If you’ve missed your fix of the theatre during the pandemic, then through Britbox musicals you can enjoy six of the best London West End shows all filmed live from the stage, boasting major musical stars such as Elaine Paige, Michael Crawford, Ruthie Henshall, Donny Osmond and even late legends like Sir John Mills and Sir Richard Attenborough. Many of these shows were of course big hits on Broadway too.
So here’s our exclusive guide to the top live musical theatre shows you can watch on streaming service BritBox right now…
Forget the bonkers 2019 film version of Cats. Elaine Page and Sir John Mills star in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical, one of the most famous and popular West End and Broadway shows of all time, and now a massive global phenomenon. This special performance was recorded at London’s Adelphi Theatre in 1997.
Based on TS Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical tells the tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make the ‘Jellicle choice’, deciding which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.
The musical includes the famous song Memory, sung by Grizabella, which means hearing it belted out by Elaine Paige herself. Musicals legend Elaine actually sang the original song in the musical when it first opened on the London stage in 1981 and had chart success with it, too.
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Billy Elliot The Musical Live
Based on the hit 2000 film Billy Elliot starring and Jamie Bell and Julie Walters, this Elton John musical hit London’s West End in 2005 and its catchy number, Electricity, ended up reaching No4 in the charts. Set in a mining town against the backdrop of the miners’ strike of the 1980s, it tells the story of Billy, a motherless 11-year-old lad from County Durham who begins taking ballet lessons, much to his dad’s disgust.
Filmed at the Victoria Palace Theatre, this version stars Elliot Hanna as Billy and Ruthie Henshall as Mrs Wilkinson with the original Billy actor Liam Mower now playing 'Older Billy' at the end of the show.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Watch Donny Osmond, Sir Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's first and long-running hit musical about the rags-to-riches Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colours. It was first performed in schools in the late 1960s with extra songs added throughout the years, including the Elvis-style Pharaoh. You can sing along to Close Every Door and, of course, the musical’s biggest toe-tapper Any Dream Will Do in this 1999 version based on the hit 1990s London Palladium revival.
The 25th anniversary gala performance of Miss Saigon, filmed live at London’s Prince Edward Theatre in 2016, tells the tragic story of a doomed romance between an American GI, Chris, and a Vietnamese girl, Kim, who’s been forced to work at a Saigon bar and brothel during the Vietnam War. It stars Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer (who was Jack Diamond in BBC medical drama Casualty) as Chris, with Jon Jon Briones (Ratched, American Horror Story) as The Engineer.
The Phantom of the Opera
With hits including The Phantom of the Opera, The Music of the Night and All I Ask of You, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award-winning musical is the second longest-running West End musical after Les Misérables. Look out for surprise guest stars Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman from the original London cast in this version filmed at London’s Albert Hall in 2011 for the show’s 25th anniversary. Ramin Karimloo plays The Phantom, while Sierra Boggess plays Christine Daaé, the beautiful soprano who becomes the obsession of the mysterious, disfigured musical genius.
Jesus Christ Superstar
Another Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice collaboration, Jesus Christ Superstar was controversial because it was a rock opera about the last week in the life of Jesus, right up to crucifixion, and it was told from the point of view of his betrayer Judas!
But it became a massive hit in the early 1970s with a long West End run. There was also a hit 1973 movie directed by Norman Jewison. Some of the songs like I Don’t Know How To Love Him, Gethsemane, Heaven On Their Minds, Hosanna and Superstar were massive then and still well known today. This BritBox showing of Jesus Christ Superstar was filmed at London's O2 as part of the show's arena tour in 2012. It had followed the successful search for a musical Jesus on ITV series Superstar, with the eventual winner Ben Forster taking the starring role. With Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot, Chris Moyles as King Herod and Spice Girl Mel C as Mary Magdalene also among the cast, there were huge crowds for this recording.
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