What are the longest-running stage plays in the world?

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/03/02: The St Martins theatre in West Street current home for the past 68 years of Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap' in London's home of Theatre - The West End. Some of the most famous Productions in the world are currently being performed here. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap has been running for almost 70 years. (Getty Images)

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It is the ultimate whodunnit.

That is because, for the most part, the only people who know the twist ending of The Mousetrap are those who have seen it.

For those yet to watch Agatha Christie’s famous play on the stage, the identity of the murderer - there is always a murderer when it comes to Christie - remains a mystery.

Actor Crispin Shingler (left), playing character Christopher Wren, performs during rehearsals for the Mousetraps first production outside the United Kingdom by the London production house. The venue for the first production was the Shanghai Lyceum Theatre. (Photo by Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Mousetrap is a whodunnit with a twist ending. (Getty Images)

Read more: The Mousetrap announces plans to resume during COVID pandemic

And you won’t get any spoilers here, either.

Plot aside, The Mousetrap is most famous for its longevity. And on this day 51 years ago, it became the world’s longest running play, a title it has never relinquished.

On 23 December 1970, Christie’s work took that accolade from the American play The Drunkard, which opened at the Theatre Mart in Los Angeles in 1933 and ran for 36 years.

At that point, The Mousetrap had chalked up an amazing 7,511 performances.

And after that, it just kept running. And running. And running.

It ran continuously in London’s West End from 25 November 1952 until 16 March 2020, when performances had to be halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it still tops our list of the world's longest running plays...

The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie at St Martins Theatre on the West End, London
A blue plaque for The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie at St Martins Theatre in the West End, London. (PA)

The play has been running in London’s West End since 1952 and there have been more than 28,000 performances.

Christie famously said she did not expect it to run 14 months.

“It won’t run that long. Eight months perhaps. Yes, I think eight months,” she said.

Les Misérables

The closed Sondheim Theatre is lit up for the show Les Miserables in London's West End, during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Les Misérables is one of London's West End's longest-running shows. (PA)

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, Les Mis is the longest running musical in the West End.

It has been running since 1985 and has notched up about 14,000 performances. It also had a 16-year run on Broadway in New York, comprising more than 6,600 shows.

The Phantom of the Opera

 Phantom of the Opera sign on Her Majesty�s Theatre in Haymarket.
The Phantom of the Opera is to permanently close in the West End having run 34 years, a blow to the UK theatre industry. Andrew Lloyd Webber�s long running musical, which opened at Her Majesty�s Theatre in 1986, will no longer run in London due to the impact of coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
The Phantom of the Opera has been running since the 1980s. (PA)

There have been more than 13,000 performances of Phantom in the West End since 1986, and a similar number on Broadway, where it opened two years later.

The Woman in Black

A general view of The Fortune Theatre showing The Woman in Black in London. Picture dated: Thursday August 2, 2018.
The Woman in Black has been running in London since 1989. (PA)

Susan Hill’s horror play has been running in London’s West End since 1989.

In that time it has had more than 12,000 performances.

It is the second longest running non-musical play in the West End after The Mousetrap.


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Blood Brothers

Melanie Chisholm formerly Mel C of the spice girls, during a photocall before she appears in the west end Musical 'Blood brothers' at the Phoenix Theatre, in central London.
Melanie Chisholm, also known as Mel C of the Spice Girls, starred in a 2009 run of Blood Brothers in London. (PA)

The revival of Blood Brothers ran in London’s West End from 1988 to 2012, taking in more than 10,000 shows.

It is the longest-running revival in West End history - it had a short initial run in 1983.


Jessica Hill, 11, from Bermondsey south London, playing the part of the Kitten in Cats,  at the New London Theatre as the record-breaking West End show comes to an end following its 21-year run.
Cats had a 21-year run in the West End. (PA)

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats closed on its 21st anniversary, having run from 1981 to 2002 in the West End, comprising almost 9,000 shows.

It held the record for longest-running West End musical for 17 years until it was overtaken by Les Misérables.

An 18-year run on Broadway between 1982 and 2000 saw more than 7,000 performances.

Mamma Mia!

The Novello theatre in Aldwych current home to 'Mamma Mia' in London's home of Theatre - The West End. Some of the most famous Productions in the world are currently being performed here. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Mamma Mia! has taken the theatre world by storm since it opened more than 20 years ago. (PA)

The Abba musical has been running for more than 8,000 performances in London since 1999.

It also had a 14-year run of more than 5,700 shows on Broadway between 2001 and 2015.

The Lion King

A general view of The Lyceum Theatre, showing The Lion King in London. Picture dated: Thursday August 2, 2018.
The Lion King has been running in London's West End since 1999. (PA)

The stage version of The Lion King has racked up more than 8,000 performances since it opened in the West End in 1999.

This was two years after it opened on Broadway, where it also continues to run.

Watch: The Mousetrap reopens after COVID pandemic break