There is something so quintessentially London about going to see a show. The amount of talent on display in London on one road (well, in a similar area anyway) is astounding. With so much on offer, here’s my guide to seeing some of the hottest shows on the West End for less, last minute, and just general thoughts on the shows.
West End Show Number One: Dreamgirls
Dream Girls was the first show I saw after moving to London. I didn’t see it at a discount – as there was a group of us going, we paid full price. However, there is a ticket lottery available on TodayTix; it’s the go-to app for seeing a show in London. I saw the show when Amber Riley was still playing Effie White – and I’m not over exaggerating when I say I was moved to tears. To be fair, that’s a common occurrence when it comes to musicals and me.
West End Show Number Two: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Not a musical per se, but still a huge show on the West End. I’ve managed to see it twice – I’ll always fork over money for Harry Potter. And that choice of using the word always was not deliberate – let’s just all agree now Snape was the worst and a fairly horrific bully. Both times I went, tickets cost £40 for the two nights. You can try and get them via the Friday Forty lottery, which is available Friday at 1 pm.
Your other options and this is how I went, was literally going on the website on the day of. It’s down to luck, but there’s no harm checking. The tickets aren’t the greatest; I was once in the second last row in the theatre, and the second time I had a restricted view. But if you’re a Harry Potter fan, and you’re as broke as I am, this is your best option!
West End Show Number Three: Aladdin
I won lottery tickets to Aladdin, and they were in the third row. Two tickets for £20 each was not bad – yes, we had to crane our necks a little, but I could see every individual abdominal muscle of each dancer. The lottery is available through their website. The storyline isn’t exactly going to blow your mind – we all grew up with it – but it’s a very fun, glitzy show. The set design is just incredibly astounding, the special effects are wondrous and the Genie absolutely steals the show. I did find the leads to be a bit underwhelming, and their chemistry wasn’t particularly convincing, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the show.
West End Show Number Four: Hamilton
When my parents visited in May, I wanted to take them to a show as a way to show my appreciation for all the support they’d given me with my move to London. I called them a month or so in advance and asked them what they wanted to see – My dad being one, American, and two, a history nerd, wanted to see Hamilton. I scoffed over the phone and told him he should have asked me a year in advance.
Fast forward to a week before they were due to arrive. It was a Monday, around midday, and I was at work. I had recently discovered that returned tickets to Hamilton are resold Monday 12 pm for the next fortnight. And, as fate would have it, there were three tickets in the middle of the third row for a show the Friday of the following week. You bet your ass I snapped them up as soon as I could. I was broke as could be (end of the month, pre-paycheck) but time difference worked for me for once and my dad was still awake, as was his credit card.
It is possibly the luckiest I’ve ever been. Tickets were £80 each, with the row behind us going up to £150. The drastic price jump was due to the fact the Victoria Theatre has a high stage, so the view at the front can be cut off (we were fine, being as my parents and I are all relatively tall people). Our seats were spectacular – we were close enough to see the sweat running down the actors’ faces; I got sprayed by Hamilton’s spit (#blessed), and Lafayette winked at my mum. It was definitely the best show I’ve seen in London – I was full on blubbering at the end. Like, full-on ugly Kim Kardashian crying, except I couldn’t make a noise because I didn’t want the entire audience to hear my tears.
West End Show Five: Chicago
Chicago was the show I took my parents to as a thank you – there was a deal in which we got nibbles, champagne, and a private pre-show and interval room. We saw it when Cuba Gooding Jnr was playing the role of Billy Flynn. As a big fan of the movie, I thought the musical would exceed it easily – there’s nothing like seeing something live, right?
Well, not quite. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, because it was still a great show and the people were fantastic performers. As the theatre is quite small, the orchestra is on the stage, which is fun when they play it very tongue in cheek and incorporate them. But then the other half of the time, you’re picturing what the show would be like if they weren’t on stage, and could perform some really spectacular dance numbers. Cuba Gooding Junior isn’t as up to par as the other performers when it comes to singing, but he did seem to bring a bit of energy to the show regardless.
West End Show Six: Book of Mormon
This is another one I didn’t win lottery tickets for; I got last minute tickets as a friend from school was in town. Our tickets were £50 each, Row M, and we were fairly happy with them. There is an online lottery every Wednesday at midday, or there is the option of lining up – go lazy, go online.
I was told prior to the show that it was definitely my type of humour, though there may be a few jokes that cross the line. That’s a very accurate summary of the show – I thought it was hilarious, but there were a few jokes I thought were a bit much. Others didn’t agree with me – one couple left at intermission and didn’t return. Just aim to go when you’re not sick; I couldn’t laugh as hard as I wanted for fear of choking to death via coughing fit. An interesting way to go for sure, but I feel like it’s not quite my time.
West End Show Seven: Matilda
I actually won two lotteries for this within the week – thanks work email! Matilda is one of my favourite books and favourite movies; I actually have a copy of both saved onto my phone. The tickets were £25 each, and were in row L, off the side. Prepare to have an audience full of children, but it genuinely adds to the atmosphere. The set design itself is just incredible, as are the special effects. The scene where Amanda Thripp is hammer thrown is so much fun, and genuinely unexpected. Yes, it’s a show aimed at children, but I had so much fun at it, and the child performers were genuinely so good.
West End Show Eight: Tina Turner the Musical
I finally saw this after wanting to for months on end. Tickets were £15 via the lottery, and it was restricted viewing (balcony overhand). However, I got tickets to the Monday show, which meant it was the understudy playing Tina. The understudy was good, but I’d read review after review on Adrienne Warren so was hoping to see her. It was good, but intense; if you know the story of Tina’s life then you know it’s not all sunshine and daisies. The highlight of the show was definitely the finale; it played out like a concert, and the audience was encouraged to get up and dance and sing.
So there you have it – some tips and tricks to see some of London’s best shows. Use as many email addresses as you can when it comes to lotteries. There’s also no harm going to websites that sell tickets last minute.