New York City may be the world capital of musical theatre, but London’s West End is a very close second, with top quality productions featuring some of the finest stage actors on the planet. While many shows are geared toward mature audiences, you’ll find no shortage of family-friendly options, so round up the kids and experience the lights and laughter of a live performance together.
For a night filled with fun, make your way to the Cambridge Theatre to see Matilda, the latest favorite based on Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 novel. The show tells the story of a young girl with magic powers who loves to read and learn, much to the dismay of her rude, dimwitted parents, who don’t understand her. Root for Matilda as she discovers her magic and does her best to avoid the punishments of her evil headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Your eyes might start to water at the beautifully nostalgic “When I Grow Up,” and you’ll definitely want to clap along to Tim Minchin’s catchy and mischievous anthem “Revolting Children.” Be careful. By the end of it, your kids may think they share Matilda’s powers.
Another family favorite is the long-running stage adaptation of The Lion King, based on Disney’s animated 1994 film. Enter the Lyceum Theatre and be transported to the African savanna as giant puppets of elephants tower above the audience and dancers dart through the aisles as gazelles, giraffes, and, of course, lions. Even the non-musical lovers in your family won’t be able to suppress their grins at the familiar songs and inspiring spectacle of the actors and puppets onstage.
You and your kids will be transported into Willy Wonka’s strange world of sweets when you see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—another adaptation of a famous Dahl novel, this one from 1964–at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. This gripping musical tells the story of Charlie Bucket, a down-on-his-luck boy who finds the golden ticket that changes his life. You’ll laugh away at the inherent wackiness of this classic tale, and cheer on Charlie as he navigates a world filled with candy, Snozzwanglers, and plenty of Oompah Loompahs. Your kids will be fascinated to see actors their own age portraying characters in their favorite book, and might just come away inspired to take up the theatre arts themselves–or at least put on a living room performance at home.
Whichever family musical you choose, you’ll share a theatrical experience together that you’ll remember long after the curtain falls.
Photo: Tony Hisgett