21 impressive theatre world records from the West End and Broadway

By | Posted on 31-Oct-2018

21 impressive theatre world records from the West End and Broadway

The opportunities for what can happen in the theatre are limitless. As performers receive even more awards and shows earn even more accolades than the ones before them, it’s no surprise that theatre records are regularly broken. Here are some incredible theatre records from around the world and fast fashion theatre facts that will leave you speechless.

World records in theatre

Record-breaking award ceremonies

Most Olivier Award nominations for a musical: Hamilton received 13 nominations at the 2018 Olivier Awards.

Most Olivier Awards won for a musical: Matilda and Hamilton received seven awards at the 2012 and 2018 Olivier Awards respectively.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

Most Olivier Awards nominations for a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child received 11 nominations at the 2017 Olivier Awards.

Most Olivier Awards won for a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child received nine awards at the 2017 Olivier Awards.

Read even more impressive facts about the Olivier Awards here.

Most Tony Awards nominations for a musical: Hamilton received 16 nominations at the 2016 Tony awards.

Most Tony Awards won for a musical: The Producers won 12 awards from 15 nominations at the 2001 Tony Awards.

Most Tony Awards nominations for a play: Angels in America received 11 nominations at the 2018 Tony Awards.

Most Tony Awards won for a play: The Coast of Utopia won seven awards at the 2007 Tony Awards.

Record-breaking performers

Who has the most Olivier Awards?: Judi Dench has won eight Olivier awards, including a special award in 2004. She won her first award in 1977 and her most recent award in 2016.

Who has the most Tony Awards?: Audra McDonald has won six Tony awards. She won her first Tony in 1994 with Carousel and her most recent in 2014 for her performance in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. 

Longest performance given by one actor: Adrian Hilton holds the record for the most extended theatre performance, reciting all of Shakespeare’s works in a ‘Bardathon’. This event lasted 110 hours and 46 mins, lasting from 16th July 1987 to 21st July 1987.

Longest run a performer has spent in a West End production: Philip Griffiths has appeared in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre since 9th October 1990, initially appearing as a swing. Later on, he was cast as Monsieur Reyer/Auctioneer and was certified by Guinness World Records on 22nd February 2016 as the actor who has spent the longest time in the same production. The Phantom of the Opera audiences can still see him in the show today!

Most theatrical performances by a performer in the same role: Catherine Russell originated the role of Margaret Brent in Perfect Crime at an off-Broadway theatre. Playing the role since 18 April 1987, she has given the most performances of any role in a production by any performer. When her record was set in 2009, she had only missed four nights of the show.

Record-breaking shows

Most visitors to a musical: On 8th March 2010, the record was set for the most visitors, with Starlight Express welcoming 13,044,148 people through its doors at the purpose-built theatre in Bochum since 12th June 1988. Although exact numbers are unknown, over 16 million people have now seen the show in Germany.

Fastest theatrical production to be produced: Sharpe Academy of Theatre Arts holds the record for the fastest theatrical production. On 29th August 2016 at 6 am, they learned they would be performing Annie. The show was then produced, directed, choreographed and rehearsed in 15 hours, with curtain up at 9 pm.

Longest play: A troupe of nine actors performed Yes Thank You Universe – A Tale of Two Attitudes in India. They started performing this play on 13th August 2015 and it took them 24 hours, 20 minutes and 2 seconds.

Shortest play: While this has not been verified, it is likely that Samuel Beckett’s Breath is the shortest play, coming in at around 35 seconds. There is no dialogue in the text, just cries. Here is the entire script:


  1. Faint light on stage littered with miscellaneous rubbish.  Hold for about five seconds.

  2. Faint brief cry and immediately inspiration and slow increase of light together reaching maximum together in about ten seconds.  Silence and hold about five seconds.

  3. Expiration and slow decrease of light together reaching minimum together (light as in I) in about ten seconds and immediately cry as before.  Silence and hold for about five seconds.

Most people performing Shakespearean works at the same time: 7,104 schoolchildren performed Shakespeare on 3rd July 2005, as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival. Children from around the country played roles from a variety of Shakespeare productions.

Most simultaneous performances of one show at the same time: Stagecoach Theatre Arts currently hold the record with 66 performances of Glad Rags in the UK, Ireland and Germany. These shows all commenced at 4:15 pm GMT on 6th December 2008.

Most expensive stage prop: The flying car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cost around £750,000 to make. The entire show cost around £6.2 million to stage, beating Cats as the most expensive production in British history.

Most expensive Broadway musical: When Spiderman: Turn of the Dark finally premiered on Broadway after months of delays, the show ended up costing $79 million to stage! The show ran until 4th January 2014 but failed to make a profit.

Photo credit: Stratford East (Wikipedia) under Creative Commons 3.0