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London Theatre-Great shows

Old Sep 9th, 2004, 05:53 PM
  #1  
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London Theatre-Great shows

My husband and I will be in London in October and are very interested in seeing some shows. We have been told that London has the very best productions. We have also been told that we need to see "The Lion King". What are your suggestions for shows worthy to see? Should we buy same day tickets or ahead of time? We would like orchestra seats. What do you suggest?
Thank You.
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Old Sep 9th, 2004, 06:08 PM
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You'll need to tell us what kinds of shows you like. I gather you've never seen Lion King. Have you seen other old standards like Phantom of the Opera (still one of the best things to see in London)? Are you mainly interested in musicals or are you looking for some classical stuff or cutting edge new things? I have no idea what someone means when they say you "need to see. . ."

I'm a theatre nut, and usually see up to 18 or so shows during my two weeks in London. Other than a few big hits for which I buy my tickets by calling the box office ahead of time and having them hold them for me, I have great luck at the TKTS booth with half-price tickets. They only sell top price tickets, but at half price plus a small service charge. There is only one of these official booths sponsored by the Society of London Theatres and it is a free standing building right in the little park at Leicester Square. All the other "half-price" booths scattered around the same square can be major rip-offs.

I suggest you look at the following site and get a start on what sounds good to you. It will also show what shows are available "today" at the TKTS booth if you click the TKTS symbol on the right hand side.
www.officiallondontheatre.com

Just so you know they will call orchestra seats "the stalls". Front mezzanine is either called "Royal Circle" or "Dress Circle". Because many London theatre houses are very flat and have tiny, cramped seats, often that front row of the Royal or Dress Circle may be your best bet.

I love London theatre, but I'm not so sure I'd agree that they always have the very best productions. I've seen a number of shows on Broadway and London stages and the London ones CAN be smaller and not as good. THE FULL MONTY and THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE immediately come to mind, both watered down from the Broadway versions.
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Old Sep 9th, 2004, 06:22 PM
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You have been a VERY big help to my husband and I. We are also theatre nuts. We have seen numerous shows (including Phantom and we would see it again)and are interested in musicals for the most part. I grew up in musical theatre and it is a part of me. With that said, we will see anything even if it is not a musical if it comes highly recommended.
Thanks So Much!
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Old Sep 9th, 2004, 09:45 PM
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Patrick is our resident expert on London theatre and he is absolutely correct about using the stand alone TKTS booth in Leicester Square. The other so called "half price" ticket venues are to be avoided.

PThurman - another good website is whatsonstage.com. Lots of good info on the London theatre scene, reviews, openings, closings etc. You can also sign up for their weekly email to keep you updated.

The National theatres have specials where you can purchase a ticket for 10 GBP. Nationaltheatres.org.uk It was great getting a front row seat for 10 GBP.
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Old Sep 9th, 2004, 10:09 PM
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I've never seen the Lion King, and I don't think I would (unless I got free tickets or had children under 10 with me). Seeing the Disney movie when my kids were small was enough for me. I generally prefer serious or dramatic plays and there are no shortage of those. I agree with the suggestion to consider the National Theatre 10 pound tickets.
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Old Sep 9th, 2004, 11:14 PM
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I am also a musical theatre nut, grew up with it and now my daughter is a musical theatre actress. Patrick's suggestion of using the half price ticket booth is a good one but if you aren't familiar with using it, check out the website as he suggested because they only sell certain shows on certain dates and you don't have a choice of seats. They do only sell top shows and you can usually get a good seat. However, if there is something you really want to see you might want to get the tickets ahead of time.

I don't know when you are going in October but I just saw on Broadway.com that Richard Dreyfus will be opening in "The Producers" in the West End. The press release said it's opening in November but it looks like there are preview shows starting Oct 22. Don't know if you have seen this show or how Richard Dreyfus will be but that might be one suggestion. Unfortunately I didn't get to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in NYC but I did see Jason Alexander and Martin Short in the LA production and it was good.

Another suggestion might be "Blood Brothers". We just saw that several weeks ago in London. It is a British musical and a little different but I enjoyed it. I only really got to know more about the show after my daughter was in a production of it. It doesn't get done too often in the US although it was on Broadway at one point. It is not a lush, full scale musical if that's what you want and some people think it's a little melodramatic but we enjoyed the production. It does give a good glimpse of life in Liverpool.

Since we were only in London for a few days and I didn't want to spend time in line at the TKTS booth, I bought our tickets ahead of time online. If you look at londontheatredirect.com, they do offer up to half price off on some shows. The shows on this list are not the more popular ones like Lion King, Mama Mia or Phantom and I would only use this site for the discounted shows because they actually charge more than face value on some other shows. I would also have to agree with Patrick that the London productions I have seen are not necessarily as good as New York probably because of stage size.

Patrick-I am amazed that you see that many shows in a two week period. I thought I was bad, once I went to New York and in 4 days, saw 6 shows.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 03:54 AM
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Adding my few cents worth: I've seen Lion King and Phantom in both NYC and London. I thought the London version of Phantom to be staged better than NYC -- the dropping of the chandelere at the beginning was much more intense in London; however, with Lion King the larger size of NYC theater let NYC have some elaborate stage effects that were not possible in London. As someone else has already, I recommend Blood Brothers -- not for kids, but not likely to be seen outside the UK since the story line does not travel well. Cats, if still playing at the London theater with the "moving orchestra" seats is excellent (but that was quite a few years back when I saw it). Lady in Black is good as a "typical" few-player British suspense, mystery piece. Typically we have booked tickets ahead of time by calling the theater directly during our trip planning -- but we want to be sure of seeing specific shows on relatively specific nights.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 04:36 AM
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A couple of "biggies" coming up. Andrew Lloyd Weber's new musical THE WOMAN IN WHITE is currently in previews. So far the unofficial reviews are pretty mixed. Patricia Routledge (Mrs. Bucket in Keeping up Appearances) is opening in THE SOLID GOLD CADILLAC, a rather classic 1950's comedy. And MARY POPPINS is opening before Christmas. And yes THE PRODUCERS with Richard Dreyfus is opening soon.

Anything you can see at The National should be good, including those wonderful 10 pound specials. I got an email newsletter from The National just yesterday announcing what a huge and financial success that was, despite people thinking they were crazy for offering such low price tickets. In addition to their quality, I find the three theatres there to be the most comfortable in London.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 05:02 AM
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WillTravel, not having children, I never saw the movie.

I went to the Lion King, just because it was one of the few shows playing on Sunday in London.

I loved it! I liked it the best of 10 shows I have seen in the West End.

Keith
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 06:03 AM
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Many thanks to all who have helped me in my quest for theatre. I trully appreciate all of you! I believe my husband and I have some very good leads. I have checked out the various websites you all have recommended and found them very helpfull.
Thanks Again for everything!!
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 06:10 AM
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I'd advise against buying top price tickets. The last few plays/shows I've seen weren't really up to scratch, but with cheap seats you're not left feeling too disappointed.

Try to couple it with (if it's in/near The Strand) a digestif in The American Bar at The Savoy.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 06:19 AM
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I totally disagree with that last statement. To paraphrase a "brilliant" poster here, "if you can afford to go to the theatre, you should always go first class". I guess if you can't afford good seats for all the plays, you might be smarter to stay home or just pick out the shows you are sure you won't be wasting your money on.

I would enjoy even a mediocre play much more from a seat where I can at least hear and see well, than from a cheap seat way in the back. In fact, I suppose my opinion of some shows has been dimmed a bit by being in a seat that didn't put me in the best frame of mind or didn't help me to see, hear, and understand to the fullest.

And frankly if a play stinks, it stinks. It doesn't make me feel any better that I've only lost 25 pounds instead of 40 pounds if I've given up a precious evening to sit through a lousy show.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 08:21 AM
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Thanks for all the great information in this thread! I'm taking my daughter for a SURPRISE trip to London to celebrate her 13th birthday in March, and I'm hoping we'll get to see 4-5 plays while we're there. Closer to March, I'll have to inquire about which shows are best to purchase in advance and which are safe to take a chance at TKTS.

It's going to be so hard to keep this a secret for six more months. Ever since my daughter's 10th birthday, when I took her to see Kiss Me Kate in San Francisco, she's been a total fanatic about musical theater. Now it's a birthday tradition to see a musical or play in another city (usually Seattle or San Francisco).

Paula, how wonderful that your daughter was able to realize her dream. That is a great inspiration for young theater enthusiasts like my daughter, who studies voice, acting and dance and hopes to study at Cambridge and be a "Broadway Baby." I'll tell her about your daughter's success!
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 08:25 AM
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I'd order Mary Poppins tickets as soon as you can, Carmen. I'm willing to bet it will be a long time before you'll see them at the TKTS booth.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 08:56 AM
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Carmen-Thanks for your reply. My daughter is just beginning her career and is not a "Broadway Baby" yet but hopefully is on her way. The theater has been wonderful for her, even if she ends up doing something different down the road, it has made her a confident, focused, and hard working young woman. I have had "friends" who said to me "How could you LET her major in musical theatre in college, what kind of job will she get?" I can't imagine a parent who would discourage their child from following their dreams. Yes, it can be a difficult life but it's all she's ever wanted to do. Your daughter will appreciate all the support you give her.

Besides Mary Poppins, your daughter would probably enjoy Mama Mia if you haven't already seen it. I am sure she would like any of the shows, my friend's daughter is 12 and she has seen just about everything (unless it is a very adult content). Enjoy your trip to London, let us know how the surprise works out.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 11:53 AM
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Thanks for the tips, Patrick and Paula! I'm planning on "Les Mis" and "Complete Works of Shakespeare" for sure, and was also thinking she'd enjoy Mamma Mia. I'll also consider Mary Poppins now that you mention it. There's so many to choose from, it's tough! Here on the West Coast (rather than the West End), we've seen touring productions of Chicago, The Producers, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Rent, and loved them all. (Saw Phantom on our first and only trip to London in 2001.)

p.s. Paula, where does your daughter study?
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 02:36 PM
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AVOID THE WEST END...

all the best shows these days are at the national theatre and barbican and a few other non-commercial theatres.

the west end is having financial difficulties. unfortunately, this has made producers take the safe route. this being the overworn, lame shows that everyone has already seen in spokane, washington or basingstoke. likewise they are resorting to bringing in american stars who treat being in a west end show like its some kind of pilgrimage. while perhaps commercially successful (or at least make less of a loss), the results are never good.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 02:39 PM
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Keith, that was interesting to hear that you liked the Lion King. I'll reconsider my prejudice .
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 04:21 PM
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Patrick

Thanks for the info about Patricia Routledge. I have long enjoyed her work on PBS. I have my ticket for the Producers already. I agree with you - the 3 theatres on the South Bank are great. The 10GBP specials are one of the best deals around.
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Old Sep 10th, 2004, 04:27 PM
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I was in London last year and saw "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". I loved the movie as a child and the musical didn't disappoint me. There were a wide range of ages in the audience and everyone seemed to be having fun, especially the four adorable girls sitting in front of me. The flying car was one of the best special effects I have seen in the theater.

I got those tickets at the theater. I have never bought tickets in advance. I go directly to the theater and ask to have the best tickets available. I have never had any problem with this. I did use the
half price ticket booth once last year for "Tell Me on a Sunday" (since closed). There was no line and I got great seats.

I also recommend the very British shows--Mousetrap, Blood Brothers, Woman in Black.

On Officiallondontheatre.com I saw a show called "Solid Gold Cadillac" which I believe opens this month. It is a comedy starring the wonderful Patricia Routledge. If I was in London now, it would be my top pick.

I hope you enjoy whatever shows you choose.
I am envious. London is my favorite city and I can't wait to return--Laura
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