‘The Mousetrap’ by mystery master, Agatha Christie, is the longest running show in the modern world. After opening in 1952 in West End, London, the show has had 24,500 performances so far. It reached the monumental mark of 20,000 performances on 16 December, 2000. Enthusiasts can still catch a performance in St. Martin’s Theatre, London.
After Shakespeare’s plays (which have been performed across the world in various adaptations), the ‘Mousetrap’ is easily one of the most successful shows in the world. It is also unique in the sense that it is a ‘straight’, traditional play and not a musical.
The world over, musicals enjoy tremendous success, as can be seen in the list of top selling Broadway shows. Andrew Lloyd Webber is the reigning star of the Broadway musical, with two of the most successful musicals in history – ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (10,169 performances) and ‘Cats’ (7,485 performances) to his credit. ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ has been especially successful across the world, grossing over 3.5 billion pounds in the course of its long production history – easily the most financially successful entertainment project anywhere in the world. In fact, the only non-musical play to feature among the top 20 most successful shows on Broadway is ‘Life with Father’ (3,224 performances). On the theatrical stage, musicals clearly rule the roost.
Off-Broadway, the most successful musical is ‘The Fantastiks’, which ran for 17,162 performances.
Visitors to New York shouldn’t miss the ‘Lion King’ and ‘Chicago’ musicals, currently running at Minskoff Theatre and Ambassador Theatre respectively. Another must watch should be ‘Mamma Mia!’ running at Winter Garden Theatre.
Londoners have a similar appetite for musicals. After the ‘Mousetrap’, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Les Miserables’, and ‘Blood Brothers’ are the three most successful London shows. Following them is ‘The Woman in Black’, which is the most successful non-musical show after ‘The Mousetrap’. Visitors to London can catch a performance at the Fortune Theatre.
In Germany, another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, ‘Starlight Express’, has been the longest running musical show. Even though the story of a child’s train toy set coming to life ran for a mere 761 performances on Broadway, it went on to massive success in Berlin and the West End, London.
Musicals are not quite as popular in France, where the audience has consistently shown an appetite for more ‘straight’ plays. ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’, produced in 1998, is often credited with making musicals fashionable in Paris again. Indeed, this musical holds the record for the most successful opening year of any musical in history. Most musicals and theatre show adaptations often incorporate local sensibilities and cultural ethos. Attending the same show in West End and Broadway will never be the same experience. It is always a good idea to catch a local production of an already successful show to get a better understanding of local culture.
In London, a few successful running shows include ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ at Her Majesty’s Theatre, ‘Les Miserables’ at the Queen’s Theatre, and ‘Blood Brothers’ at the Phoenix Theatre.
This article was written in collaboration with Leicester Sqaure Box Office. LSBO currently have offers on tickets for the best West End shows. To find out more click here.