The Summer holiday season can often prove all too fleeting. And while we can’t wait for the exciting Autumn shows on the horizon – be sure to check out our giddily excited round-up of the forthcoming season – we’ll also be sorry to bid a fond farewell over the coming weeks to plenty of the West End’s biggest shows, as many productions across Theatreland prepare to take their final bows and sign off for the Summer.
So to help you make sure your must-see list is checked off, we’ve rounded up some of the departing hits you won’t want to have missed. It’s a packed schedule, so theatregoers: get your skates on!
Top tip for families: many of these shows are taking part in Kids Week, the annual promotion that allows kids to go free to London shows during August when accompanied by a full-paying adult!
Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical (until Tuesday 22 August)
Andrew Polec as Strat (centre) in Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical (Photo: Specular)
Where’s it playing?: London Coliseum
What’s it about?: Rife with rip-roaring energy, soaring vocals and eye-popping visuals, Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is almost impossible to succinctly summarise… but we’ll give it a go.
Featuring the storming hits from Meat Loaf’s seminal rock album – I’d Do Anything For Love, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, and THAT title track – the show is set in a dystopian city and sees a youthful gang leader rebel against a despotic tyrant, speeding through life and falling in love in the process.
You can’t miss: The vocals and the staging – camera feeds, flamethrowers, huge projections, motorbikes, surprise swimming pools, and more. Just… wow.
And what’s next in the London Coliseum?: The English National Opera’s superb Autumn season kicks into gear from 28 September.
The Hunting Of The Snark (until Saturday 26 August)
The Hunting Of The Snark (Photo: Mark Douet)
Where’s it playing?: Vaudeville Theatre
What’s it about?: Fast-paced, fantastical, funny adventure for the whole family. Catch Lewis Carroll’s splendidly imaginative world brought to the West End stage in this bright musical adaptation of the titular poem, in which a riotous ragtag bunch set off on a voyage to catch the mythical Snark.
Along the way, they come across Jub Jub Birds, Bandersnatches, Boojums… and confusion about what a Snark actually looks like in the first place. Packed with wit and charm, everyone’ll find something to love.
Everybody must see: The sheer vibrancy of the show delighting your inner (or outer) child.
And… The Hunting Of The Snark is taking part in Kids Week – kids to go free during August when accompanied by a full-paying adult! Check out availability here.
The Kite Runner (until Saturday 26 August)
Emilio Doorgasingh, Ezra Khan and Andrei Costin in The Kite Runner (Photo: Robert Workman)
Where’s it playing?: Playhouse Theatre
What’s it about?: A page-to-stage adaptation of international best-selling pedigree, The Kite Runner is Khaled Hosseini’s momentously moving story of love and loyalty across cultures and continents.
The Kite Runner transports audiences to a divided Afghanistan which stands on the brink of war, where two childhood friends innocently enjoy competing in a kite flying tournament. But events take a horrifying twist and the duo are horrifyingly torn apart, with one seemingly forever in the debt of the other. Cue redemption of the utmost poignancy.
Everybody must see: The heart-rending resolution. Bring the Kleenex – this one’s a real tearjerker.
And… The Kite Runner is taking part in Kids Week! Check out availability here.
The Mentor (until Saturday 26 August)
Naomi Frederick and F. Murray Abraham in The Mentor (Photo: Simon Annand)
Where’s it playing?: Vaudeville Theatre
What’s it about?: Art, succession and a meeting of the minds; one belonging to a rising literary star on the cusp of becoming a sensation, and another to his hero, the cantankerous one-hit-wonder playwright paid to mentor him. As you might imagine, events don’t run quite as smoothly as hoped.
Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham delivers a masterclass here as Benjamen Rubin, the prickly ego who refuses to let go of his former glory. The Mentor is quip-fuelled humour at its sharpest, with perceptive and compelling comedy at the core of Theatre Royal Bath’s record-breaking production.
Everybody must see: The great F. Murray Abraham in the flesh, a true legend of the screen and stage who shines here.
And what’s next at the Vaudeville Theatre?: The celebratory Oscar Wilde season at the Vaudeville kicks off with seminal satire A Woman Of No Importance from 6 October.
The Adventures Of Pinocchio (until Wednesday 30 August)
Where’s it playing?: Ambassadors Theatre
What’s it about?: You’ll know the story – the traditional tale of a wooden puppet who yearns to be a real boy – but not the faces telling it, as the British Theatre Academy showcase the musical stars of tomorrow in this inventive performance of Pinocchio.
The family musical springs to life superbly, with imaginative puppetry and gorgeous storytelling. Our nose isn’t growing when we testify: The Adventures Of Pinocchio is an enchanting production for all ages.
Everybody must see: The musical stars of tomorrow, today.
And… The Adventures Of Pinocchio is taking part in Kids Week! Check out availability here.
And what’s next in the venue?: Never has a show been more appropriately labelled a “smash-hit”: the West End’s favourite percussive show Stomp is booking at the Ambassadors until April 2018!
Half A Sixpence (until Saturday 2 September)
(Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Where’s it playing?: Noël Coward Theatre
What’s it about?: A bolt of infectious energy, Half A Sixpence is the iconic rags-to-riches musical which has lit up the West End this past year with jovial spirit, toe-tapping humdingers and spectacular showstoppers.
When overworked orphan Arthur Kipps’ fortunes are transformed overnight through vast inheritance, he finds himself catapulted into the realms of high society. But will he abandon his roots – and his love of the banjo – for romance, or will he continue to just be himself? Brush your teeth beforehand – you’ll be grinning throughout.
Everybody must see: Just a warning: Half A Sixpence songs Flash Bang Wallop! and Pick Out A Simple Tune will outright refuse to leave your head. And lead Charlie Stemp’s Olivier-nominated star turn is unmissable.
And… Half A Sixpence is taking part in Kids Week! Check out availability here.
And what’s next in the venue?: Martin Freeman and Sarah Lancashire in James Graham’s new political play, Labour Of Love, from 15 September.
Hamlet (until Saturday 2 September)
Andrew Scott (Hamlet) in Hamlet at the Harold Pinter Theatre (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Where’s it playing?: Harold Pinter Theatre
What’s it about?: The marriage of an Olivier Award-winning director – that’s Robert Icke – to an Olivier and BAFTA-winning star – that’s Andrew Scott – to a quintessential William Shakespeare text – that’s (you guessed it) Hamlet. Put it all together, and an innovative, ground-breaking production emerges.
Acclaimed before its transfer from the Almeida Theatre earlier in the year, the epic tragedy has gone from praise to praise in the West End, and offers an interpretation of the play like no other. To see or not to see? There’s only one answer to that question.
Everybody must see: A virtuoso portrayal of an iconic character by Scott; his is a Hamlet pitched perfectly for our times.
And what’s next at the Harold Pinter Theatre?: The all-conquering, Tony-scoring, West End premiere of the diplomacy drama Oslo from 2 October.
Horrible Histories – More Best Of Barmy Britain (until Saturday 2 September)
Where’s it playing?: Garrick Theatre
What’s it about?: The best bits of history – the nasty bits!
In the Birmingham Stage Company’s 25th anniversary, their brilliant previous West End shows are combined into a whistle-stop tour through Britain’s historical highlights, introducing us to vicious Vikings, evil Elizabeth, crazy King Charles, dastardly Dick Turpin, and many more! Bonkers family fun ensues.
Everybody must see: A brand new exciting scene from a London theatre ancestor: wordy Will has plenty to tell us!
And… Yep, Horrible Histories – More Best Of Barmy Britain is taking part in Kids Week! Check out availability here.
Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour (until Saturday 2 September)
Caroline Deyga, Dawn Sievewright, Frances Mayli McCann, Kirsty MacLaren, Karen Fishwick and Isis Hainsworth in Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour at Duke of York’s Theatre (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Where’s it playing?: Duke of York’s Theatre
What’s it about?: Step aside St. Trinian’s: having enjoyed massive success across the country in runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the National Theatre, as well as a UK tour, the Best New Comedy Olivier-winning play Our Ladies… is a fearless mix of raucous humour and heart-breaking tenderness – parental caution certainly advised.
Six young schoolgirls are out on the night of their lives, let loose in Edinburgh to drink, swear, cause chaos – and ultimately discover themselves. With a soundtrack including many of the songs of ELO, Our Ladies… is by turns resounding and hilarious, a glorious anthem to friendship and youth..
Everybody must see: The six livewire characters, in whom you’ll recognise every night out you’ve ever had.
And what’s next at the Duke of York’s Theatre?: A ruthless, red-topped new play from James Graham; Ink transfers to the Duke of York’s Theatre from 9 September.
The Wind In The Willows (until Saturday 2 September)
The cast of The Wind In The Willows at the London Palladium (Photo: Darren Bell)
Where’s it playing?: London Palladium
What’s it about?: Your favourite childhood story bursts onto the world-famous London Palladium stage.
All your favourite characters are back – from the menacing Chief Weasel to the serial speedster Mr Toad – and are joined by eye-poppingly beautiful design, exuberant choreography and a magical book and score courtesy of Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes and Olivier-winning composers and lyricists George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. With heroic adventures and anarchy, humour and heart, The Wind In The Willows is a fantastic family blockbuster.
Everybody must see: The hilarious hijinks of Rufus Hound as Mr Toad – poop poop!
And… The Wind In The Willows is taking part in Kids Week! Check out availability here.
And what’s next at the London Palladium?: Advance booking advised: the great Palladium pantomime, Dick Whittington, arrives 9 December!
Gangsta Granny (until Sunday 3 September)
Where’s it playing?: Garrick Theatre
What’s it about?: What does everybody love more than David Walliams and his wicked sense of humour? His wicked sense of humour in family show form, of course!
Direct from an acclaimed UK tour, Walliams’ bestselling book follows young Ben on a Friday night. Resigned to staying with boring Granny and putting up with horrible cabbage, cabbage and more cabbage, he doesn’t realise that he’s actually in line for the adventure of a lifetime – his Granny’s a propa Gangsta! Kids’ll love it, and grown-ups will too. Everybody must see: The boisterous Birmingham Stage Company – the masterminds of the beloved Horrible Histories stage shows – bringing their own hilarious brilliance to Walliams’ story!
And what’s next at the Garrick Theatre?: More spectacular silliness with Mel Brooks’ and Susan Stroman’s Young Frankenstein musical, from 28 September.