We’re deep diving into the history of some of your fave West End shows to test your knowledge and to give you an opportunity to learn some cool new things you might not know!
We’ve given you a question (dotted with clues!) and all you have to do is scribble down which West End show/character you think it is. When you’re done, scroll to the bottom to find the answers and discover lots of other fun facts!
1.Which histo-remixed musical started as a University project?
2. Which leading musical character’s name is derived from the initials of book author, L. Frank Baum?
3. What is the world’s longest running play?
4. The setting of which iconic musical was inspired by a real music venue in Paris?
5. Which mischievous West End comedy show premiered above Islington’s Old Red Lion pub with just four paying customers?
6. In which huge-hearted musical does the lead character dream of dancing on a show based on a real-life 1950’s American TV show?
7. Which inspiring musical is based on a documentary about a teenage boy?
8. Which smash-hit musical began as a small school concert?
9. Which legendary musical premiered in Paris in 1980 with its lead character taking inspiration from the Artful Dodger’s character in Oliver!?
10. Which sung-and-rapped-through show started as a mixtape?
Scroll down to check the answers and to learn some fun facts about these West End shows!
If you’ve not heard already, the story of Six is literally every writer’s dream. Written by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, the pop-fuelled musical concert sees the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic to tell their tales, remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an 80-minute celebration of 21st century girl power.
Critically acclaimed with a spectacularly successful studio album adored on playlists across the globe, it’s hard to believe that Six was originally written as a University project.
“Six started as a kind of fun university project,” Toby said in an interview. “We were at Cambridge together and the musical theatre society wanted to take an original show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“So we applied to write it and then put on this student production for one month back in 2017.”
The musical was picked up by West End producer and has since played across the UK, on Norwegian Cruise Lines, premiered in Sydney and was even planning to open on Broadway last year, just as the pandemic hit.
This musical has transformed from the bedroom to Broadway, so to all you writing enthusiasts out there, don’t give up! And if you’d like to learn more about why we are huge fans of Six, check out our roundup of six ways Six stunned us here or hit play to their incredible performance at Olivier Awards 2019 above and it won’t be hard to see why it’s well worth seeing when it reopens at the Lyric Theatre.
2. Elphaba, Wicked
For musical theatre fans, it’s no secret that the beloved Wicked reimagines stories and characters from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard Of Oz book series but how about reimagining names? In the books, the Wicked Witch has no name but when Gregory Maguire wrote the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West in 1996, which went on to inspire the musical, he invented the name Elphaba from L. Frank Baum’s initials. Each initial gave one syllable to the name: El-pha-ba. So to all those wondering how this unusual name came about, there ya have it!
3. The Mousetrap
Having opened in the West End on 25 November 1952, Agatha Christie’s world-famous whodunnit is the longest-running play in the world! Since it’s opening, the record-smashing show has seen 28,000+ performances 10,000,000+ tickets sold, and 500+ tons of ice creams devoured.
Believe it or not, The Mousetrap was originally written as a 20-minute radio drama for Queen Mary as an 80th birthday gift, following Queen Mary’s request for a new radio play by Agatha. Entitled Three Blind Mice, the radio drama was rewritten for the stage five years later when it premiered at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham.
Want to know more fun facts about the world’s longest running play? Check out our roundup of 10 things you didn’t know about The Mousetrap here including everything from original props and prison escapes to a royal meeting!
4. Phantom Of The Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical, The Phantom Of The Opera, is based on Gaston Leroux’s gothic novel of the same name which is set in the real Palais Garnier in Paris.
The music venue, also known as the Opéra Garnier, is said to have underground tunnels and even an underground lake which has been used in several scenes in Gaston’s story.
Furthermore, having specialised in investigative journalism, Gaston is said to have based several parts of the story on real historical events. For example, many sources have reported that there was a real incident whereby a fire in the Palais Garnier caused the chandelier to fall, injuring several people and tragically killing one. And if you’ve seen the movie or the musical, you’ll know this incident, paired with rumours of a ghost in the same Parisian opera house, are very closely linked to the story. Who knew?!
5. The Play That Goes Wrong
We know, we know! It’s crazy to believe that the Olivier Award-winning comedy show The Play That Goes Wrong was first performed in front of just four paying customers in London Islington’s The Old Red Lion Pub.
In an interview, Mischief’s Jonathan Sayer said: “When we were wrapping our home-made set in tarpaulin and carrying it up The Old Red Lion’s windy staircase, the idea that people from Hollywood would be involved in a couple of years’ time wouldn’t have been believable.”
Besides Mischief Theatre’s show being a real hit in the West End, the rip-roaring company has gone on to have several TV specials, a UK tour, a tour across the US including a run on and off-Broadway as well as touring across Australia.
Feeling a little stunned? Well there’s plenty more where that came from. Just check out our roundup of 5 things you might not know about The Play That Goes Wrong. You can even find out what the characters have been up to during lockdown (and what mischief they’ve been causing!) as we go behind the curtain with them – jut hit play to the video above!
This huge-hearted feel-good musical follows the story of a teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad who dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show. But did you know that the show is based on a real American teen dance TV show called The Buddy Deane Show which aired from a local Baltimore station from 1957 – 1964?
While The Buddy Dene Show went off air due to its struggle with the concept of integration, much like the parts of the musical, Hairspray’s ending was much more upbeat! When asked about the happy ending, writer John Walters said, “This is musical comedy. Who needs the ugly truth? I gave Hairspray the happy ending it deserved.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves and are super excited for this classic to open at the London Coliseum with the Olivier Award-winning Michael Ball. Want to learn more about the award-winning musical? Check out our 5 favourite Hairspray moments – we promise it’ll get you up on your feet and having a swingin’ time!
7. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Yup, that’s right – Jamie New’s inspiring tale is based on the true story of a teenage boy named Jamie Campbell. At the age of 16, Jamie was very different to others on his Sheffield council estate and as a result of that, was bullied. Through sheer bravery and fabulousness, he decided he wanted to share his secret with the world and to live the life he’d always dreamt of. Knowing his story could inspire others, Jamie contacted Firecracker Films – a documentary film company – and asked if they would bring his tale to the masses. In 2011, BBC Three broadcast a documentary called Jamie: Drag Queen At 16 which inspired theatre director Jonathan Butterell to make the story into a musical.
Enter Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – the show that makes us laugh, smile, cry and gives us ALL the feels! Whether you’ve seen Everybody’s Talking About Jamie numerous times (we have!) or it’s on your bucket list of London shows 2021, we’re certain that you’ll enjoy our Virtual West End Live episode above including a performance from the cast and a Q&A with Noah Thomas and Layton Williams (who play Jamie New) together.
8. Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s multi-award-winning musical first began its life as a small school concert, presented as a 15-minute pop cantata at Colet School in London in 1968. When Andrew Lloyd Webber’s father arranged for a second performance at his church, the show was extended to a 20-minute performance with the boys of Colet School and members of the band Mixed Song singing. When a Sunday Times critic, sat in the audience, wrote a review praising its innovation, it went on for a third performance, this time extended to 35-minutes. As they say, the rest is history!
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has become one of the world’s best known and best loved musicals. It has been performed hundreds of thousands of times in over 80 countries across the globe. Over the years the iconic musical has received a whopping 6 Tony nominations and 9 Olivier Award nominations and we cannot wait for it to return to the West End at the London Palladium in the Summer. It promises to be the celebration that we so deserve!
9. Les Misérables
Les Misérables, lovingly known as Les Mis, is the stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name. Set in 19th century France, the sung-through musical follows the story of one man’s determined survival in the face of another’s vengeful persecution. Whether you’ve seen the movie or the musical, did you know that it had been partly inspired by a performance of Oliver!?
Recalling the time he saw Oliver! in London, French lyricist Alain Boublil of Les Mis, has been quoted saying: “As soon as the Artful Dodger came onstage, Gavroche came to mind,”
“It was like a blow to the solar plexus. I started seeing all the characters of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables—Valjean, Javert, Gavroche, Cosette, Marius and Éponine—in my mind’s eye, laughing, crying and singing onstage.”
Believe it or not, that “blow to the solar plexus” has led to the creation of the world’s longest-running musical!
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Olivier and Tony Award-sweeping modern masterpiece is a sung-and-rapped through musical following the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. But before it became a musical, it was composed as a mixtape. Taking inspiration from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, and Jesus Christ Super Star which were first given life as concept albums, Miranda decided to do the same, building up a score by dream casting his “favourite artists.”
Speaking in an interview, the writer said: “I wanted to be a little more selfish with this—I wanted the lyrics to have the density that my favourite hip-hop albums have, he said. “It was easier to think of it as a hip-hop album, because then I could really just pack the lyrics.”
In January 2012 he performed 12 musical numbers from The Hamilton Mixtape and within the space of two years, the show was workshopped and in 2015 the curtain was raised on Broadway and history was made!
If you loved this theatre quiz and would like some more stagey fun, you can check out our theatre quiz rounds here and our Spot The Difference series here. And, if you’re missing theatre and want to get your fix, don’t forget you can pop over to our online calendar here, to find out all the different ways you can enjoy some theatre online.