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Our Favourite Musicals of the Last 25 Years

Jigsaw is 25 years old this year! To celebrate, here are our picks for our favourite new musicals since 1995 (sorry Les Mis)! 

As much as we love clever revivals of the classics and long-running blockbuster shows, there’s been a wave of great new musicals in the last two and a half decades…


Our Favourite Musicals of the Last 25 Years
8. Once

Based on the independent Irish 2007 film of the same name, Once the musical maintained its stripped-down feel. It’s a story about a guy and a girl – literally, “Guy” and “Girl” – and their friendship formed over busking and music. The cast pull double-duty, also playing their instruments.

It’s an utterly charming experience, even as it explores themes of loneliness and lost loves.


7 Dear Evan Hansen

Premiering in 2015, the full impact of this new musical is yet to be seen – it only made it to the UK in late 2019. But the combination of pop music and serious subject matter, reflecting the difficult experiences of high school and being a teenager, has seriously resonated with audiences, making it a worthy addition on this list.

A film adaptation is in the works…


6 Hairspray 

With 1960s R&B-influenced songs, Hairspray tells the story of a high school student who dreams of appearing on a local dance TV show. However, behind the catchy songs (we still have “Good morning Baltimore!” stuck in our heads), colourful sets and the TV smiles of The Corny Collins Show are some serious themes about body image and racial discrimination.

It was turned into a fun film in 2007 that more than did the show justice.


5 Billy Elliot the Musical

Another musical based on a film, but when the result is this great, we can’t complain! Set amidst the miners’ strike, the eponymous Billy Elliot is a young boy with a passion for ballet, much to the consternation of his father.

Elton John wrote the music for the stage version, none other than Tom Holland (the future Spider-Man!) played Billy for a time on the West End, and the musical’s powerful message of acceptance is still relevant today.


4 Matilda the Musical 

Dennis Kelly adapted and Tim Minchon wrote music and lyrics for Matilda, based on the classic children’s book by Roald Dahl. It’s a powerful and timeless story of a neglected child, her unappreciated intelligence, her hidden powers and friendship with her teacher.

Premiering in late 2010, it swept the 2012 Olivier Awards and had a good run at the 2013 Tony Awards too. The musical has proven so successful that recently it was revealed a new film version is in the works!


3 Wicked

It feels like a West End institution by now, so it’s hard to believe that this clever part-prequel spin on The Wizard of Oz only premiered in 2003. It follows the story of two friends and how one becomes the Wicked Witch of the West and the other Glinda the Good Witch.

The Wicked team have gone all-in on educational resources and even a writing competition, which promise to keep this musical alive in children’s imaginations for years to come. Plus, the stand-out song ‘Defying Gravity’ still gives us shivers!


2 Hamilton

The American history is maybe a little lost on us in the UK – but there’s no denying the sheer fun of being in “the room where it happens” for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap-musical. Hamilton is now a global phenomenon, and Miranda has since written music for Moana and appeared in Mary Poppins Returns.

Now there’s news that a filmed version – with the original Broadway cast no less – is coming to our screens from Disney!


1 The Lion King

Just under the cut-off (it premiered in 1997), Julie Taymor’s adaptation of the Disney film has become a classic in its own right.

The way the performers interpret animal movements through puppetry was a game-changer and it’s still breath-taking to see on stage. Of course, the songs retained from the film – music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice – aren’t half-bad either!

(And Jigsaw Agency‘s Theo played Young Simba for over three years!)

What are your favourite musicals of recent years? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Jigsaw Performing Arts, established 1995, is dedicated to developing performance skills, promoting self-expression and building confidence. We offer performing arts classes for children aged between 3 – 18. Find your nearest school by entering your postcode into the search on our home page