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News about Britain

West End shows

A West End theatre

For many people the highlight of a visit to London is the chance to see a West End show. The West End of London, situated a stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus and Chinatown, is home to dozens of beautiful theatres. London's West End theatres are currently enjoying a boom in popularity and ticket sales. According to the Society of London Theatres, nearly 12 million people attended a West End show last year, whilst audience numbers in 2005 look set to outstrip that impressive figure.

One possible reason for the success of contemporary theatrical productions is the casting of A-list Hollywood actors in lead roles. Val Kilmer, star of films like Top Gun and Batman Forever, is currently appearing in The Postman Always Rings Twice. And he is not alone - other American movie stars performing in London include Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey, and David Schwimmer, who found international fame in the hit TV sitcom, Friends.

British screen stars are also treading the boards in West End shows. Scottish actor, Ewan McGregor, is appearing in the classic 1950s musical Guys and Dolls - an experience very different to making movies. McGregor says 'The actual process of making films is extraordinarily tedious. It is very difficult to keep your energy and focus. Whereas what is wonderful about this is we have to create it together.'

Ironically, it is not just that film stars are acting in plays nowadays but films themselves are being adapted for the stage. Amongst the films that can now be seen as plays or musicals are The Lion King, A Few Good Men, and Billy Elliot.

The longest-running shows in the West End are usually musicals. The Andrew Lloyd Webber show, Cats, ran for 21 years and 7000 performances, making its composer a multi-millionaire.

However, not all musicals do so well. Oscar Wilde: The Musical ran for only one night, closing after terrible reviews and poor bookings. It was quite possibly the biggest flop in London theatrical history.

 

Vocabulary

the highlight
a moment of vivid interest, an outstanding feature

a stone's throw
very near

a boom
a period of prosperity or sudden activity

to outstrip
to be bigger than

casting
allocation of roles

A-list
most popular

lead roles
main characters in a play

sitcom
short for situational comedy

treading the boards
being an actor, appear on the stage

musical
a theatrical piece where music is an essential element

extraordinarily tedious
long and taking a lot of effort

ironically
in the nature of irony

plays
theatrical pieces

longest-running
that has been performed for the longest time

ran for
was on the stage

bookings
reservations of seats

flop
failure