Top 10 longest running musicals in London

Ever wondered which musicals have tried to take the crown of ‘Longest running show’ in London? Wonder no more, because here’s a runthrough of the top 10 by length of run.

#10 We Will Rock You

Closing in 2014 to many a fan’s tears, this was the marmite show of the West End. Some adored it; others loathed it. Still with a very healthy run from 25th September 2002 until 31st May 2014 at the Dominion Theatre, it had 4659 performances giving it a place in the top 10 just above the original run of Miss Saigon.

We Will Rock You at Dominion Theatre

#9 Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story

Buddy opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 12th October 1989 and went on to do 5140 performances until it closed on 3rd March 2002. It did swap theatres half way through, and make its way across London to the Strand Theatre (now the Novello) but we won’t hold that against it.

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story

#8 Chicago

Not the first time this was seen in London, the 1997 revival at the Adelphi Theatre trounced all over the original production’s 600-performance run. Starting on 18th October 1997 it ran until 1st September 2012, with an impressive 6187 performances. It wasn’t a smooth ride, though, and moved house twice – once to the Cambridge Theatre in 2006 and again in 2011 where it finished its run at the Garrick.

Chicago the Musical

#7 The Lion King

Whether you’re a fan of the first ten minutes, or are bowled over by the full thing, there’s no denying The Lion King has staying power. With barely a whisper of a discounted ticket in 15 years, it opened on 19th October 1999 at the Lyceum Theatre, and there’s no sign of a closing date any time soon.

The Lion King header

#6 Mamma Mia!

Now the longest running jukebox musical, this opened on 6th April 1999 at the Prince Edward Theatre before transferring to the Prince of Wales in 2004. Given a healthy boost by the release of the movie, that’s not the last time it re-homed though, as a further transfer took place in September 2012, where it was scaled down to fit the Novello’s stage.

Mamma Mia Novello Theatre

#5 Starlight Express

This was the first show on the list to close – way back in January 2002 – but it still managed to make it into the fifth spot. Opening on 27th March 1984, it was one of the 80s’ mega-musicals with a set that was made only for the Apollo Victoria Theatre. It closed after 7406 performances but has since had numerous scaled-down tours.

Starlight Express

#4 Cats

It may have returned in recent months for a limited engagement, but the original production of Cats opened at the New London Theatre on 11th May 1981. Closing 21 years later on 11th May 2002, it had a very impressive 8949 performances, and was for a long time, the longest running musical before being overtaken in recent years.

Cats at New London Theatre

#3 Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers originated in London on 28th July 1988. Opening at the Phoenix Theatre, it stayed there for its entire run, ending on 10th November 2012 after an incredible 10,013 performances. It closed to make way for new blood, but has since been a regular on the touring circuit.

Blood Brothers Phoenix Theatre

#2 The Phantom of the Opera

Biting at the heels of the number one spot is The Phantom of the Opera. Opening on 9th October 1986, it’s home has always been Her Majesty’s Theatre, and likely to always be there. With over 11,500 performances, it’s now had numerous international and touring productions, including a 10,000 performance run on Broadway and a reimagining in Las Vegas.

Phantom of the Opera Masquerade scene

#1 Les Miserables

It may have transferred theatres twice (from the Barbican to the Palace and on to the Queen’s) but, in total, Les Mis has now crossed the 12,000 performances mark. Running from 8th October 1985 (almost exactly one year pre-Phantom) and counting, don’t expect it to lose its #1 slot anytime soon. And incredibly I’m yet to see it; something that has to change soon, I think!

Les Miserables Queens Theatre

What would you like to see make the list? Let me know in the comments below.



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