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  • Writer's pictureAllen John Lira


Updated: Mar 14, 2019

West End is London’s conspicuous answer to Hollywood’s Broadway. For centuries now, this glitzy area (also known as Theatreland) of London city is highly saturated with spectacular cultural entertainment which includes dozens of world-class musicals, museums and other attractions. Some West End shows are easily sold out up until around six months to a whole year upon date of ticket release, even beating the blockbuster audience appeal of the most popular of big screen movies.

Currently on my 13th show, this write-up is a quick appraisal and ranking of London’s West End musical shows that I have watched. The list will be constantly updated as I get to see more of them:

13. DOCTOR FAUSTUS ft. Kit Harington (Jon Snow from GOT) – This version is essentially a modernized one already but it still radiates a strong classical theatre feels with it. Diabolically dark, the story demonstrates what makes a man after dealing his soul with a devil in exchange for worldly pleasures. Three hours of fine Shakespearean English by Kit that is beyond amazing. What’s more impressive is that his character has never left the stage even when scenes or cast members change. (The show is no longer running.)

12. TRUE WEST ft. Kit Harington (Jon Snow from GOT) – Another Kit Harington West End show. I hugely appreciate big personalities who would still prefer doing theatrical shows to keep their skills above par, even after they already go big on TV. True West revolves around the meeting of two neurotic brothers with extremely contrasting madness. With obvious similarities to Doctor Faustus, Kit Harington seems to be liking this set-up – minimal cast and staging.

11. I AND YOU ft. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark from GOT) - Simple plot but ends so charmingly sweet with a tear-jerking twist. The whole show was run by only two characters on stage - Caroline and her classmate, Anthony. Seriously dreadfully dragging during the first half but the story development gets exciting midway and it paced quickly towards the end. There’s an amusing stage transformation that’s wow-worthy. Emotional take-away: We get hurt not because we loved but because we invested.

10. THE KING AND I - A very heart-warming narrative of how the West rewrote stories of the East, and how the act of governing people is more magnanimous with respect than with fear. The side stories surrounding the King of Siam contributed greatly to the totality of the show. Made me hope that someday a Philippines-inspired musical will be paraded in the prestigious stages of West End and Broadway too. Even with the clear knowledge that our culture inclines more to films than musical theatres, I still believe that theatrical productions have a lot of room to thrive back home.

9. WAITRESS - Sugar... butter... flour... Sara Bareilles is the power behind the music and lyrics of this pie-loving show. The story of an eventual strong and independent woman in Jenna was relayed in a very relax manner while everyone enjoys life's tasty wisdoms being served in full throughout the performance. The drooling aroma of baked pie is a delightful treat to tease the viewers' senses before the show and during break time.

8. KINKY BOOTS - Very funky and campy show. For those planning to watch any show on Adelphi Theatre (same with Vaudeville Theatre), I noticed it has lots of restricted views so be duly mindful with the seat allocation. It feels tight inside the theatre. Lead actors were excellent in handling their roles. The conveyor-belt-dance scene was badass climactic. There’s only a tiny fraction who can pull off and demand respect with red knee-high boots and this show is one.

7. ALADDIN - It didn’t get too exciting until the “lamp scene”. Also, major disappointment with the leads’ singing prowess. I know I’m no Lea Salonga but definitely I felt no magic there. Even the choreography was sloppy. Teacher Georcelle ain’t happy. They got lucky the Genie hilariously carried the show. Production design went 360 towards the end hence all kids and kids-at-heart would still get to go home with a smile. The flying carpet ride was a lovely act.

6. LES MISERABLES ft. Rachelle Ann Go - The longest-running West End musical. Will always be your unregretfully popular classic option. Came beaming with Filipino pride to watch Rachelle and she didn’t disappoint. Although, a theatrical sin has been committed the second time I watched. I fell asleep for a short while on the second part. Lol. I was tired (not a valid excuse, of course) and their voices are just crystal clean enough to lull you to sleep.

5. DREAM GIRLS – One must be living under the rock if he isn’t familiar in any way with its story nor to any of its popularized songs. Emotion is the word of the game. It makes you both love and hate the characters. The cast presents an overflow of powerful emotions... and projectile saliva. You would certainly get that LSS - last “show” syndrome. Everyone involuntarily hums the same tune after the show. Amber Riley (from Glee) used to star as Effie in this West End’s version.

4. BAT OUT OF HELL - A sexy rock show. Impressive staging and choreography. Very exciting visual content. Ironically, the supporting cast has got better vocals. Lots of exciting lines here and there. Great songs too. Most favourite line from songs: Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are. The plot is actually Peter Pan-inspired with a character named Tink and a group of teenagers who doesn’t age. (The show is no longer running.)

3. MISS SAIGON - This dramatic story of Saigon war isn’t award-winning for nothing. It swiftly glides you through emotion after emotion after emotion. Yes, in case you wonder, I did cry. It’s a wonderful story of real love trying to overcome colonial obstacles and contrasting life privileges. Kim’s character was played by a Filipina that time (I forgot her name). Prepare to be blown away, quite literally, by the helicopter-scene!

2. WICKED - It’s one of those shows where you bring in with you towering expectations then they’ll give you an epic performance of a lifetime and swallow your expectations like nothing cos they are just good like that. The untold story of these witches would crush your hearts. In this world, both goodness and evil feed off from each other. Yes, plus extra brownie points again cos I cried. No emotional mercy. Watch out for the dragon, guise!

1. HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD - I admit my Potterhead-fanaticism helped this show top my rankings. Slimly won over Wicked by 0.0187353%. Lol. What honestly made it number one for me was the production’s ability to translate on stage the magic we’ve seen in the movies - i.e. characters disappearing into thin air. I was sitting in the stalls very close to the stage so I was examining all through out how it was possible but to no avail. Upon the show’s initial release, JK Rowling seemed milking HP’s fame far too much by making a theatrical play out of Harry but the story turned out surprisingly touching and sensible. Also, it's best to book both parts in same day for a better story experience. Best parts of the show: writings on the wall and horrifying real-life dementors. Avada Kedavra!

Where should you buy tickets?

There are ticket-purchasing apps like Stagedoor, Theatre Tickets, TickX, and TodayTix that make it handy for you to monitor price trends and flash sales. However, I still noticed in many occasions that buying at the show’s official website still offers you the best seat prices compared to third-party “discount” sellers. For on-the-day tickets, TKTS in Leicester Square is your go-to.

What shows am I watching next?

Waitress and The Lion King this March! I'm stoked. Reviews will be updated accordingly. ➳

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