Benedict Cumberbatch’s starring role as Hamlet at the Barbican has become London’s hottest show yet, with tickets selling out in minutes. Ticketing website Viagogo called it “the most in-demand theatre event of all time”.
The play – only being performed for 12 weeks – instantly became the most searched-for event on the site, with demand outstripping that for A Streetcar Named Desire starring Gillian Anderson by four to one.
There were more than 22 million visits last year to the London theatre. More than £600 million was taken in revenue from ticket sales, outstripping the cash taken by the capital’s cinemas.
Tickets for Hamlet are selling for £323.86 and up, more than five times the highest price on the Barbican’s website of £62.50.
For those not lucky enough to get their hands on a ticket, the flame-haired star returns for a fourth series of Sherlock next year, with Hartswood Films starting shooting for BBC One in January 2015.
Cumberbatch now joins David Tennant, Tom Hiddleston and Madonna as one of the stars to attract a super quick show sell-outs.
High50 takes a look at the hottest stage shows to date and the ones not to miss this year.
David Tennant as Hamlet
When Tennant played the troubled Prince of Denmark in 2008 tickets for the Novello Theatre production sold out in a morning.
A back injury forcing him to take time out didn’t prevent rave reviews on his return. “Tennant might just enter the pantheon of truly great Hamlet,” said The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer.
Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic
Ticket prices for Anderson’s appearance in the Tennessee Williams classic shot up 200 per cent in less than a month, according to Viagogo.
The X-Files star took to the stage this July, and The Observer called it an “utterly compelling” performance.
Madonna in Up for Grabs at Wyndam’s Theatre
The singer announced in February 2002 that she was to star in David Williamson’s play later that year, with Wyndham’s Theatre saying it had sold a ‘frightening’ number of tickets ahead of the show’s opening three months later.
But while audiences gave her standing ovations, critics were not so sure, calling her “mechanical”, “awkward” and “OK but hardly sensational”.
Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus
Fans – some of whom knelt at his feet when he made a surprise appearance at convention Comic-Con – enjoyed an “electric” atmosphere as the “lean, mean killing machine” took to the stage, according to reviews.
Kim Cattrall in Sweet Bird of Youth at The Old Vic
The Sex and the City star played the lead in Tennessee Williams’ play about a faded movie actress to good reviews last year, with The Independent giving the production four stars and The Guardian three. The Telegraph’s Spencer said she was in ‘incendiary form’ and ‘superbly assured and witty’ even at her lowest ebb.
The Book of Mormon
Although it doesn’t star celebrities, its creators arguably are. Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, the men behind South Park, have won nine Tony awards and a Grammy for their tale of Mormon missionaries trying to convert war-threatened villagers in Uganda.
Tickets are still available for the show at the Prince of Wales Theatre but they are steep, at more than £74 for a Friday booking in August.
The top six theatre shows to see
Kristin Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic, from 22 September 2014
The BAFTA-winning actress will star in the title role of Sophocles’ play, to be performed in the round in one of the Old Vic’s final productions under artistic director Kevin Spacey.
It will see Scott Thomas reunited with director Ian Rickson who she previously worked with on the critically-acclaimed Harold Pinter play Old Times in 2013. Tickets are available from £10 via the Old Vic’s website.
Jane Horrocks in East is East at Trafalgar Studios, from 4 October 2014
Ayub Khan-Din’s East is East became a hit when the play was made into a film in 1999 and charts the highs and lows of a life growing up in multi-racial household.
Horrocks, known for the distinctively-voiced Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous, will star in the production during its run from October until 3 January 2015.
Gemma Arterton in Made in Dagenham at the Adelphi Theatre, from 9 October 2014
Former Bond girl Arterton will take the role of Rita O’Grady in the musical where female factory workers battle Ford to keep their status, and pay, as skilled workers. Based on a true story from 1968, the show promises to be ‘funny, touching and timeless’. Tickets for Made in Dagenham are available from the Adelphi Theatre website from £25.
Cats at the London Palladium, from early December 2014
Cats is back in the West End for a strictly limited 12-week run in time for Christmas.
The original 1980s shows starred Elaine Paige and Bonnie Langford. This time, it is rumoured that X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger is in talks to play Grizabella.
The musical has been performed in more than 26 countries and seen by 50 million people worldwide since its launch in 1981.
Ralph Fiennes as John Tanner in Man and Superman at the National Theatre, February 2015
The National’s outgoing artistic director Nicolas Hytner announced in May that Fiennes will star in George Bernard Shaw’s play next spring.
Oscar-nominated Fiennes was last seen on stage in The Tempest to mixed reviews, but his star power will surely be a pull to this lesser-known play.
Nicole Kidman in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, in the West End in 2015
The movie star is said to be in talks with director Ian Rickson to return to the West End stage some time in 2015. Her last London performance, in David Hare’s The Blue Room, prompted Telegraph critic Charles Spencer to describe her as “pure theatrical Viagra”, after she briefly appeared nude.