• Katie Trojak

West End Fall Shows Reviewed


The TKTS booth, conveniently located in Leicester Square

Wicked, Heathers, Chicago, the King and I, and more. I have been so lucky this fall to have seen many shows on West End. A lot of that has to do with my parents and when they visit, since it’s always nice to see a show when they come to London and they usually pay (thanks Mom and Dad!). But it’s also because while theater in London does have a more elite air than in America, it’s often cheaper. Instead of Broadway’s outrageous prices, even West End in London is affordable if you only do it every once and awhile.


I’ve purchased all my tickets this season from the TKTS booth in Leicester square. You need to be there in person to buy tickets and they’re only for that day’s performances, but they average around 50% off. Most of the shows I saw cost about £30 and they were excellent seats, generally about 10 rows back. Get there as early as you can because that will make a difference in the seats you can purchase.


And without further ado, here are quick reviews of the West End shows I saw this fall!


Wicked


The curtain inside the theater... all with a dragon atop!

I had seen this show in April with my Dad but when my Mom mentioned possibly wanting to see it, I was absolutely up for watching it again. Wicked is phenomenal, shown by how long it’s been on Broadway and West End, and it will never disappoint. The story and songs are brilliant (watch for foreshadowing, the lyricists love doing that in this show) and the choreography is dynamic. It seems cliche to say that it’s one of my favorite shows, but wow is it just spectacular. Seeing it on West End is a staple for anyone living in London.


My favorite performer would definitely be Maria Coyne who I saw in April as G(a)linda and Jack Lansbury is adorable then crushing as Boq. He was also so kind after the show to talk with us and thank us for coming!


The Play That Goes Wrong


Seeing this play was a bit unplanned. My Mom and I were debating on what to see and though we prefer musicals, tickets for this play were very cheap so we decided to go for it. I thought that the show was hilarious, my Mom a little bit less so. The writers do definitely rely on a bit of slapstick humor and runaround jokes, but I thought that the way the set played into the jokes and how the actors reacted to certain things was amazing. There were certain scenes that I found just hysterical and there were so many unexpected twists that just added to the hilarity of it all.


This is a go to if you’re looking for a cheaper show, something much less dramatic than regular West End, and a more casual but funny night. Be prepared for a bit of audience engagement, too, one of the cast members is looking for a dog the entire production.


The King and I


Just outside the theater as we walked in

This was the show that my Mom and I waited so long to see. It was at the top of our list for a few reasons, one being that it’s a classic show that had returned to West End and that’s nearly always worth seeing. One of the songs in the show, Hello Young Lovers, has been one of my go to audition songs for years and the musical was my grandmother’s favorite, so it seemed appropriate that we see it as our last show before my Mom left.

I’m torn on my opinion of this show. The actors were amazing, their voices were just spectacular. The leading lady, Kelli O’Hara, had the most glorious and technically correct voice that I have ever heard. That alone made it worth going. That being said, this was my first time seeing the story in full and I do have some issues with it (themes of women in the story, themes of western encroachment, racism, etc) that make me wonder why it’s stayed this much of a classic through the ages. It’s also a bit boring for someone who is used to theater being active and awake.


All in all, I'm not sure that I’d go again if Kelli O’Hara weren’t in it (I’d gladly go again just to see her), but I am glad that I saw it at least once as such a marvelous production. It is a classic and the songs are still wonderful after all these years.


Heathers


The iconic poses of the Heather clan

Woah. This show was a whole heck of a lot. This is a cult classic musical, evident in the dozens of people who come in costume every night, based off of a cult classic movie. The actors and actresses were phenomenal in every way, because they had to be. This musical was go-go-go from the first song until the end of bows. It was fantastic to see the famous songs that I knew so well on stage and to see the red, yellow, and green colors of Heather’s skirts in person was thrilling. It’s an amazing memory to have.


The drop down curtain with the famous High School

Please note!!! Do not go into this show if you’re feeling any anxiety before going in. Or if you’re prone to panicking. Please use judgement. I will say that even I could barely breathe during the second act. That’s why I wouldn’t go back to this show, just because it’s so intense and on such harsh topics. That’s the flipside of this show, and it has to be recognized.


Chicago


This one was a bit of an odd show to see with my Dad when he came to visit in London but its humor and mocking songs are a family favorite so we couldn’t pass it up. The Broadway and West End classic is closing soon, so make sure to see it before it does! It’s done very cabaret style, so if all you know is the movie walking in then expect a bit of a shock. Seeing the band on stage was different than anything I had seen before but it lead to a few gags and energetic moments in the music.


After the show, I was actually able to talk with the amazing woman playing Velma Kelly, Josephina Gabrielle, and she was wonderful to have a full conversation with me while walking to the tube station about musicals and how she got started. And Emma Harris, playing Roxie Hart, stole the show even though she was filling in. The entire cast was very gracious and though Chicago wasn’t my favorite to see on stage, I wouldn’t have traded it.


Little Bonus: Young Frankenstein


This show closed a few months ago, but I saw it in April with my Dad and I thought I’d tack it on the end of this article. I understand why it’s not going to be a Broadway or West End staple going forward, but it was an innovative take on the vintage movie. It wasn’t a break through of theater but its jazzy numbers and flashy costumes were a funny way to see a movie that my Dad and I love so much. And it kept all the classic raunchy jokes too, even elaborating on a few. But to see Frankenstein and Frankenstein tap dance... now that was a site.


Out of all the shows that I’ve seen on West End, my favorite still has to be Wicked. It’s so hard to top such an active, emotional, and illuminating show. And the musical just celebrated its 15th year anniversary! Each show, though, was absolutely worth seeing and I definitely plan on seeing more shows this winter as the shows rotate out. Come From Away is going to make its way to West End this February and I’m already aching to see that show.


If you go see a West End show, on this list or not, let me know in the comments what you think! And if you see a show, then make sure stage door. It’s much less common in the UK so unless the show has a cult following, like Heather’s, you might really be able to interact with the actors on a more personal level. And they’ve worked so hard, they really deserve to hear how amazing they are. Just remember to thank any ensemble members or band members if you catch them walking out, they are the life of theater and don’t get thanked enough.

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