Many of us have heard about Broadway all of our lives; to go to the theater in New York City is a drama student’s dream! However, many claim that London is REALLY the place to visit the theater. Here are some tips that might help you to navigate the very diverse and very PLENTIFUL London theater scene.
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 in a new way that loses the charm. Maybe you like to see the varied interpretations and come to your own conclusion. GO FOR IT.
If you want to play it SAFE, read the reviews for restaurants, hotels, theaters, 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 The Tina Turner Musical, School of Rock, The Jungle, Matilda- the Musical, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and more.
The New York Times: Rave reviews for Ian McKellen in King Lear, through 3 November and The King and I with Kelli O'Hara through 29 September.
London Theatre Reviews: Their favorites are King Lear, The Jungle, and Fun Home.
New shows begin every week, make sure to check what will be playing while you are there.
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 theater 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 Theater District are teeming with restaurants that cater to theater-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. 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 theater.
If your personality is 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, pizzerias, Thai restaurants, Chinese food in nearby Chinatown, and many more. Even the nights we had a great meal before the theater, we wanted a snack afterwards. We found fantastic gelato at La Gelateria one night, thanks to Tom Jr.'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 theater 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 theater 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 has several vacation rental apartments in this neighborhood for this very reason. Our guests love to walk back to their flat following their evenings at the theater. 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 theater 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 vacation rental 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. ENJOY!