Great Longstanding Shows in London

From The Mousetrap to Mis, see why these London stage shows have stood the test of time and keep on drawing in the crowds.

The year 1952 was memorable for the UK: King George died and his daughter was crowned Queen Elizabeth II; £8 million was stolen from a Post Office van in central London, and the robbers were never caught; Agatha Christie’s mystery The Mousetrap took to the stage.

It began as a radio play, then a short story before coming to the West End a month later – it’s since become the world’s longest-running show.

The Mousetrap, London, UK
The cast of The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in London. (©Johan Persson)

Set in the 1950s, it opens with the murder of a woman who had served a sentence for abusing her foster children. The address of a guesthouse was found
near her body, leading police to question its guests. Trapped in by snow, with the phone line down, the guests and staff are all uneasy and they all have something to hide. Audiences are asked not to reveal the twist at the end – so we won’t either.

The English author and playwright of murder mysteries was interested in people and their motives more than the gruesomeness of their crimes. Her writing is unrivalled; most agree that no one has written a thriller like she did, hence the continuing popularity of her works on stage, in books and TV series.

Les Miserable, London, UK
Les Miserable is the longest-running musical in London's West End. (©Johan Persson)

Les Misérables is London’s second oldest show. Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 classic novel, and based on events after the French Revolution, it follows prisoner Jean Valjean who attempts to turn his life around.

After a world premiere in Paris, the musical opened at the Barbican in 1985 and ran in the West End until July 2019. But you needn’t miss out, as you can attend a concert version at the Gielgud Theatre (to 30 Nov) starring Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, or catch the musical when it reopens next month at the Sondheim (formerly Queen’s) Theatre (from 18 Dec).

For another longstanding drama, bag tickets to the gothic drama The Phantom of the Opera, about a masked man living in a theatre who becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano.

Phantom of the Opera, London, UK
The masked stranger becomes obsessed with the young soprano in Phantom of the Opera. (©Johan Persson)

Phantom’s Josh Piterman says: ‘The musical continues to be so popular because it’s a timeless story – a love triangle fuelled with endless emotion. How can we not fall in love with it? Add to that one of the greatest musical theatre scores ever written and it’s a pretty amazing recipe. We go to the theatre to feel and The Phantom of the Opera allows us to do just that.’

Five More Longstanding London Shows You Should See…

Mammia Mia the Show, London, UK
Sing along to ABBA's famous hits on stage, or head to the dining experience, Mamma Mia The Party. (©Dewynters)

Mamma Mia! – enjoy the hit songs of Swedish supergroup ABBA merged into a feel-good, upbeat romantic comedy set on a Greek island.

Matilda the Musical – precocious schoolgirl or misunderstood genius? Her bully headteacher, Miss Trunchbull, thinks the latter…

The Lion King – can our hero defy his evil Uncle Scar and win his rightful royal role?

Wicked The Musical, London, UK
Elphaba the green-skinned witch in Wicked, the story of two scocery students. (©Matt Crockett)

Wicked – discover the untold backstory of the wonderful Wizard of Oz with two sorcery students.

The Woman in Black – spooky stories aren’t just for Halloween – see what happens when our hero investigate the will of a recluse, set in a remote seaside house.