Our impressively sunshiny-summer has come to an end, meaning it’s time for families to head back to the office and back to school. Luckily, London’s theatre playground has a whole host of family shows to cheer up the Autumnal months, featuring well known classics and one-off specials. Whether it’s a midweek treat or a weekend adventure, head to the West End this Autumn with our sizzling pick of shows to see with the kids.
The Roald Dahl classic gained its second wave of fame with the movie release in 1996. It was then reimagined as a stage adaptation by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin and premiered at the Cambridge Theatre in 2011. The musical version of the gifted girl brings to life all the memorable characters before your very eyes; the vain and fraudulent Wormwoods , the adorable Miss Honey and the terrifying Miss Trunchbull, with a brand new cast set for September 2018. After scooping up a record number of Olivier Awards for a musical and receiving wide critical acclaim, Matilda the Musical is beloved by audiences of all ages.
The show is running at the Cambridge Theatre until October 19th, set to welcome its eighth million spectator after a stellar run in the West End. With magic and madness, Matilda is the perfect mid-week treat to get you to the weekend, and will now be showing at an earlier time of 7pm on weekdays to better accommodate families.
2. Lion King
It feels like this show has been around for a long time – and it’s simply because it really is that good. Similarly to the Disney film released in 1994, the award-winning musical pulls on heartstrings as it tells the tale of lion cub Simba and his quest to overthrow his uncle to become the rightful king of the pridelands. Set against the backdrop of the Serengeti Plains, the rhythmic African music and sing-a-long lyrics created by Sir Elton John and Tim Rice for the movie are brought to live in the evocative live score, while the colourful creative costumes are nothing but impressive. Children and adults alike will be immersed into the world of the Lion King, as characters such as Zazu, Timon and Pumba, Rafiki, the hyenas and more are played out on stage in a novel approach to children’s theatre.
The epic musical more than justifies its extensive run at the Lyceum Theatre. As the cool weather creeps in this Autumn, the Lion King guarantees to warm your soul.
Alternatively, swap African plains for Arabian nights and head to the Prince Edward Theatre for an enchanting magic carpet ride. Aladdin is another example of a Disney classic creatively remastered for stage, bringing all the best elements from the 1992 film to life as never before imagined. While some reviews have suggested the musical is a panto-in-disguise, there has been no doubt that the spectacular sets, special effects and jewel-encrusted costumes translate the magic of Agrabah to stage.
Furthermore, young children will be captivated by the larger than life characters such as The Genie, while the elder among us will revel in the plot’s synonymity with the Disney animation. Plus, any show that features hits such as ‘A Whole New World’ and ‘Friend Like Me’ is certainly worth its salt. The exotic escape is the perfect way to tackle the beginning of the new school year and the end of summer, uniting radiant colours, a golden lamp and youthful nostalgia to transport you away.
4. School of Rock
Nothing cheers kids up for going back to school than the School of Rock. This musical offers something a little more grown up than the likes of Disney, but is still very geared towards families and children aged eight and over. Based upon the 2003 movie starring Jack Black, School of Rock the Musical follows struggling and unemployed rock guitarist Dewey Finn as he poses as a substitute teacher to make some money. Finn realises his students are musically-talented, and so sets forth in spawning a school rock band who are to compete in the Battle of the Bands. The fun and rebellious West End production features music by theatre royalty, Andrew Lloyd Webber, combining songs from the film and new original numbers. Undoubtedly, the best part of School of Rock is the pocket-sized talent on stage, where the child cast can really rock out and impress audiences.
The prequel to the ‘Wizard of Oz’ has become a global sensation. It follows two protagonists; Elphaba and Glinda, who grow up to become the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the South. From their perspective, we learn what lead them into their distinguished roles, cultivating a story of friendship and rivalry, love and betrayal and importantly, Elphaba’s lapse into ‘wickedness’. Children will fall in love with the beautiful score created by Academy-award winning Stephen Schwartz while adults will cherish it’s associations to the 1939 classic starring Judy Garland as ‘Dorothy Gale’.
This Autumn, the gravity-defying musical will be celebrating a whopping 12 years in the West End, after surpassing its landmark 5000th performance at the Apollo Victoria Theatre last month. It has gained such uniform approval that there have even been talks of making it into a movie – just be sure to see it on stage first.
6. Paddington in concert
On Sunday 14th October, the Peruvian bear will commemorate its 60th anniversary with a live 60-piece orchestral accompaniment to the 2014 film ‘Paddington’. George Jackson will be commanding The Novello Orchestra with Nick Urata’s cheerful score, inducing the perfect introduction for young children to classical music. Moreover, the cute and charming film inspired by Michael Bond’s children’s books won the hearts of adults too, making it a great afternoon out for all the family. Hollywood stars Julie Walters and Nicole Kidman contribute to the film’s star-studded cast, while Ben Whishaw provides the voice for Paddington. It received plenty of praise and critical acclaim, founded upon its ability to transform a treasured classic into a modern movie with appeal for today’s kids.
The production is a one-off event set just before the busy half term. It promises to entertain and charm at the Theatre Royal, and even feature guest stars Nick Urata and Paddington!
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Enter a world of spells and sorcery this Autumn with the eighth installment of the wizardly-wonderful Harry Potter series by JK Rowling presented on stage. It famously secured the most Olivier Awards for a play despite only opening in 2016, and has been described as a ‘triumph’ (The Daily Telegraph) and ‘magical experience’ (London Evening Standard). The creatives behind Parts 1 and 2 of the Cursed Child include multiple award winning Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, responsible for writing and directing the play respectively, worked closely with Rowling to ensure the stage adaptation is as spellbinding and captivating as the book. It tells the tale of Harry Potter, 19 years on, tackling demons from his past. Similarly to the literary saga, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child live has proven popular across generations, with audiences of all ages leaving the Palace Theatre in awe.
Written by Aminah Barnes on behalf of TickX, a ticket search engine comparing events such as theatre, gigs and club nights across the UK.