The 10 Best London Theatre Shows To See In 2016

Like theatre? Love a musical? We've pulled together our pick of some of this year's most exciting London theatre shows to help you decide what to see. While blockbuster musicals like Matilda are continuing their successful run, newer shows such as Kinky Boots are fast establishing a cult following. West End plays to watch out for include Matthew Perry's debut play, The End of Longing, and Gemma Arterton returning to the stage as Nell Gwynn. Meanwhile, the "Jukebox musical" trend is alive and kicking, with Beverley Knight set to reprise her role in The Bodyguard. Read on to discover what other shows will be drawing the crowds this year, and which hit musical is enjoying its tenth birthday celebrations in September...

1. The End of Longing
The End of Longing
The End of Longing

Type of show - Play

In five words:

Sharp, dark comedy for millennials

What’s it about?

Four troubled souls, Jack, Stephanie, Joseph and Stevie, find their lives and loves entwined after meeting in their local Los Angeles bar. The quartet of thirty/forty somethings then embark on a comic (and dark) journey to see if their new-found relationships have what it takes to last.

Who will I have heard of?

To borrow a Friends-ism - it's the one with Chandler in it. Matthew Perry's playwriting debut sees him return to the West End to play the lead role of Jack. He's supported by his three co-stars Christina Cole, Jennifer Mudge and Lloyd Owen who get plenty of laughs of their own.

Who should go see it?

There's plenty of trademark wit to please avid Friends fans, and anyone who enjoys relationship dramas skewed with plenty of jokes (including some genuine belly laughs).

Where can I see it?

Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5DE. Nearest Tube: Between Embankment and Charing Cross stations

Limited Run:

Now until May 14, 2016

Get tickets here

2. Kinky Boots 

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots

Type of show - Musical

In five words:

Five Inch Fabulous Fetish Footwear

What’s it about?:

A Northampton factory owner struggling to keep his business afloat might not sound like your typical musical storyline. But Kinky Boots, based on a true story, actually turns into a very modern (and very funny) tale. When dynamic performer Lola needs some sturdier stilettos to perform in, she turns to Price & Son to help produce them and "drags" the old-fashioned factory high-kicking and singing from the past to the catwalks of Milan.

Who will I have heard of?

Matt Henry (Lola) has been propelled into West End stardom since starting his run. If you saw Memphis (with Beverley Knight), then Killian Donnelly who plays factory owner Charlie Price might be familiar. Singer songwriter Cyndi Lauper wrote the songs from scratch, and has sprinkled a lot of stardust over the production.

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots

 

Who should go see it?:

Everyone - this is one of those musicals that appeals across the board. It's fun, flirty and heartwarming at the same time.

Where can I see it?

Adelphi Theatre, 409-412 Strand, London, WC2R 0NS. Nearest Tube: Charing Cross

Long-running musical: Get tickets here

3. The Maids
The Maids
The Maids

Type of show - Play

In five words:

When maid's thoughts turn murderous

What’s it about?

In the sanctity of their mistress' luxurious bedroom, two maids fantasize about killing their employer in increasingly violent, and sadistic, ways. This English adaption of Jean Genet’s masterpiece by the Jamie Lloyd Company is the first time the play has been seen in the West End in over two decades.

Who will I have heard of?

Probably all three of the actors - this is a genuine all-star cast. Uzo Aduba is best known for playing "Crazy Eyes" in Orange is the New Black. Zawe Ashton has had lead roles in TV shows like Fresh Meat, Not Safe to Work and Case Histories. And fresh from the finale of Downton Abbey, Laura Carmichael doesn't venture too far from her role as Lady Edith Crawley to take the role of the mistress.

Who should go see it?

The chance to see top TV talent showcase their skills on the stage will be a big draw, but anyone who likes their plays to come with a psychological punch will find this involving.

Where can I see it?

Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY.

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross

Opens:

February 2016 to May 2016

Get tickets here

4. Matilda

Matilda
Matilda

Type of show - Musical

In five words:

Witty word-play and stellar songs

What’s it about?

Roald Dahl’s magical story about a young girl with amazing powers, which continues to be a smash-hit six years after its West End debut. The young Matilda stands apart from her bizarre (and very entertaining) family, and fights to right wrongs and injustice at her horrible school run by Miss Trunchbull - who is is possibly the funniest (and most frightening) character in the whole of the West End. With ingenious choreography and staging, and a heart-warming streak running through all the meanness, the comedy and drama are spectacularly entwined.

Matilda
Matilda

Who will I have heard of?:

Tim Minchin wrote the lyrics which will have you laughing all the way through. The cast, particularly the children, change on a regular basis, which keeps the production fresh.

Who should go see it?

Children will love it, but there are also plenty of jokes and clever word-play for adults as well.

Where can I see it?

Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, London, WC2H 9HU. Nearest Tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square

Long-running musical: Get tickets here

5. Nell Gwynn

Nell Gwynn
Nell Gwynn

Type of show - Play

In five words:

Bawdy actress bags a monarch

What’s it about?

The play is based on Nell Gwynn, who transformed from a part-time prostitute and orange seller to become one of the world's first female actresses - and the favourite mistress of the flamboyant King Charles II. A Restoration heroine, the cheeky and witty Nell flirts her way into a stage company, at a time when female roles were always played by men, before catching the eye of the theatre-going King.

Who will I have heard of?

Gemma Arterton has starred in films like Quantum of Solace, Tamara Drewe and St Trinians. She's also previously appeared on the stage in the Duchess of Malfi, The Little Dog Laughed,  and Made in Dagenham in 2014.

Who should go see it?

Fans of Arterton won't be disappointed, and anyone who likes a fun and cheeky homage to the theatre. This one pokes fun at actors and audiences alike.

Where can I see it?

Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES.

Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square

Limited Run:

Now until April 30, 2016

Get tickets here

6. Mrs Henderson Presents

Mrs Henderson Presents
Mrs Henderson Presents

Type of show - Musical

In five words:

Naughty nudes brighten the Blitz

What’s it about?

Based on the true story of Soho's Windmill Theatre (We Never Close!), eccentric and rich widow Laura Henderson buys the theatre and hires impresario Vivian Van Damm to produce a variety show.

Who will I have heard of?

You might be more familiar with the film version starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins. But Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Les Misérables,  ITV’s Coronation Street) with the help of some make-up, steals the show.

Who should go see it?:

Anyone who doesn't mind seeing women (and some of the men) in the buff, some bawdy banter and a bit of bad language. With two of the leads at the more mature end of the spectrum, there are plenty of jokes about being old to amuse the older generation.

Where can I see it?

Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4AU.

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square

Limited Run:

Now until June 18, 2016

Get tickets here

7. Wicked

Wicked_DefyingGravity_FullStage_7510
Wicked_DefyingGravity_FullStage_7510

Type of show - Musical

In five words:

It's not easy being green

What’s it about?

The show celebrates it's tenth birthday this year in London's West End. It's one of the best selling shows of all time - and here's why. Wicked! is the prequel to the Wizard of Oz, and tells the story of two girls, the green-skinned geeky Elphaba  and  the glamourous and popular Glinda. The pair meet at Shiz University before their journey and magical abilities see them become witches in Oz. It's got great songs, special effects (wait 'til you see the end of act 1) and colourful costumes. It's also packed with pathos, glamour and a good dose of humour.

Who will I have heard of?:

The cast changes on a regular basis, however current Elphaba, Rachel Tucker (I'd Do Anything) has performed the role for the longest time in the West End. Past stars have included the original Broadway due of Kristin Chenoweth (Glee) as Glinda and Idina Menzel (Frozen) as Elphaba.

Wicked
Wicked

Who should go see it?:

This is a feel-good family show, with uplifting songs and role models, especially for young girls. It's also got plenty of big songs, including the break-out hit “Defying Gravity" to belt out on the way home.

Where can I see it?

Apollo Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, Westminster, London, SW1V 1LG.

Nearest Tube: Victoria

Long-running musical: Get tickets here

The Bodyguard

TB_Tour_QueenOfTheKnight_LASTMIN_950x270_FEB16_V2
TB_Tour_QueenOfTheKnight_LASTMIN_950x270_FEB16_V2

Type of show - Musical

In five words:

I will always love you

What’s it about?

The relationship between singing sensation Rachel Marron and her bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who's hired to protect her from a stalker.

Who will I have heard of?

British soul singer Beverley Knight is back playing Rachel Marron, after taking time out last year to appear in hit show Memphis. At the moment the name of the actor playing Frank Farmer is being kept firmly under wraps - but past Bodyguards have included  Lloyd Owen and Tristan Gemmill. If you're a huge fan of Beverley make sure you check her availability, as she'll be missing selected performances throughout the run.

Who should go see it?

Fans of the original film. This is a pretty faithful adaptation - with the welcome addition of some great dance routines. Whitney Houston's amazing back catalogue also features heavily.

Where can I see it?

Dominion Theatre268-269 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7AQ. Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Opens:

July 2016 for a six month run

Returning musical: Get tickets here

The War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds

Type of show

In five words:

Out of this world music

What’s it about?:

H.G Wells classic novel, The War of the Worlds.

Who will I have heard of?

Composer Jeff Wayne conducts the live orchestra. His 1978 two-disc album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds is one of the biggest selling of all time. Liam Neeson appears via hologram, and  Jimmy Nail, Daniel Bedingfield and Heidi Range (Sugababes) get their West End debuts. Musical legend David Essex also makes a twinkling return to the stage.

Who should go see it?:

Its taken nearly four decades to reach the West End, but for fans of the Jeff Wayne's original concept album - this is a must see. Music wise, this a thunderous production - featuring a nine-man rock band playing alongside an all-female string orchestra.

Where can I see it?

Dominion Theatre, 268-269 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7AQ

Limited run:

Now until April 9, 2016

Get tickets here

The Railway Children

TRC_Lastminute
TRC_Lastminute

Type of show - Play

In five words:

Got to stop the train

What’s it about?

Set in the atmospheric Kings Cross Theatre behind the station, this is a faithful adaptation of  E. Nebit's classic children's novel. It follows the story of children Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis (who are played by adult actors) as they move from London to Yorkshire at the turn of the 20th Century. You might want to pack some tissues, it is very moving.

Who will I have heard of?:

Shaun Williamson -former Eastenders star and good-natured butt of many of Ricky Gervais' jokes - has joined the cast as Mr Perks.

Who should go see it?:

If you're a trainspotter, this is your chance to see a real 60-tonne steam locomotive arrive on stage, but this is also a good one for families. Special effects will keep the kids happy, and there's enough nostalgia for parents and grandparents.

Where can I see it?

Kings Cross Theatre, Good's Way, London, N1C 4QL

Long-running musical: Get tickets here

Find out more

A night out at the theatre remains one of the top things to do in London, with more than 14m tickets sold last year, We have just highlighted ten shows here, but 2016 is sure to be another golden year in London's West End. See our latest theatre deals and tell us what or who you're most looking forward to seeing in Theatreland in 2016 by leaving a comment below.