Musicals featured in the Best Of… Rock Musicals concert
The Eventim Apollo showcased of the greatest musicals over the last 50 years at the Best of… Rock Musicals concert, hosted by world-renowned lyricist Tim Rice. A must-visit event for anyone who loves musical theatre, the concert will feature Adam Pascal, Kerry Ellis and more West End stars as they perform some of the greatest hits from Rent, Evita and Wicked.
Here were some of the musicals that featured in the Best of… Rock Musicals concert.
The best rock musicals
Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar was one of the first rock musicals performed in the West End, opening at the Palace Theatre in 1972. The musical dramatises the final days in Jesus’ life, with the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. The tense relationship between Judas and Jesus is explored throughout, with Judas questioning Jesus’ behaviour as a religious figure. The musical features rock musical anthems including “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
Later in the 1970s, Evita received its West End premiere at the Prince Edward Theatre where it would continue to play for over 3,000 performances. The true story of Eva Peron as a young woman turned Argentine political leader was given the rock musical transformation, with powerful ballads including “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” reaching number one on the UK singles chart in 1976.
Little Shop of Horrors
The comedy rock musical was adapted for the stage after the 1960 film, with music by Alan Menken (Aladdin, Mary Poppins). With a soundtrack including “Suddenly, Seymour”, “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Dentist”, the musical follows Seymour, a young florist who begins looking after a plant in the shop. Naming the plant Audrey II as a nod to his co-worker Audrey, Seymour begins to spend more time with the plant, until he learns Audrey II isn’t ordinary. Audrey II feeds on human blood. Little Shop of Horrors combines horror with comedy in a unique musical that was last performed at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2018.
Topics including sexuality, free love and the Vietnam War help to form the storyline of Hair, a musical where hippies and the counterculture movement take centre stage. The musical follows hippies in the “Age of Aquarius” who distance themselves from the rest of society to live a carefree life with a different way of thinking. Hair celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018 and is seen to be one of the defining rock musicals.
Even though the musical has never received a West End premiere, Aida features an original soundtrack that saw Elton John and Tim Rice win best original score at the 2000 Tony Awards. The musical is inspired by Verdi’s opera of the same name, with an Egyptian princess named Aida taken into slavery, but attracting Radames, the captain of the Egyptian army. Conflicted with Amneris, characters loyalties and emotions towards one another are tested in this powerful musical.
Cold War politics are said to be told through a chess competition in Chess, which received its world premiere at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1986. Tim Rice provided lyrics for songs including “I Know Him So Well” that charted across Europe. During the rock musical, audiences follow American champion Freddie Trumper and Russian grandmaster Anatoly Sergievsky during a tense chess battle. Chess was last performed at the London Coliseum in 2018, starring Michael Ball and Alexandra Burke.
From the visionaries behind Les Miserables, Miss Saigon blended rock sounds with a love story set in the Vietnam War. Based on Madame Butterfly, the story follows Chris, an American marine serving in the war who falls in love with Kim, a young Vietnamese bargirl. With a rousing soundtrack including “The Heat is On (In Saigon)”, “Sun and Moon” and “Last Night of the World”, audiences fell in love with Miss Saigon, with the original West End run playing for over 10 years and becoming Theatre Royal Drury Lane’s longest running musical. Miss Saigon was revived in the West End in 2014, starring Eva Noblezada and Alistair Brammer.
A rock musical inspired by Puccini’s opera La boheme, the story of Rent follows creatives living in Manhattan during the 1980s AIDS crisis. Young artists struggle to survive in this story of friendship and heartbreak, packed with angsty show tunes including “One Song Glory”, “Over The Moon” and “Take Me or Leave Me”. Rent was first performed in the West End in 1998 starring Broadway cast members including Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal. The show celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016, with a national tour starring Layton Williams (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) as Angel.
Teenagers discover their repressed sexualities in Spring Awakening, a rock musical with themes of religion, sex and the adolescent mind. In the story, Wendla learns about the adult world through Melchior, a young man who she falls in love with. The pair have to keep their relationship hidden from adults around them, with no positive adult supervision guiding their decisions. Songs including “Touch Me”, “The Dark I Know Well” and “My Junk” address teenage sexuality, lust and attraction with an edgy rock sound. Spring Awakening was last performed in the West End in 2009, going on to win best new musical.
The Rocky Horror Show
Although audiences may be familiar with the “Time Warp” in the Rocky Horror film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was originally a London musical, first performed at a 60 seat performance space in the Royal Court. Growing in popularity, the musical transferred to bigger theatres, taking its final performance at the now Harold Pinter Theatre on 13th September 1980. Songs including “Dammit Janet” and “Sweet Transvestite” helped the musical gain a cult following, with the show’s wackiness helping the glam rock musical to stand out from the rest.