London’s West End is synonymous with the roar of a standing ovation. Star-studded casts, spectacular choreography and world-class productions continuously replenish the city’s stages with fresh talent and prime sell-out entertainment. Here we take a look at the highlight productions over the next six months. From Pinter and Miller to musicals and period drama, don’t miss our pick of the best London shows in 2019.
Having debuted at Royal Albert Hall eight years ago, Cirque du Soleil’s Totem is back with its usual dazzling run of shape-shifting acrobats, soaring trapeze artists, mind-bending contortionists and spectacular costumes. The flamboyant fanfare is themed around a plot that traces the evolution of humanity… but with special effects and dazzling feats such as these, a storyline is really surplus to requirement!
Royal Albert Hall
12th January – 26th February 2019
Multi Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett makes her National Theatre debut alongside BAFTA-winner Stephen Dillane to play out Samuel Richardson’s provocative 18th-century novel, Pamela. The adult-themed When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other is a challenging and thought-provoking treatment of a complex relationship that blurs the boundaries between power and abuse.
16th January – 2nd March 2019
Channelling a little light relief into current debates about borders and immigration, award-winning musical Come From Away is based on the true story of the 7,000 passengers who were stranded in Newfoundland, Canada in the wake of 9/11. Written and directed by an award-winning team, its refreshingly frank script weaves together different cultures with moving – and ultimately feel-good – results. Catch the London leg of the global tour from January.
30th January – 25th May 2019
When Stephen Sondheim’s glittering musical landed at the National Theatre in 2017, it was met with resounding success. This revival blazes a similar starry trail with a knock-out cast of British talent exploring a cruel juxtaposition of youth and middle age, dreams and disillusion, the sparkles of Broadway and the shadows of real life. With its original roots in a 1970s Broadway musical, it features familiar foot-tapping crowd-pleasers such as I’m Still Here and Broadway Baby.
12th February – 6th April 2019
No checklist of London’s top 2019 shows would be complete without a nod to the Globe. This spring, Adjoa Andoh leads an all-female cast as Richard II in a political drama that sees the king topple from his throne to a tragic end. Seething with underhand plots and back-stabbing intrigue, Richard II is the first of Shakespeare’s history plays and is executed magnificently in this courageous and altogether contemporary production.
22nd February – 21st April 2019
Franz Lehár’s glamourous comedy is a tale of the misadventure and mishaps that ensue when wealthy young widow Hanna meets dashing lothario Count Danilo. Exquisitely wrought by the English National Opera, it’s an epic Balkan sweep of glittering costumes and dazzling sets. The frothy plot is sung in English with surtitles, although those unfamiliar with the story will certainly recognise classic melodies including Vilja Song and Merry Widow Waltz.
1st March – 13th April 2019
Harold Pinter fans have been enjoying a steady stream of spectacular performances under Jamie Lloyd Company’s Pinter at the Pinter, but the show that stands out as a must-watch this year is Betrayal. Based on Pinter’s seven-year extramarital affair with BBC presenter Joan Bakewell, it stars Tom Hiddleston of The Night Manager fame, who artfully executes an unforgiving script that’s notoriously economical on dialogue.
Harold Pinter Theatre
5th March – 1st June 2019
Arthur Miller is seeing something of a revival on London’s The Cut this year, with a plethora of the playwright’s most celebrated pieces featuring on the programmes of both the Old and Young Vic. Our pick? All My Sons. Not just for the excellent script and gripping plot about the hard-hitting shadows of war, but for its astonishingly well-appointed cast. American heavyweights Sally Field and Bill Pullman star, while Jeremy Herrin directs.
The Old Vic
15th April – 8th June 2019
Magnificent dancers, exquisite costumes and soaring symphonies housed within one of London’s most spectacular music venues make Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella the ballet of the summer. The dazzling in-the-round choreography that accompanies the Brothers Grimm fairy tale is as inventive as it is spell-binding, with more than 90 performers from the English National Ballet enacting the beloved classic to Prokofiev’s sublime score.
Royal Albert Hall
6th – 16th June 2019
As if a performance beneath the sinking dusk, surrounded by the ancient trees of Regent’s Park, wasn’t enough of a draw… Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is executed with spectacular operatic flair by the English National Opera in this year’s annual collaboration between the ENO and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Ben Glassberg conducts and Timothy Sheader directs the enchanting Brothers Grimm tale, resulting in breathtaking crescendos and a memorable performance… not to mention the unrivalled setting.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
14th – 22nd June
Tree is one of London’s most anticipated 2019 shows for the influence that British actor Idris Elba had in its creation, as well as playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah’s role in directing it. Set in South Africa, the play draws on Elba’s album Mi Mandela and includes an elegantly wrought multi-media composition that sensitively frames the play’s difficult themes. It’s fresh, provocative and intelligent work that certainly engages an interesting dialogue about South Africa.
29th July – 24th August 2019