24% of all overseas visitors to London see a show in London’s famous Theatreland. Some will book ahead so that they wont miss out, other will just book on a whim, not worried too much what they see.
For some it will be their first experience of a West End musical, for others it will just be the latest in a long list of theatrical highlights.
Whichever camp you might find yourself in, here are some tips on how to get the very best from your night out at the theatre.
If you are not too worried what you see – maybe it is your first time or you just haven’t been for a long time – then I would choose one of the older shows. You are more likely to have an idea of what you will enjoy if you know some people who have already seen a show.
The long runners in London include Les Miserables, The Lion King, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Billy Elliot and Mamma Mia! Don’t forget who told you the show was good. You might be likely to agree with your friends from university but will great uncle Sid really share your views on what makes a good night out?
If you have seen most of those or you don’t have an great uncle Sid, then I would recommend the following :
Matilda – the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book written by Australian comic Tim Minchin. The musical is a sophisticated production and is in no way “just for children”, so you don’t have to find a random young Londoner to take with you.
Kinky Boots – The story of a shoe factory that is saved when it starts making boots for drag acts. A heart-warming story with great music by 80’s punk icon Cyndi Lauper.
The Book of Mormon – is a bit rude but it is very funny (if you like that sort of humour!) and the critics liked it, winning 4 Olivier Awards including best Musical. Great Uncle Sid might approve but Great Aunt Maude would definitely not! It’s written by the creators of South Park and it tells the story of how two Mormon recruits are sent to Africa to spread word of the Book or Mormon.
Beautiful – Beautiful is the story of how Carole King became the award winning song-writer that we all know and love today. If you don’t know the name you will definitely know the songs: Pleasant Valley Sunday, Take Good Care of My Baby, Up on the Roof, Locomotion, Will you Still Love me Tomorrow.
If you like your nights out at the theatre free of musicians then you might like to consider one of the West End’s plays. This is a little harder to second guess as they are not open for as long as musicals. So read some reviews once you get to town. The outstanding long runners are The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night Time, The Woman in Black and War Horse. For a laugh check out The Play That Goes Wrong.
Whatever show you see, may I just add a couple of tips for the night itself.
If you are able to choose, avoid Saturday nights. Midweek dates will have better availability and possibly some better deals.
Also, on the night make sure you are not in a rush. Make sure you have time for a meal before hand and find somewhere to eat close to the theatre. Dashing across town on a full stomach is not anyone’s idea of fun.
Most theatres are surrounded by good restaurants offering deals on pre-theatre dinning and if you can go midweek then you can quite often get a ticket/dinner deal up until the day of the performance.