West End Wendy
Theatre For Less

During the previews of Wicked in 2006, I saw the show for £5 thanks to circle preview prices - that’s a West End show for the price of a KFC! Those very seats are now £25 a seat, five times what they were only four years ago. With Shrek announcing upper circle seat prices of £55 for its London opening at the Drury Lane, how do we theatre fans feed our theatre habit without breaking the bank?

I personally find that dropping into the box office half an hour before the show will usually get you a discount. I once got Sister Act best available seats for £25 rather than the listed price of £60 just by turning up half an hour before the show.

Quite the opposite applies for day seats, something that came about in the West End with Wicked. You turn up at the box office when it opens and get given seats (usually front row) for a discount price. Note that you can only buy two of these per person. Wicked day seats are £25, but it is a lot more epic than just turning up at 10am. Fans have been known to camp out overnight for these tickets, which were advertised in the place of Broadway’s “lottery” tickets. Because the Apollo Victoria Theatre is situated between two main roads, there would simply be nowhere to put all of the lottery hopefuls, so the day seating allocation was put into place. Other shows that offer day seats are Hair, Sister Act, Grease and Billy Elliot.

One theatre that does have the luxury of being situated off a main road is the Savoy theatre, where Legally Blonde is playing. Legally Blonde lotteries off best available seats for £25. You turn up two hours before the show and put your name in the Bruiser Bag. Half an hour later they pull out the lucky winners who are each entitled to two seats at the discounted price.

Other discounts available include Equity and student Discount, which will get you seats for most West End Shows at a discounted price. Theatre memberships are always a good way to learn more about theatres and also come with benefits, which in a lot of cases means discounted tickets! Entry Pass at the National is brilliant gives you £5 tickets for every performance and workshops with performers and directors are available to members too. Also being a groundling at the Globe is only £5.

Various ticketing schemes are around such as Play By Play. These schemes charge an annual membership fee in exchange for West End Show tickets that set you back only a £2/£3 booking fee. I’m not a member of any of these schemes myself, but i have heard they are a great way to pay next to nothing for theatre if you are available at short notice.

Leicester Square and the Internet are full of discount ticket booths and websites, some definitely more reliable than others. When using Leicester Square, I recommend the TKTS booth, which offers great discounts for shows when you book on the same day. A word of caution, though, if you are buying tickets from an agent around London, always find out where in the theatre the seats are before giving up your hard earned cash. Also, always ask to see the tickets and check you’re not paying more than face value. Having worked in a theatre for some time I have heard my fair share of “but the man said they were the best seats” stories. don’t get ripped off!

Online things are generally a lot easier. Lastminute.com offers great theatre offers so long as you don’t mind not knowing where you’re sitting. londontheatrebookings.com offers fantastic discount on advance seats and sometimes even better discounts on the day too!

Something that many West End theatregoers don’t often think about is Fringe theatre. Yes, you’re not going to get the massive sets and production numbers at a fringe show, but a fringe production will usually set you back below £20. I for one have seen some fantastic shows at venues such as the Menier Chocolate Factory and the Hen and Chicken’s Theatre. The Menier Chocolate Factory is famous for producing shows that transfer to the West End - recently Little Shop of Horrors, A Little Night Music (which also transferred to Broadway) and Sweet Charity, so why not see them on the fringe for half the price of a West End show?

I hope this blog has helped all you lovely theatre fans out. I know music is meant to be the food of love, but what good is a West End musical if you pay top price and can’t eat for a week.

Follow Wendy’s Advice! WEW Xxx

It Starts!

I saw my first West End show at 15 (late starter, I know) and haven’t looked back since. The show in question was Grease, at the Victoria Palace Theatre -where Billy Elliot is now playing and has been for a number of years.

I remember everything about that first experience of something that would become very much a part of my life and my personality. When we walked into the foyer I remember not only being struck by the shiny new merchandise and the cast recording playing, but by how beautiful the building was and, something that I still notice today, THAT theatre smell. All theatres have a smell. Well, the older ones at least just have that worn smell, but it’s not unpleasant. It’s the kind of worn smell that gives you an indication of how many years that theatre has been standing there housing these amazing shows that generations before and generations after me will enjoy.

Grease was fantastic and was followed by an impromptu trip to the stage door. I don’t remember many of the actors from this show, although looking at my programme there are performers who were in Grease who I have seen in many productions since. One person I do remember meeting, though, is the lovely Hannah Waddingham. I remember thinking how friendly she was. Myself and my friend were with a couple of family friends, and those friends had got talking to the company manager, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember. He told me something that day that would come true pretty quickly - “Remember the name Hannah Waddingham, she’s going to be huge.” Now, jokes about height aside, Hannah Waddingham is now a very well known name in musical theatre, having played Lady of the Lake both in London and on Broadway amongst other things, and I still make a point of going to see anything she’s in because she was a part of that very first West End Musical experience.

I think everyone remembers their first West End show. Tell me about yours!