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How to Finesse West End Theater: What’s Worth it and What isn’t

By August 6, 2019 August 7th, 2019 6 Comments

Calling all Broadway lovers! If you absolutely love musicals and plays but don’t like the prices New York has to offer, West End theater is for you! While some tickets can get expensive, they will still be more affordable than New York. West End theater doesn’t only have the best rates to offer, either, they also have many of their own plays and musicals exclusive to London, such as “Betrayal” and “Six.” However, even if a play or musical is inexpensive it might not be worth it. 

I’m here to give you a breakdown on two plays and three musicals I saw in the West End in London: what they were about, the rating I give them, if they were worth seeing, their location, and the price I paid for it. 

west end theater with curtain stage and chairs london

Where to stay in the West End

In terms of location, the majority of West End theater is close to each other and located near Piccadilly Circus, a stop on the Tube’s Piccadilly Line. If you want to stay in the area, there are several 4.0+ star hotels in and around Piccadilly Circus such as The Z Hotel, The W, and St. James’s Hotel and Club.

West End in London: Best Eats

If you’re looking for food either before or after I recommend Dirty Bones Soho or any Greene King Pub like Leicester Arms.

Dirty Bones is definitely one to splurge on. Everything I had was delicious, I recommend their Mac Balls, Cheeseburger Dumplings, and their Top Dog drink from the bar. 

If you’re more into pubs, Greene King owns a lot of pubs in the UK and feature the same food and drink menu at each place so it’s a safe bet if you like traditional pub food such as fish and chips and savory pies. 

West End Theater: The Finessing Part

As for the deals, I mainly purchased tickets through the application TodayTix (you can also use their website). TodayTix is wonderful, they already have discounted tickets and they also constantly have £20-40 lotteries for seats in the Stalls section or even the front row. They also occasionally have a 24-hour flash sale on certain shows and you can get tickets as low as £15. 

Now many people know about the TKTS booth in New York (you show up the day of the show and can get any leftover seats discounted), TodayTix one-ups the TKTS booth and makes it so that you can get great discounted seats from your bed. However, if you do like going in person London has their very own TKTS booth located in Leicester Square where you can purchase tickets for the day of, the next day and the following.

Onto the shows!

Hamilton in the West End

Musical: Hamilton

Rating: Broke the scale

Price: £200+ for Stalls seat G15

Purchased through: Ticketmaster.com

Location: Victoria Palace Theatre

Description: Okay so if you haven’t heard of Hamilton by now, I’m sorry but you must not have internet at home (but to that I ask, then how are you even reading this article??). In its most basic description, Hamilton describes the life of Alexander Hamilton. Although Mr. Hamilton is on the 10 dollar bill, not many people knew much about the founding father before this musical. Like the fact that he was an immigrant, fought in many battles for the United States’ Independence, and was George Washington’s Treasurer. 

Hamilton in London

Me nerding out because I was able to touch the stage

Was it Worth it? Um…YES. A thousand times yes. If you’re not familiar with the soundtrack at all, I suggest listening to it before the musical. I found the experience of knowing every line, beat, and crescendo made the musical that much more memorable and surreal. Okay so you don’t have to be that extra about it but I do really believe even listening to it once can help you understand the story and music better. Because most of it is R&B and Rap, it can be hard to understand all the words they’re saying the first time around.

You also do not need to know the history or even like history at all to enjoy this play. So what are you waiting for? Go see it!

Company Musical West End Theater

Musical: Company

Rating: 2/5

Price: £32.50 for Stalls seat T18

Purchased through: TodayTix

Location: Gielgud Theatre

Description: Company is about a woman, Bobby, who is unable to commit to a relationship but who wishes for marriage. Throughout the musical you see her interact with her best friends, five married couples, and three men she’s currently seeing. The musical is composed of short snapshots that begin and end with the celebration of Bobby’s 35th birthday.

Was it worth it? No, but it might’ve just been me–everyone around me was laughing constantly and only occasionally I would chuckle. I honestly just felt like Bobby was annoying, I related to her at times but every other scene she would tell her friends that she should have married them which I feel like is a weird thing to say, especially for their significant others. 

However, seeing the legendary Patty Lupone was very cool and I did appreciate the gender-bending. In the original musical the main character is a man with three girlfriends with his best friends who are all straight, in the current one the main character is a woman and they replaced one of the straight couples with a gay couple. Even with the parts I liked, I felt for £32 I could’ve seen a different play or musical that I would’ve enjoyed more.

Waitress in London's West End

Musical: Waitress

Rating: 6/5

Price: £22.50 for Upper Circle seat F33 

Purchased through: TodayTix

Location: Adelphi Theatre

Description: Based on the film written by Adrienne Shelly, Waitress is a musical centered around the main character’s unexpected pregnancy. Jenna Hunterson is a waitress at a pie shop with her friends Becky and Dawn when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant with her abusive husband’s child. She then has an affair with her gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter. Looking for a better life for her and her unborn child, she saves money to enter a pie contest. But of course, things don’t go as planned. 

I’d also like to mention that the musical’s music and lyrics were written by Sara Bareilles and she really killed it.

Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. I am 100% a supporter for this musical, from the music, to the cast, to the stage design, to literally everything, this musical has it all. I don’t want to spoil it by saying my favorite part so literally just go see it. Like now.

via GIPHY

Side Note: I tried the apple pie, it tasted like it was just sugar and apples, so I was kind of disappointed, I was really hoping it would taste like how all the characters described it (I guess Jenna didn’t share the recipe).

 

Plays that aren’t “playing” currently in the West End–But ones you should keep on your radar

(Pun totally intended by the way)

Betrayal in the West End

Play: Betrayal

Rating: 3/5

Price: £18 for Balcony Standing Seats

Purchased through: TodayTix

Location: Harold Pinter Theatre

Description: Betrayal, written by Harold Pinter, is based on Pinter’s own life. The play is revolved around a 7-year old affair between Emma and her husband’s best friend, Jerry. However, the “betrayal” isn’t only the affair, as the play progresses it’s revealed that all of the characters betrayed each other multiple times in some way, shape, or form. 

Pinter tells the story in reverse, this is conveyed through the stage’s moving wall and revolving stage, so the audience can physically see the characters go back in time. The cast is just the three of them with the exception of a few scenes with Emma and Robert’s daughter and a waiter at a restaurant.

 Was it worth it? Yes and no. If you’re a Marvel fan like me, I would recommend going to see Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Cox in action because seeing them in real life is 1,000 times cooler than seeing them on a screen. 

However, in terms of the actual play, I found myself bored at times. Also, like many other Marvel fans, I really only wanted to go to see Hiddleston act and get the chance to meet him after. If you’re going for the same reasons, I recommend sprinting after the play ends because by the time I got out the line was enormous. I was able to get both Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox’s autographs, but Tom was only signing for about 2 minutes when the guard said everyone had to go home. 

Autographs in the West End

Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox’s autographs!

While in the theater, I noticed a trend: Betrayal resurfaces every few years. Here’s the link to see when Betrayal will be back!

 

Curious Incident in London

Play: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Rating: 4/5

Price: £25 for Stalls seat T28

Purchased through: TodayTix

Location: Piccadilly Theatre

Description: Based on the novel by Mark Haddon, the play starts off as a sort of mystery story to find out who killed the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, but then gets so much deeper than that. 

The main character, Christopher Boone, who has an autism spectrum condition, is determined to find out who killed his neighbor’s dog. Unlike most plays, the story is told through Boone’s writing and is read out-loud by his teacher, Siobhan. This and other instances make it a play-within-a-play. The one incident with the dog ultimately makes Boone’s family life unravel. In terms of what happens with him and his family, you’ll just have to watch to see what happens! 

Was it worth it? Yes! The Curious Incident is very heartfelt, relatable, and lets you peer into what it’s like for some families who have sons or daughters on the spectrum. The stage design and creativity for the stage direction gets an A+. For example, they even had the actor playing Christopher walk on the wall. I will say though, the play gets very loud at times and has flashing lights so if you’re sensitive to either of those, this might not be the play for you.

Here’s the link, just in case it resurfaces!

Finessing not just the West End

While in London, I also saw shows not purchased through TodayTix. I was able to see Wicked and Phantom of the Opera through my school. If you’re studying abroad, your school will most likely have discounted activities for you (not just for shows but for things like the London Eye and the Harry Potter Tour). So, pay attention to your email to get those deals and finesse not only West End theater but also all the London activities your heart desires! 

Now, I’m assuming you didn’t just come to London for West End theater, if that’s the case be sure to check out “What can you do with $150 USD in London, England” and “A Week with Family in the UK: Our London Itinerary.” Now go see those shows!

How to finesse London's West End

Tell us: Have you seen a show on the West End? What did you see? Did you like it?

 

Monica Logroño

Author Monica Logroño

Since a young age, Monica has always been interested in photography and videography. Little did she know she would fall in love with journalism, and it would soon turn into a great passion of hers. She's had had the opportunity to join several shows on Temple's campus, be a Social Media intern for Miami-Dade Animal Shelter in South Florida, and be a Fundraising and Events intern for The Eve Appeal while studying abroad in London. Through these experiences, she's learned how to hone her writing and editing skills as well as work in different environments.

More posts by Monica Logroño

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Andi says:

    We saw Mamma Mia a years ago in the West End and had a blast. It feels far more accessible to me than Broadway in NYC. I love that area as well – the shops and streets are a lot of fun!

  • I’ve walked through the West End many times on my long layovers but have never actually been there when night falls and curtains rise. We went to Rock of Ages last year and had a blast. It’s not just going to the theater but the whole evening around it that makes it so much fun.

  • I can’t believe you figured out tickets to Hamilton in London! I would have loved that – but I did catch it in Boston. Awesome review, I love the West End – maybe more than Broadway!

  • Juliann says:

    These are great tips. I’d love to see a show in the West End. I didn’t even think about doing that on my last trip to London. But I am going to pin this post so I can reference it next time. Thanks!

  • Jack Rasmussen says:

    Wow!! Absolutely blown away by this article! When I visit London, I am definitely checking out West End, and all of these interesting plays. I love the in-depth description of the experience watching each play! I felt like I was there! Thanks for all the tips, ratings, and pictures!

  • Heather says:

    Lots of good tips in this post. I wish I would have known about the discount tickets before I went to London. I figured they had something like NYC has but didn’t know you didn’t have to be there in person. That would have been a game-changer for me! I saw Hamilton in NYC a year ago and it’s freaking fantastic. In London, I saw my absolutely favorite Les Mis and it was the best of any time I’ve seen it (which is somewhere between 20-30 times)!

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