All the sights in London can fill a holiday, but sometimes all a traveling girl has her eye on is the theater. This TravelingMom shares tips for snagging tickets to the shows you want. Sometimes the key is persistence. Don’t look here for stage photos: photography not allowed in theaters. Do peak at ticket stubs to dream about your trip to the West End.
When I travel overseas, I always have an agenda. If I’m going to Paris, the Eiffel Tower’s at the top if the list. If it’s Rome, I’m going to the Colosseum. When I bought tickets to London, I knew for sure that I’d want to catch some shows in the West End. The only problem was how to afford it.
As I planned my trip, I started by making a list of what I wanted to do most. I wanted to ride The London Eye, see the crown jewels at The Tower Of London, visit Big Ben, take the Harry Potter Studio Tour and basically just wander the streets and take in as many of the sights and sounds as I could.
At the very top of my list was the West End. If you’ve never heard of the West End, it’s the London equivalent of Broadway and every bit as good. I love the theater and would go to a musical every night if I could. Unfortunately, just like Broadway, London theater tickets aren’t cheap. I had a limited budget and needed to figure out how to see as many shows as I could for the least amount of money.
I dug in and researched my options. In the end I was able to see five of the most popular shows in London. Not only that, I scored front row seats to three of them, paying as little as £20 ($26.29). When theater tickets can cost upwards of $100, that’s an amazing deal. The great thing is that it wasn’t even that hard, at least for four of the five shows.
While I was doing my research, I discovered one site in particular that helped me the most. TheatreMonkey.com had all the London theatre info I could possibly want. When I clicked on Day Seat Information, it told me which shows have same day “stall” seats available. Stall seats are the first 6-10 rows closest to the stage.
While some may like to sit further back, I love the front row…it makes me feel like I’m almost part of the show! What I also found out was that these stall seats are usually on a first come, first serve basis on the day of the show.
After doing the research, I realized that planning ahead was out of the question. To get the best deals, I had to be able to wing it and buy my tickets the morning of the show (or the afternoon in some cases). That was fine with my because I actually enjoy winging it once in awhile.
This also worked to my advantage in a different way. I was very interested in seeing The End Of Longing, the play that Matthew Perry from Friends had written and was starring in. However, the first two days I went to buy tickets, he was sick and his stand-in was filling in. If I’d bought my tickets ahead of time, I’d have been out of luck. They don’t refund tickets unless the show is actually cancelled.
You also have to be flexible. While I had great luck with most of the shows, I had to try four times before I was able to score tickets to Book Of Mormon. I was also careful not to get my heart too set on any one show. Though I knew very little about Kinky Boots, I decided to give it a try and it turned out to be one of my favorites (how could it not be, it was all about shoes)!
I set my alarm every morning so I could race out the door and arrive as soon as the doors opened. Some days I made it, some days I hit the snooze button one too many times and went later. Still, I easily managed to get great seats to almost all of the shows I was hoping to see, even on the days I went a little late.
Since I was there in the spring, I was able to get away with arriving an hour or two late. However, London is a huge tourist draw in the summer and if I’d been visiting then, I would have made more of a point to arrive when the doors opened.
Cross your fingers
One exception to all this was Book Of Mormon, one of the hottest shows in town (warning: definitely NOT a show for the kids). They hold two lotteries every day, one for the matinee and one for the evening show. If you’re lucky enough to win their lottery, you can buy two front row seats for £20.
The only downside is that this is a hugely popular show and there can be over 100 people trying to win the 24 seats available. If you want better odds for this show, I was told that matinees usually have fewer entries than evening shows and weekdays are less popular than weekends. They also said that the best odds are for the Wednesday matinee.
I entered the matinee lottery three days in a row and left empty handed three days in a row. On the fourth day I brought my sister-in-law along and wouldn’t you know, her name was pulled out of the hat. I guess she was my good luck charm!
Here’s the lowdown on my ticket deals:
Kinky Boots: Front row – £20 ($25.20)
Wicked: Front row – £29.50 ($37.16)
Mamma Mia: Row H – £38.25 ($48.19)
The End Of Longing (starring Matthew Perry): Row Q – £15 ($18.90)
Book Of Mormon: Front row – £20 ($25.20)
Grand total: £122.75 ($150.13)
If you average it out, I paid approximately £24.55 ($30) per show, not bad considering I saw three of the shows from the front row. I did pay a little extra for Mamma Mia but I’d never seen it and I was in the mood for some disco.
While my trip was more of a mommy getaway, there are plenty of great shows for kids too. My girls are 4 and 9 years old and would have loved The Lion King, Matilda and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. It doesn’t matter if I travel to London on my own or with my family, seeing a show in the West End is always going to be at the top of my must-do list!