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Theatre fever hits the capital

Published: Tuesday 14th of September 2010

As the summer break comes to a close and London's string of music and entertainment festivals start to wind down for another year, out come the fancy frocks and theatrical ambiance that the capital is famous for.

Going to a show on the West End has long been high on the list of things to do in London but now is the best time of the year to check out the latest productions.

As the weather is soon to take a turn for the worst, tourists will quickly tire of wrapping up in the cold and begin to pour through the doors of some of London's oldest venues.

Home to the majority of the capital's plays, productions, operas and musicals, the West End will be buzzing with the sound of eager crowds and excited children as they all head to the centre for a night on the town.

Originally the pastime of the rich when the West End was first established in the 19th century, the stage world has been transformed by inexpensive tickets and cheap online deals, making it accessible to nearly everyone.

Indeed, according to OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk, more people are attracted to London's West End than any other theatre district in the world.

In 2008, more than 13 million people made their way to productions in the capital.

Since then, it has continued to pull the numbers in and the capital's Theatreland - located by the Strand, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Kingsway - remains one of the most visited of London's attractions.

While most people will consider a West End theatre to be an authentic Victorian building, with steep rows and with the familiar semi-circular layout, there have been many post-war theatres built.

The Barbican, in the City of London, is an example of this and is now home to some of the biggest stage productions, as well as a house for alternative cinema and other cultural exhibitions.

One show that has been the face of the West End for the last 25 years is Les Miserables - the longest running musical production in the world.

It opened in the Barbican theatre in 1985, where there is currently a special anniversary production being put on starring Gareth Gates, and has continued running ever since.

In addition to this, visitors are likely to book tickets to see other classic performances including The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre and Oliver! at the Theatre Royal.

More recent productions including Legally Blonde The Musical at the Savoy Theatre and Calendar Girls at the New Wimbledon Theatre - both of which are based on hit movies - have proved very popular among theatre-goers.

Going to see a show is also no longer a hobby limited to adults and there are many productions that have been specially created with children in mind.

Popular kids' book The Gruffalo, for instance, will be put on from November 2010, while the Roald Dahl novel George's Marvellous Medicine has been transformed for the stage.

Visitors who are keen to learn more about London's drama scene can join a Theatreland Walking Tour, put on by the Society of London Theatre.

As part of the trip, attendees will visit some of the most well-known cultural venues in the capital, learn about their history from a guide and hear all the behind-the-scenes stories that bring the old buildings to life.

Tourists who want to learn more about Theatreland in their own time can discover the abundance of playhouses while they explore the rest of the city.

Set in the heart of the capital with a theatre behind every corner and every street, visitors heading to the capital cannot escape a visit to the West End. 

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