Top 5 Musicals: The Starter Pack

Sunday, March 8, 2015 2

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get asked for theatre recommendations by friends and family fairly often. It sends me into a sort of panic that is usually reserved for realising you’ve left your phone at home or you have your phone, but you are running late and the maps aren’t loading. Yes, I am pretty reliant on my phone and yes, I go to the theatre often and I see a lot. Knowing what is showing is not the problem, but knowing what would appeal to you without playing 21 questions first is and not to mention the expectations that my recommendation has to be good, which is pretty weighty. It’s especially worse when someone is visiting London and wants to see a show, by which they mean a big flashy musical.

There are so many to pick from and it can be overwhelming, so for my own sanity and so that I have a go to place next time someone asks, I am going to share my favourite musicals that are currently playing in London. A sort of starter pack for the uninitiated. If you occasionally see a musical, chances are you would have seen most of these. This list isn’t for you. (But my next post will be, so come back in a few days!) If you haven’t seen these, but would like to, there is hope for you yet.

Les Miserables

No musical rec list can exist without Les Mis. It’s the world’s longest running musical for a reason, it’s epic in the true sense of the word and seriously awesome. I may be speaking as someone that has the soundtrack on her phone (it honestly brightens my daily commute) but you can trust me. If you are a history buff, just remember that musicals are not known for their historical accuracy and let it go.. (wrong musical, but you get the point). Just writing about it is enough to get “Do you hear the people sing” in my head, where it’s likely to stay for hours.

Note: It’s not one I would recommend taking small children to, because they won’t like it and the people sitting near you will not like you.

The Lion King

This one you can take small children to, but I would also recommend it to big adults, it’s a wonderful magical show that is seriously memorable. And unless you live under a rock, (instead of on one…geddit? Sorry.) you will probably be familiar with at least half the songs. The first time I saw it I was 12 years old (I remember clearly sitting in the stalls and having the animals walking right by me) the last time was last year on my 28th birthday. It has a great soundtrack for climbing a mountain, but it works equally well when driving up one if you are less athletically inclined.

The Book of Mormon

One for the boys. Not that girls won’t love it, but this is a good one for taking someone who mistakenly believes they don’t like musicals. It is funny and rude and catchy and it will probably change their mind. If it doesn’t then make sure to take them to the Angus Stakehouse across the road for a debrief and that is guaranteed to be the thing they complain about instead. (note to non-Londoners: this is a joke, not a recommendation, avoid an Angus Stakehouse like your life depends on it!)

(For the record, I prefer Avenue Q, but it’s not currently showing.)

Wicked

Wicked is my favourite and I love it and you should love it too. It has a combination of a great and engaging plot, really memorable and spectacular songs, a fabulous set and the comfort and familiarity that comes from knowing the Wizard of Oz. It’s hard for me to be objective, blinded by my love as I am, but I just think that a lot of new musicals only get one of these things right and to see them all is such a treat.

Matilda

Matilda is my favourite of the recent crop of new musicals and the only one that I think will stand the test of time. It’s another one that is great for the whole family and truly magical. If you are picking between that and Charlie and the Chocolate factory, then you should go with the one that is on this list, because it is on this list for a reason. This reason is that it’s great, whilst Charlie is sadly average at best.

That’s it. Please let me know if you agree, and especially if you disagree. Next time I will share the brand new (or just new to London or very old, but recently returned to the London stage) musicals that I am most excited about seeing in the coming months.

My Top London Theatre Tips

Thursday, August 28, 2014 1

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am going to New York in September and I am very excited, because I am planning on seeing something on Broadway for the first time ever! I have been to New York before and I have even been to the theatre in New York before (I was very lucky to see Zachary Quinto in Angels in America a few years back) but never Broadway, so I am really looking forward to it.

The problem is that shows on Broadway seem prohibitively expensive in a way that theatre in London does not. Now, I know London theatre and where to get my tickets from that won’t charge me extortionate booking fees and what deals there are so I very rarely pay anything more than £30 and often closer to £10. Which is good, because the amount of theatre I see would soon bankrupt me if it was to move to NYC. Maybe it’s because I don’t know my way around it, but google is certainly falling to unveil anything like what we have here in London.

So in the spirit of helpfulness for anyone that feels similarly lost in the London Theatre scene, here are my:

Top Tips for Cheaper Theatre Tickets:

  • Avoid Ticketmaster. If you can book your tickets directly from the theatre box office or the theatre website, do it! They are less likely to add fees on and more likely to have a greater seat selection. If they don’t sell the tickets themselves the ticket provider to which the theatre links you to is normally (but not always) the best one. If in doubt, shop around, often the same tickets are priced slightly differently depending on where they are being sold, so it’s worth a little research to find the best deal.
  • Bookmark Theatremonkey.  Theatremonkey will be your friend and faithful companion and guide you through some very difficult decisions. It has a detailed guide for each West End theatre that includes seats opinions and highlight seats that are especially terrible or a great value for the price. It’s really invaluable for when you are trying to decide which nosebleed seat to go for and exactly what ‘restricted view’ means. I’ve got some great bargains such as heavily discounted rare stalls seats based on it’s recommendations and always check if when going to a new theatre. It’s opinions are constantly updated based on new productions.
  • Look into day seats. Many theatres have super cheap tickets available on the day. They are often limited, and especially for sold out shows there may be a queue from very early in the morning (in some cases people have been known to camp in front of the theatre, but I do not recommend that) but if the show is not sold out, picking up a day ticket can be a pain free experience, especially on a week day. This is a great resource (I told you theatremonkey is fantastic) My favourite day seats are those is the National Theatre, because there are lots available, especially if you are willing to stand, and I have very fond memories of seeing The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime for only £5.
  • Time Out Theatre Offers: the number of plays I’ve seen with a Time Out voucher is bordering on ridiculous, these are often for fringe shows or west end shows that are not selling particularly well. So if you are looking for Book of Mormon it’s unlikely to pop up on there, but there are consistently great offers and it’s always worth having a look if you fancy seeing something but are not too fussed on what. A couple of times recently I’ve booked tickets only for Time Out to do an offer the day after I’ve booked them, so sometimes it’s worth waiting it out.
  • Special Schemes: There are so many cheap schemes out there, especially for young people that they probably deserve their own post, but these are my favourite and are available to everyone (if you are quick enough with the refresh button and unlike day seats can be purchased from the comfort of your home)
    1. Donmar’s Barclay’s Front Row Scheme: I’ve already talked about this, because I love it. Every Monday front row tickets go on sale for £10. In the last couple of years I’ve seen almost everything staged at the Donmar because of this scheme. Now I admit it can be stressful when unsuccessful, until you try again the following week. And if it looks to be sold out in 10 seconds, don’t despair, but keep refreshing for up to 10 minutes, as often tickets become available later as people release them from their baskets.
    2. Royal Court’s £10 Mondays: I’ve only done this once, as discussed here, but looking forward to trying it again soon.
    3. The National Theatre’s Travelex partnership that means that half the tickets for selected shows are only £15. I managed to get a Travelex ticket for Medea, which I am looking forward to seeing next week.
  • Bonus Tip: I asked my friend (and theatre going companion) for a tip and she was wonderful and offered slightly more than one, so you get 3 for the price of 1.
    1. Worth checking if your local theatre has a scheme for residents and those who work nearby”
    2. For Opera and Ballet fans: “Royal Opera House has 67 day tickets for various prices”
    3. if you can afford it, Young Vic’s Season Saver” where you get three top price tickets for the price of two, the biggest problem is trying to pick only 3 shows per season..

That’s it for now, please let me know if I’ve missed your favourite tip and if you can help me with my Broadway dilemma!