Written by Jo Hales
Awash with lights, sounds, costumes and dancing, London's West End is theater headquarters. If you're not going to the theater while on your London vacation, then you might as well just turn around and go back home. Here's how to get tickets, including discounts, to some of London's most popular shows. Fair warning: prepare to have show tunes stuck in your head for quite some time.
Dates for when popular plays like The Book of Mormon, Spice Girls, and Bridget Jones's Diary will arrive in London's West End have yet to be announced, but there will still be the big ticket, continuously running plays. Musicals such as Wicked, The Lion King, American Idiot, Les Miserables, and Jersey Boys, all have shows scheduled to run through 2012. A helpful chart detailing play overviews, prices and run times can be found here.
Advance Purchase Tickets
Purchase tickets in advance if you're traveling to London during the Olympic Games, or anytime during the summer months, especially if your schedule is limited. The safest bet is to book through a reputable ticket company like Ticketmaster. When looking for tickets, you will notice a section called "stalls". Contrary to what you might normally associate with this word, this term describes orchestra seating. Also, if purchasing in advance from the United States, use the print-at-home option for your tickets if they offer one.
Last Minute Tickets
If your travel plans are loose and you are willing to be theatrically spontaneous, then by all means, try getting half-price, or discounted tickets the day of the show. One big name, trustworthy vendor is called tkts. They have ticket booths in Leicester Square and Brent Cross and are open at 10:00 a.m. Monday thru Saturday. I utilized this method more than once in London, and had no trouble getting a decent ticket. Granted, this was springtime, so it all depends on the tourist tide. Inquire about the booking fee and view the seating chart prior to purchasing.
Each theater is different, and these tickets aren't always advertised on the website. Call or email the theater to inquire about this option. Typically, discounted stand-by tickets are only available to students and seniors and if available are offered one hour or so prior to show time.
A few theaters have discounted day tickets. Typically these limited tickets are front row seats. Obtaining these tickets usually involves a lottery, and whether or not you get them is sheer luck. It's definitely worth a try, but always contact the theater in advance to see if/when these discounts are offered.
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