Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a life-long Londoner, London is always a vibrant place to be – and with an array of spectacular shows on stage this year, 2024 is going to be very exciting. Here’s our guide to the best London shows for 2024…
The best London shows for 2024
Ballet and Opera at the Royal Opera House
For ballet fans, seeing Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House is a treat and it will always be one of the best London shows of all time. Tchaikovsky’s quintessential ballet classic returns to the stage this spring (6 March to 11 May & 12-28 June). Other highlights include a double serving of Puccini, with both Tosca (5-24 Feb & 1-21 July) and Madama Butterfly (14 March to 15 April & 12-18 July) on the main stage; and a brooding and atmospheric production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman set in a modern coastal town, with the Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel in the leading role as the Dutchman doomed to sail the seas for all eternity unless he finds true love (29 Feb to 16 March).
Ballet at Sadler’s Wells
Birmingham Royal Ballet are embarking on a UK-wide tour of Sir Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty in the production’s 40th anniversary year. The tour concludes at Sadler’s Wells this spring (24-27 April), with English National Ballet Principal, Alina Cojocaru, returning to the London stage for two special guest star performances.
Plaza Suite at the Savoy Theatre
Hollywood couple Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick will share the stage in a delightfully witty new production of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite at the Savoy Theatre (17 Jan to 31 March). The real-life couple transform into three different couples onstage, each finding themselves entangled in hilariously outlandish situations within the walls of the legendary Plaza Suite hotel room.
Theatre at Alexandra Palace
A hub of entertainment on the northern outskirts of London, Alexandra Palace has provided a welcome escape from the working reality of the capital since 1863. The Palace’s historic theatre, beautifully restored after an 80-year closure, is an atmospheric setting for theatre, opera, dance and musical performances.
Dear Octopus at the National Theatre
At the National Theatre, keep an eye out for Dear Octopus, a captivating revival of Dodie Smith’s play and a moving exploration of what it means to grow up and return home (7 Feb to 27 March); and Nye (24 Feb–11 May), starring Michael Sheen as Nye Bevan, the man who created the NHS. The National’s popular ‘Friday Rush’ scheme is worth looking out for, with £10 tickets for performances that evening available from 1pm.
The Lion King turns 25
Much-loved Disney musical and one of the best London shows ever, The Lion King celebrates its 25th anniversary in the West End in 2024. Enjoyed by over 18 million people (and counting), this is the epic tale of Simba, the fearless lion cub, on his journey to become King of the Pridelands. Spectacular masks, puppets and costumes and a toe-tapping score bring the story to life.
BFI London Film Festival
For film buffs or anyone who wants to revel in the glamour of the red carpet, the annual BFI London Film Festival in October is a chance to discover the Oscar-winners of the future. Get tickets for one of the venues across the West End or visit the hub at BFI Southbank for even more of a buzz. Galas at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall offer the chance to walk the red carpet, and even if you miss out on tickets you can still watch the action.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
The Emmy, Golden Globe and Olivier award-winning actor Brian Cox makes his return to the London stage in a new production of Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical magnum opus Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Wyndham’s Theatre this year (19 March to 8 June). Often hailed as the greatest American play of the 20th Century, the story follows a summer’s day in the life of the Tyrones. Deeply moving and uplifting in equal measure, it’s a compelling story of love, hate, betrayal and addiction and the impossible fragility of family bonds.
The Regent Street Cinema
The Regent Street Cinema, just a minute north of Oxford Circus, was originally built in 1848 and was the first in the country to show moving pictures. Its legacy continues with different film screenings most days.
Witness for the Prosecution
Agatha Christie’s edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution centres on the case of Leonard Vole, accused of murder in cold blood. With the play taking place in an actual courtroom – in historic County Hall – the audience are thrillingly placed in the thick of the action, as Christie’s gripping tale of justice, passion and betrayal unfolds around them.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Maggie O’Farrell’s best-selling novel Hamnet, adapted by award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, transfers to the Garrick Theatre this year (until 17 February). Hamnet pulls back a curtain on the story of the greatest writer in the English language and the woman he loved, who was the constant presence and purpose of his life.
Hadestown was a smash on Broadway and now it’s headed for the Lyric Theatre in the West End. The story, based on a famous Greek myth, takes you on an unforgettable journey to the underworld, intertwining two love stories – that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and of King Hades and his wife Persephone. Music by Anaïs Mitchell gives the story haunting power.
Theatre and music at The Barbican
The Barbican is the UK’s largest cultural venue. With theatres, a concert and music hall and three cinemas, there is always something on offer. Don’t miss the trailblazing cellist and vocalist Abel Selaocoe (15 Feb & 26 March); the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel performing Beethoven’s Fidelio (3 June); the Royal Shakespeare Company’s magical stage adaptation of My Neighbour Totoro (until 23 March); and the MimeLondon festival (23 Jan to 17 Feb), in which four international companies put on extraordinary visual performances.
Shakespeare at The Globe
The Globe’s winter programme plays out in the atmospheric setting of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (offering more protection from the elements than the open-roofed Globe). This winter sees Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts (until 28 January), performed in the Playhouse for the first time, while Shakespeare’s blistering tragedy Othello (19 Jan to 13 April) is performed in candlelight.
The magic of Matilda
Matilda The Musical, The Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s classic book, will always be one of the best London shows, thanks to its creative staging, comic acting and an inventive score by Tim Minchin.
The Motive and the Cue
The year is 1964 and two giants of the theatre world, Richard Burton and John Gielgud, are in the rehearsal room together for an experimental new Broadway production of Hamlet, in which Burton takes the leading role and Gielgud is his exacting director. This is the juicy premise of The Motive and the Cue, a National Theatre production at the Noel Coward theatre, directed by Sam Mendes and with an all-star cast including Johnny Flynn as Burton, Mark Gatiss as Gielgud and Tuppence Middleton as Elizabeth Taylor. It’s a rare insight into the politics of the rehearsal room. Expect fireworks.
BAFTA-winning comedian Lee Mack (Not Going Out, Would I Lie To You?) and Sarah Alexander (Coupling, Smack The Pony) join Frances Barber (Doctor Who) in smash-hit comedy The Unfriend. While on holiday Peter and Debbie befriend Elsa: a lusty, Trump-loving widow from Denver, USA. She’s less than woke but kind of wonderful, so they agree to stay in touch – with nightmarish consequences. See it at Wyndham’s Theatre (9 Jan to 7 March).
Dr Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy masterpiece about a rogue U.S. General who triggers a nuclear crisis, is one of the director’s most celebrated films. In 2024 it will be brought to the stage by BAFTA and Emmy Award winner Armando Iannucci and Olivier Award winner Sean Foley, with Steve Coogan in the title role. Tickets for the play at the Noel Coward Theatre (8 Oct to 21 Dec) will be in demand, so be sure to book early.
Michael Jackson The Musical
Direct from Broadway where it won a slew of awards, MJ follows the story of Michael Jackson’s 1992 Dangerous world tour. The musical features dozens of his most iconic songs, from Billie Jean to Thriller, and will be at the Prince Edward Theatre from 6 March.
Guys and Dolls at The Bridge Theatre
Nicholas Hytner directs an immersive production of Guys and Dolls at The Bridge Theatre, transporting the audience to the streets of Manhattan in the unlikeliest of love stories. The seating is wrapped around the stage for an intimate theatrical experience (until 31 Aug).
90s film and music fans will want tickets for the new Cruel Intentions musical, an update of the French novel Les Liasions Dangereuses and featuring throwback hits by Boyz II Men, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. See it at The Other Palace (11 Jan to 14 April).
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Heralded as one of the plays of the year, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray will come to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in February. Grab tickets if you can for Golden Globe-winning Sarah Snook’s (of Succession fame) return to the London stage. Impressively, Snook takes on every role in this gripping, witty and vibrantly contemporary production that breathes new life into Wilde’s classic tale.
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