks do a fantastic hotel and ticket offer at just £69 ($110). The cast currently features Scott Davies, Sofia Escobar and Will Barratt.
The Lion King
The Lowdown: An innovative musical based on the 1994 Disney animated film, featuring actors in full costume and gigantic puppetry. The Broadway show was a smash hit in 1997 and subsequently ran in the West End two years later, and both have been running continuously ever since.
What’s It About? The musical follows the plot of the Disney film closely, albeit with some extraordinary stage effects and costume design (including 18 foot giraffes). The score also features some of the hit music which featured in the film, along with a few additions.
Check it out at Broadway: At the Minskoff Theater, you can pick up a Mezzanine seat ticket for as low as $70 on Ticket Liquidator. The cast currently features Gareth Saxe, Alton Fitzgerald White and Tshdi Manye.
Check it out in the West End: At the Lyceum Theater, with the cheapest tickets through this site going as low as £20 ($32). The cast currently features George Asprey, Shaun Escoffery and Brown Lindiwe Mkhize.
The Lowdown: Promises, Promises is the musical adaptation of the 1960 film The Apartment and features award-winning music by Burt Bacharach. It first hit Broadway in 1968 and is only now returning after forty years.
What’s It About? Set in 60s Manhattan, the musical focuses on Chuck Baxter, a city slicker who is keen to advance in his career. In exchange for promotion, he lends executives his apartment for their extramarital affairs, but things go awry when his love interest, Fran Kubelik, becomes the mistress of one of his bosses. Despite it sounding racy, it’s suitable for kids.
Check it out at Broadway: At the Broadway Theater, the NYtix site again has the cheapest prices we’ve come across at around $80 per ticket. The cast currently features Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth.
Check it out in the West End: Not yet! There are rumors of it surfacing in the future.
The Lowdown: Having just passed its 400 performance mark and first anniversary on Broadway, Memphis hit the big stage in 2009 after touring the States for six years. During its time it has received four Tony Awards (including best musical). The show has polarized the critics – it’s one you’ll either love or hate.
What’s It About? The musical is loosely based on the career of Dewey Philips, a white radio DJ who was amongst the first to play black music during the 50s and a black club singer trying to make it into the big time. The 50s Memphis music era makes for a great setting, and amongst the score are songs penned by David Bryan, founding member of Bon Jovi.
Check it out at Broadway: At the Shubert Theater, there isn’t much variance on ticket discounts but good seating can be had for $112 on the New York 60 site. The cast currently features Chad Kimball, Montego Glover and Derrick Baskin.
Check it out in the West End: In the works, due in 2011.
West Side Story
The Lowdown: Since its original Broadway production in 1957, West Side Story has been revived a few times on both sides of the Atlantic. It continues to be a success in New York, despite receiving massively varying reviews from the critics. The Broadway production is due to close in January 2011.
What’s It About? West Side Story can be thought of as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, mirroring the plot of Shakespeare’s iconic play but set in NYC during the 1950s. It is an instantly accessible production to audiences from all walks of life and is heralded for its eclectic dance routines and famous songs such as ‘America’.
Check it out at Broadway: At the Palace, with an impressive selection of good seats even at the $85 range on this site. The cast currently features Matt Caenaugh, Josefina Scaglione and Karen Olivio.
Check it out in the West End: No plans for a West End production at the time of writing, havng concluded a 50th anniversary run last year.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage
The Lowdown: Dirty Dancing opened in Sydney in 2004, receiving such a great reaction after a number of sell-out runs that it came to the West End in 2006 (and went on to garner the highest pre-sell in history with $12m worth of tickets). The film version’s lead star, Patrick Swayze, succumbed to his long battle with pancreatic cancer in 2009 which saw the stage run extended (indefinitely).
What’s It About? A coming of age tale which sees Frances “Baby” Houseman fall in love with her dance tutor. Naturally, the film version featured a large amount of dancing (nearly a third of the film involved choreography) and the stage version reflects this, including all the hit songs from the movie. It’s a hit with the female demographic, but has never enjoyed much widespread interest from males.
Check it out at Broadway: The tour has done well throughout the States and Canada, but no Broadway dates have yet been announced.
Check it out in the West End: At the Aldwych Theater, you won’t get much change out of £40 ($64) wherever you buy from but London Theater Direct have some enticing advance and group booking options. The cast currently features Hannah Vassallo, Johnny Wright and Ray Quinn.
We Will Rock You
The Lowdown: We Will Rock You is the longest-running show in the massive Dominion Theater at the heart of London’s West End. Following on from a history of successful jukebox musicals, the show was written by Ben Elton in collaboration with the surviving members of Queen. Since its opening in 2002, it has been performed around the world (with the notable omission of Broadway).
What’s It About? The show features music from Queen yet takes place in a dystopian future where conformity rules. The music produced by the world’s dominating corporation is all computer generated, leading to a group of rebels attempting to free the masses with rock and roll. Critics slated the plot almost universally, however it has become one of the best-loved shows still being performed.
Check it out at Broadway: Scheduling issues have prevented We Will Rock You from appearing on Broadway, but an abridged production ran in Las Vegas until 2005.
Check it out in the West End: At the Dominion Theater, with the lowest offers we’ve seen around £30 ($48) on Leicester Square Box Office. The cast currently features Ricardo Afonso, Sarah French and Kevin Kennedy.
The Lowdown: 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables, the world’s longest running musical show and surpassed its 10,000th performance mark at the beginning of the year. It features the Tony Award-winning song “I Dreamed a Dream”, which has been covered numerous times by famous contemporary musicians.
What’s It About? The musical is based on the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo, albeit with a few differences. The plot focuses on the gritty reality ex-convict Jean Valjean finds himself in upon emerging from prison – spanning 25 years, the struggles of an intertwining cast of characters play out as Jean tries to reinvent himself with interesting results.
Check it out at Broadway: The musical has enjoyed a few successful Broadway runs since its London opening in 1985, but none are currently being performed.
Check it out in the West End: At the Queen’s Theater, £40 ($64) is about the cheapest we could find across the board for a ticket. The cast currently features Simon Bowman, Norm Lewis and Lucie Jones.