4 Ways to Enjoy London TheatreFebruary 1, 2018
Many of us have heard about Broadway all of our lives; to go to the theatre in New York City is a drama student’s dream come true! My parents took us to Radio City Music Hall when I was eight years old, and so my siblings and I were introduced to the big stage early on. We saw the Rockettes, followed by a premiere viewing of “What a Way to Go” with Shirley Maclaine. I still remember her pink hair and pink Cadillac, and all her male co-stars.
My first remembrance of the greasepaint was in fifth grade, as a cast member of “Music Man.” I got to dance on the library tables as Marian the Librarian tried to keep the calm and quiet that was expected. I continued to appear in and help produce local theatre, and traveled as far as San Francisco and Los Angeles to see Broadway productions. My dream to return to Broadway for live theatre finally became a reality when I got to see “Wicked” in New York City in 2015.
Little did I know at the time, that London is REALLY the place to visit the theatre. Shortly after I started working for London Connection Vacation Apartments, my husband and I enjoyed three productions in the eight days we spent in London in March 2017. We started with “Pirates of Penzance” at the London Coliseum. Also on the docket was Carole King’s “Beautiful,” and finally we saw “Wicked.” We learned some tips along the way that might help you to navigate the London theatre scene.
- Read the Reviews
Read the Reviews
We live in an age that there is no reason to suffer through a poorly produced 2 hour play. Read the reviews of expertise critics, see reviews posted on websites, and ask around to others that have seen the show you are considering. You know if a production has been there for years, there is a reason — IT IS FANTASTIC. Yet, a new director may take a well-loved show and tweak it to seem more crude; that may be something you would prefer to avoid. I have spent more than one show looking down at my shoes for scenes that I found offensive. That doesn’t happen anymore, because I have learned to read the reviews for restaurants, hotels, theatres, etc. As you peruse the various reviews, remember there are usually some outliers. Some people just like to complain, and some tend to gush undeserved praise. I tend to ignore the extremes, and look at what the majority are saying. Here are a few places you can find reviews of current shows in London:
The Telegraph Reviews: 5 STARS for Hamilton, Amadeus, Girl From the North Country, and more
The New York Times: Good reviews for The Birthday Party and Hamilton
London Theatre Reviews: Their favorites are Mary Stuart, Girl From North Country, Hamilton, and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Starting in March: My Fair Lady! I can’t wait to read the reviews when this opens; it will probably be on the top of my list on my next trip to London.
There are so many options for getting tickets, and many are discounted. Begin by checking out websites. There are a few shows that are so popular, that there aren’t any deals available. That’s ok. Don’t let it stop you from seeing that show that is worth the full ticket price. For example, same day discount tickets just aren’t available for Wicked or Hamilton. At least, I couldn’t find any. So for some shows that you want to see for sure — buy your tickets well in advance. In fact, once you have booked your flights and accommodations, that would be my next step. Get the tickets for my MUST SEE productions.
TKTS LONDON: for same day, tomorrow, and the next day tickets that can be purchased IN PERSON ONLY. This is a booth in Leicester Square (pronounced Lester) that is near the tube station. Open 7 days a week. Be in line early — at 10 am to get the tickets you really want. Study their website in advance to know what will most likely be available. Beware of scalpers trying to sell you tickets in the city, even while you are in line at a ticket booth. Some are scammers selling fake tickets, and you will lose your money.
FROM THE BOX OFFICE: A very user friendly and reputable website to get discounted tickets for most of the productions. One of our frequent London Connection guests recommends this website highly.
OFFICIAL LONDON THEATRE: Another great website that I used to get tickets last Spring. It helped me to plan ahead which nights to attend the theatre just after I bought my flights. Use the filter if you want to search by category, such as musical, dance, opera, family, etc.
Your personality will determine what happens in this category. Covent Garden and the Theatre District are teeming with restaurants that cater to theatre-goers. They even have menus adapted for us! For example, here is a sample of menus from Clos Maggiore: closmaggiore.com/menus/. If you like to plan ahead, you can use Trip Advisor to read reviews and find the perfect dining spot right next to the production you will be attending. You can even book a table online through OpenTable.com. I especially like this article that lists some of the best restaurants near specific venues: Pre and Post Theatre Restaurants. As it points out, there is no reason to rush through an unplanned meal when you have tickets for a show. You can plan both events for the evening ahead of time and have a great experience eating at a fabulous location AND enjoying marvelous theatre.
OK, so if your personality is to be more spontaneous, Covent Garden dining is also the right place for you. There are literally dozens of options within a short distance: gelato shops, Indian food, pubs, pizza places, Thai restaurants, Chinese food in nearby Chinatown, and many more. Even the nights we had a great meal before the theatre, we wanted a snack afterwards. We found fantastic gelato at La Gelateria one night, thanks to my boss’s suggestion. He told me he gets gelato there every night he stays in Covent Garden! It really is THAT GOOD. The owners were so nice and handed out tastes to help us decide what to order. They make the gelato on location, and you can peek through the window to watch the process.
Another evening we walked past Pepe’s Pizza on St. Martin’s Lane on our way from the theatre back to the tube station. How could you resist when you see this through the window as you pass by! With the quick ride to Mayfair, we had pizza (still warm) back in our own flat. What a SUPERB EVENING. Indian food before the show, Italian afterwards, and fabulous theatre in between. Couldn’t get any better than that!
Here is another time that your personality will affect your decision. Do you like city life and the ability to step outside of your flat for almost anything you need? That convenience is a reality if you stay right in Covent Garden. London Connection Vacation Apartments has several flats in this neighborhood for this very reason. Our guests love to walk back to their flat following their evenings at the theatre. The nights they don’t have tickets, there are fabulous restaurants with open tables during show times.
Perhaps you would rather focus on museums, palaces, or shopping? Then you might prefer to stay in a nearby neighborhood and take the short tube ride to the venue. London Connection has accommodations for you as well. Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Kensington, and Belgravia await you! This neighborhood guide will help you decide the perfect flat for your personality.
Here is the bottom line: If you LOVE the theatre as I do, London is the place for you! Feel free to contact me SheilaF@LondonConnection.com for more ideas about shows, restaurants, and accommodations. I would enjoy hearing about your experiences in London. Have you found a favorite restaurant? Do you have that flat that has become like home to you? Let me know, and I will share your info with future guests so they can recreate that perfect evening in London.