Best West End shows, musicals and plays you need to see in London
Fancy a night out at the theatre? These are the West End shows, musicals and plays you need to see in London this year.
Whether you're a local or in town for a special occasion, a West End show is a brilliant way to spend an evening. From award-winning musicals to book adaptations, and from re-tellings of iconic stories to limited-time shows, London is jam-packed with entertainment.
But how do you choose what to see in London? We've considered everything from budget, genres and cast to give you our pick of the best plays, musicals and theatre shows to see. We've got Hamilton for the history buffs, Back to the Future for a dose of nostalgia, and we already know Disney's Frozen The Musical will be a hit with the kids. There's also limited-time only shows, such as We Will Rock You and The Pillowman.
Plus, you can count on the RadioTimes.com team to select the top theatre shows to see. Our Going Out section is packed full of exciting things to do in London, from escape rooms and immersive experiences, to walking tours and experience gifts. So, if there's something new going on in the Big Smoke, we'll share it with you.
We even have recommendations for more timely activities, too. If you're going sober for January, here are the best Dry January date nights, and as Valentine's Day is right around the corner, we've narrowed down the best Valentine's Day ideas and gifts, including a trip to see a London theatre show.
So, without further ado, here are the best West End shows to see in London this year.
- Best West End shows to see in 2023
- What time do West End shows start and finish
- What are the best seats in a theatre
Want to try something out of the ordinary? Here’s our pick of the best immersive experiences you should try in London this year, with themes including Stranger Things, Jurassic World and Squid Game, taking place all throughout winter.
Like everything at the moments, the price of seeing a show is going up. Luckily, we've written a guide for how to get cheap theatre tickets to make sure you're get the best tickets for your money.
- TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, from £12
- Six the Musical, from £13
- 2:22 A Ghost Story, from £13
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, from £15
- Shirley Valentine, from £15
- Best of Enemies, from £18
- Back to the Future: The Musical, from £19.55
- Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, from £20
- The Pillowman, from £20
- Only Fools and Horses The Musical, from £21.30
- The Woman in Black, from £22.50
- Wicked, from £23.50
- The Book of Mormon, from £24
- Pretty Woman: The Musical, from £24
- The Great British Bake Off: The Musical, from £24
- Matilda the Musical, from £24
- Hamilton, from £24
- Les Misérables, from £24
- Phantom of the Opera, from £27
- & Juliet, from £27.50
- Frozen: The West End Musical, from £30
- Bat Out Of Hell, from £30
- Oklahoma!, from £30
- We Will Rock You, from £33
- The Lion King, from £35.25
- Heathers the Musical, from £45
Best West End shows to see in London in 2023
We Will Rock You
It's back! For a limited 12-week run, We Will Rock You will grace the London Coliseum in the West End. It's been 21 years since the musical, which features the band Queen's greatest hits, has been in London - and we can't wait.
Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor said: "[We Will Rock You will be] bigger, better, faster, funnier! Here we go again… yeaaaaaaaah!" And if that doesn't put you in the rockin' spirit, we're not sure what will.
Sheridan Smith is Shirley Valentine in this fantastic theatre production. You already know the plot: Shirley is a joyous, life-affirming woman who has lost her way in the world domesticity, and she jets off to Greece to re-light that spark.
The glorious one woman play has been extended from 12 to 15 weeks due to huge demand, so don't miss out on the chance to see the Olivier Award-winning play live.
The Great British Bake Off: The Musical
It's the musical experience we didn't know was missing from our lives — The Great British Bake Off: The Musical. The soggy bottoms, Paul Hollywood handshakes, and nail-biting showstoppers, which make the TV show so brilliant, have been immortalised in London's West End.
More like this
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons
Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner will star in the West End premiere of Sam Steiner's provocative play, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. Coming to the Harold Pinter Theatre on 18th January, the romcom shows how a couple fall in love (and stay together) when they are restricted to a daily limit of 140 words each.
Only Fools and Horses The Musical
Only a plonker would miss out on tickets to see Only Fools and Horses The Musical at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket. Journey back to 1989 and follow Peckham lads Del Boy, Rodney and Grandad (who is being reprised by Paul Whitehouse) on their escapades. The musical features brand-new original songs, with a cockney twist of course, as well as the beloved theme tune like you've never heard it before.
Six the Musical
If you watched the Platinum Jubilee concert, you would have caught a glimpse of this bizarre retelling of the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives. In the musical, each wife takes it in turns to share their story of how they were wronged by the Tudor King, and why that means they should be the lead singer of the wives’ pop group.
Originally debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017, Six is now touring the UK, with performances in Manchester, Oxford, Glasgow and more.
As the winner of the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Hamilton is a brilliant choice if you’re in London this winter and want to treat yourself to a West End show.
A blend of hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway is the musical backdrop to this show, which tells the true(ish) story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers and George Washington’s right-hand man.
Want to experience the music from your favourite shows in a different light? Check out our guide to the best candlelight concerts around the UK.
Matilda the Musical
Adapted from Roald Dahl’s much-loved book of the same name, Matilda is taking bookings up to December for the Cambridge Theatre in London. You know exactly what you’re getting with this musical: wholesome, family-friendly fun.
Have you heard there's a Matilda musical movie starring Emma Thompson and Stephen Graham? It's in cinemas now and will be available to watch on Netflix in summer 2023.
Heathers the Musical
Heathers the Musical is back at The Other Palace with tickets available until February. It’s based on the 1989 cult movie, Heathers, which follows student Veronica as she’s accepted into her high school's popular clique (three girls all named Heather), then gets wrapped up with the rebellious Jason 'J.D' Dean - a teenager who plans to murder everybody at their high school. This is definitely one for a more mature audience.
The Lion King
A story we all know and love. Based on the 1994 Walt Disney movie of the same name, The Lion King musical play features music from Elton John, actors in decadent animal costumes and giant hollow puppets. The show opened in the Lyceum Theatre over 20 years ago in 1999, and is still going strong after more than 7,500 performances.
It’s the top-earning title in box-office history, surpassing The Phantom of the Opera, and even the Royal Family have seen a performance of this much-loved story.
Wicked knows a thing or two about being ‘Popular’! This musical is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, and it tells the story of Elphaba (the future Wicked Witch of the West) and her friendship with Glinda (the Good Witch of the South). It was nominated for six Tony awards, including Best Actress, and, honestly, we went to see the musical with our families, and it’s deserving of every single nomination.
Frozen: The West End Musical
Back in January 2019, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane embarked on an ambitious project to restore its historic theatre to its former 1812 glory. Last year it reopened its doors with showings of Disney’s Frozen. The jaw-dropping sets and special effects really make this musical magical as it brings to life the scenery from the film.
Back to the Future: The Musical
If the hugely enthusiastic description on From The Box Office is anything to go by, Back to the Future: The Musical will be the most electrifying experience of your entire life — possibly more important than, say, childbirth. The musical follows the plot of the blockbuster film: teenager Marty McFly is blasted back in time to the year 1955 by eccentric scientist Doc Brown and unwittingly changes the course of history.
If you watched Britain's Got Talent last year, you might have caught a sneak peek of Back to the Future: The Musical on Britain's Got Talent. Since its special appearance, the musical has decided to extend its West End run so there's even more opportunity to go and see it.
Have you heard there's a Back to the Future exhibition? The Back In Time Exhibition is one of the largest collections of Back to the Future artefacts.
The Book of Mormon
From the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, comes this comedy musical about two Latter-Day missionaries who are posted to a remote Ugandan village to preach the faith of the Church, and to convert its inhabitants to Mormonism. The locals are uninterested, however, as they face more pressing issues such as famine, HIV/AIDS, FGM, and oppression from their warlord.
Looking for laugh-out-loud comedy to brighten your January? Here are the best comedy shows in London.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a two-part play written by Jack Thorne and based on J.K. Rowling’s original story. It follows Harry, Ron and Hermione 19 years after they saved the wizarding world, and they’re joined by a new generation of wizards and witches to stop mysterious evil forces for another time.
The Woman in Black
A bucket list show from London's West End. We've only ever heard amazing things about this spooky play based on Susan Hill’s 1983 book of the same name. It’s directed by Robin Herford, who directed the original cast in 1987 when the show first took the stage in Scarborough, before opening at The Fortune Theatre in London in 1989. It has been announced that the show will close in March, so if you've been waiting for an excuse to see The Woman in Black, this is it.
As the setting is so minimal with few props and scarce sound effects, it creates a chilling atmosphere and your imagination runs wild. You’ll definitely be scared to walk to the loo by yourself afterwards.
What makes West End’s longest-running musical so magical is how immersive it is; with the backdrops of paintings by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables’ author, and the powerful performances from every single member of the cast, you feel like you’re at the heart of the action.
TINA: The Tina Turner Musical
Aldwych Theatre welcomes you to TINA. The musical includes all of Tina Turner's much-loved songs, and follows her journey to stardom, from her humble beginnings in Tennessee to the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll — with her live performances selling more tickets than any other solo artist across the globe. It showcases all the ups and downs along Tina's way, and you'll leave the theatre feeling very motivated.
It's the greatest love story of all time, with a modern twist. & Juliet reimagines what Juliet's life would've been like if William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet didn't end quite so tragically. This musical comes from the writer of Schitt's Creek, so you can expect a lot of laughter and tons of fun.
Bat Out Of Hell
Bat Out Of Hell is described as Romeo and Juliet meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and features an electric soundtrack from Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman. The award-winning musical is centred around rebellious love as Strat, the immortal leader of The Lost, falls in love with Raven, the daughter of the oppressive ruler Falco. Expect drama, action, and huge hits like including I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).
Best of Enemies
This political play focuses on the nightly televised feuds between conservative William F Buckley Jr and liberal Gore Vidal. It stars Zachary Quinto, best known for playing Spock in the Star Trek films, as well as Chad Warwick and the sinister Dr Oliver Thredson in the first two seasons of American Horror Story, and David Harewood of Homeland and Blood Diamond fame.
Best of Enemies is at the Noël Coward Theatre for a limited 14-week run ending in February.
Pretty Woman: The Musical
We've got some big news. Big! Huge! The hit Broadway adaptation of the classic film, Pretty Woman, is making its West End debut. Fall in love with the story and the characters all over again when you watch the show at the iconic Savoy Theatre in London.
Plus, London Theatre Direct has some big, huge exclusive prices for the show; you can see Pretty Woman: The Musical from just £24.
Broadway's Oklahoma! comes to London's Wyndham's Theatre for a limited-time-only run, and we think it'd be a brilliant show to treat a friend or family member (or yourself!) to to banish the winter blues.
Oklahoma! is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, and it tells the story of a farm girl and her courtship by two rival suitors: cowboy Curly McLain and farmhand Jud Fry.
It's been two decades in the making, but Martin McDonagh’s Olivier award-winning play is finally coming to the West End next summer, and it has an all-star cast, too, with Lily Allen and Steve Pemberton. The Pillowman plot is a spooky one: it's about a writer who's questioned about a string of bizarre murders as the murders share similarities to the writer's stories... Age guidance is 14+ for this play, unsurprisingly.
2:22 A Ghost Story
You might've seen the news that Cheryl, of Girls Aloud fame, is taking over the role of Jenny in 2:22 A Ghost Story, a role which has previously been played by Lily Allen and Giovanna Fletcher.
This spooky tale follows a couple, Jenny and Sam, as they move into a new home. Every morning at 2:22am, Jenny hears the sound of someone moving around the house, and is convinced it's haunted.
Phantom of the Opera
It's one of the most popular theatre shows and one of the West End's most enduring love stories. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera has been performing for over 30 years now, and shows no sign of slowing down.
If you aren't already familiar with the compelling plot, the show tells the story of the Phantom, who seeks to control the Paris Opera House. He finds a new student, a chorus girl called Christine, and trains her to sing the music of the night.
Like with the price, this depends entirely on the show, and whether you've got a matinee or evening performance. Most shows run for two hours to two and a half hours, with a 15-minute interval. A matinee performance usually starts at 2:30pm, whereas the evening performances will begin around 7:30pm.
West End show weekend breaks and hotel stays
If you're travelling to London for a West End show, it makes sense to spend a few days in the city; especially if you're planning on seeing an evening performance which will have you leaving the theatre at around 10pm (that's our bedtime!).
There are a number of websites, like Holiday Extras, where you can book your theatre tickets and hotel in one go. You can choose which theatre show you'd love to see, then select how many nights you'll stay around your chosen date, and it'll suggest hotels just a stone's throw away from the theatre.
Plus, as it's a package deal — a theatre show and hotel combo — you'll save a couple of quid, too.
What is the easiest way to get to the West End?
Travelling to the West End when you live outside of London can seem like a mean feat. But we're here to reassure you that it can be done with minimal faff and on a budget, too.
Train timetables are usually released 12 weeks in advance, and train operators put cheap train tickets on sale shortly afterwards. The nearer your travel date, the more expensive the train tickets will be, so be sure to snap-up tickets as soon as possible.
Railcards are also a great way to save a couple of quid on your travel — 1/3 of the total ticket fare to be precise. Find the right Railcard for you at Trainline.
If you live too far away from London to comfortably travel there and back in one day, and let's face it, a lot of us do, you may want to consider an overnight stay. Airbnb offers private rooms and entire homes all across London, so you're bound to find somewhere that fits your budget.
For more information, here's how to get cheap train tickets.
If money is no object, you might as well spend a bit more to get closer to the action at a West End show. However, with all the different parts of the auditorium, it can be tricky to know where to select seats which guarantee the best viewing experience; so we've done the difficult work for you.
Here's the breakdown of all the seats in a theatre, and where to sit for maximum viewing enhancement.
The Stalls are considered the best seats in the house as they're on the ground floor and closest to the stage. In a lot of West End theatres, there will be rows and rows of ground-floor seats, so you can choose to be on the front row, somewhere in the middle, or right at the back; the closer you are to the stage, the pricier your seats will be.
The Dress Circle, sometimes referred to as the Royal Circle, is the next level up from the ground floor. The Dress Circle gives audience members an advantage as they can see what's happening across the whole stage — something that people in the stalls might not be able to do, particularly for props or characters at the back of the stage.
Next up is the Upper Circle, also called the Grand Circle. This is another level up again, and will be one of the cheaper theatre tickets available (unless the theatre has a Balcony which not many of them do). You'll be able to see everything on the stage, however, you may miss finer details, such as an actor's facial expression.
The cheapest seats in the house are Restricted View. All theatres will sell tickets for what they deem a 'restricted view'. However, as we mentioned earlier, one of our RadioTimes.com team went to see Wicked with their mum, and the supposedly 'restricted' view was anything but. We can't guarantee this will be the case in all theatres, though, and you may find your view obstructed by a safety rail or a pillar.
Sitting in a box is an excellent way to make your trip to the theatre even more memorable. Typically located on the same level as the Dress Circle, a box can be hired out for just you and your party, which means you get perks like strangers not squeezing past you to go to the loo during a dramatic moment.
Head to our Going Out section for more on ticket releases, like Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation tickets and Cirque du Soleil: Kurios tickets. Or, head to our best London escape rooms guide for recommendations on which one you should try next.