London is a city that will dazzle the most during the holiday season. When Christmas is approaching, all the city’s landmarks are illuminated with beautiful light decorations and the concerts, sales and theatre shows provide an overwhelming offer that a couple of weeks will hardly suffice to thoroughly enjoy. While I do appreciate the great hotel package deals and bargain shopping that London has to offer every December, as an artistic-minded person, I find London theatre breaks the most appealing. There is no other city in the world that can offer such abundance of quality plays and musicals on any given week.
Whatever your favourite musical, playwright or actor is, chances are, they are ON in London right now. After all, this is the land of Shakespeare, and the West End and even the most alternative theatre stages in town will show you that the British theatre’s tradition of great dramatic writing and performance combined with solid entertainment is still very much alive.
Screen to stage and vice-versa
Plays are sometimes written to capitalise on the success of movies, with varying degrees of success in their turn. If you’re heading down to London these holidays, you will get a chance to see some of the most consistent stage and screen hits of the last decade.
This show has been running since 2005. While everyone fell in love with the movie about a poor London kid who was more interested in ballet than soccer and boxing, as his traditional working class father would have it, the stage musical is the result of teaming up the movie’s director and choreographer with nonetheless than Sir Elton John in the composer’s role.
The result is a combination of powerful drama with fabulous music and dance, in a way that is seldom seen in popular musicals all over the world. The show opened to rave reviews, and its continued success has secured Billy Elliot an unmovable spot among the top three current West End acts, according to the top publications in the business.
If you want to see the barber slice some throats in the stage to screen hit Sweeney Todd, you can already book your tickets for March, when the show will be returning to the West End. Starring Academy Award winner Imelda Staunton and West End sensation Michael Ball, this musical features some of the best songs you’ll ever hear in these types of shows, and it has an alluring, strange darkness that has been bedazzling audiences for years.
If you are into classic musicals in the tradition of Cabaret and the like, you can’t miss Chicago. The story of an unlikely pair of female murderers brought together by a manipulative lawyer in 1920’s America features lots of songs from classic musicals and astounding choreographic work by Tony Award winner Ann Reinking.
A taste of Shakespeare
The bard’s enthusiasts are always well-served when taking a London theatre break. These holidays, you can catch a performance of a non-traditional staging of Hamlet at the Old Vic, which is set in a peculiar insane asylum or have some fun with the long-standing The complete works of William Shakespeare, a play about the artist’s despair for success, which shows three aspiring actors trying their hand at some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines in rather imaginative ways.
However, if you want to see some serious Shakespearean action, you shouldn’t miss the World Shakespeare Festival starting in April, which will present fabulous productions of dozens of Shakespeare plays by companies from all over the world, from Moscow to Nairobi and back.
THE FAB FOUR
I always say that, if Shakespeare told all the stories you could tell in literature, the Beatles did the same for popular songs. It is impossible to understand England without mentioning either of them, and just like the genius from Stratford-upon-Avon, the Beatles also have their share of the spotlight on the West End.
BACKBEAT, the musical, is an adaptation of the 90’s film of the same title, which tells the story of the Beatles rise to fame. One of critic’s favourites, the show goes beyond the portrayal of the famous musicians and the use of popular songs, to present a compelling human drama, set to some pretty cool songs. A must for any Beatles’ fan, rated 5 stars by Time Out London‘s readers.
The Christmas pantomimes are a traditional feature in London’s theatre calendar. This year, the most awaited event is the revival of Cinderella, but Aladdin and Dick Whithington among many others promise some good holiday laughs for the whole family.
Shrek, the musical is always a favourite with children of all ages, but there are also many special Christmas shows that will be suited for a family-style London theatre break. Everybody’s favourite Christmas story, Dickens’ A Christmas carol will be on from December 6 till January 15th at Greenwich Playhouse. The promenade-style production of The Winter’s tale at Camley Park is also a fun option for the family.
But there are also the serious plays, the modern plays, more classic, the alternative Christmas shows, the avant-garde shows, the up-and-coming musicals; quite simply, you would need much longer that a few weeks during the holidays to experience it all, yet if you do choose to visit London and see a couple of shows this holiday season, you are sure to spend some unforgettable moments in one of theatre’s top capitals in the world.