April 5, 2010
This trip to London, I had a desire to watch a west-end London theatrical production. Last year when we went to NYC, we had similar intent and went up to the TKTS booth at the South Street Seaport to look for some discount tickets. Unfortunately we weren’t successful because the tickets weren’t that cheap and there weren’t any shows that we were keen on seeing either.
For London, we were a little more prepared. First we looked up what shows were playing and there were several that we were interested in seeing. Plus, with the Sterling being weak against the CDN dollar, the tickets weren’t that expensive (at half off, of course they are almost never 50% off). Then when we in London we planned to be in Leicester Square by 10AM to get the best discount seats for the day.
On the actual day, we ended up being there about an hour early so we walked around Leicester Square for a bit first. There is a block that is almost entirely filled with discount theatre ticket stores, and because we were so early, they were still setting up and we saw the same people/owners running around the different stores. In the end they weren’t that cheap so we lined up for TKTS, and of course they weren’t cheap either (they were selling seats in the £40 range which is still $60 after currency exchange).
What we ended up doing was going to the actual theatres themselves and buying tickets directly from the box office. The seats weren’t as good as the “discount” ones but they were cheaper! Our first pick was Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre. Neither of us had seen it in Toronto and Pauline really wanted to watch it. I was a bit worried about our seats since we were in Upper Circle, but the theatre was not that big and we had a reasonable view that wasn’t three stories up like we would be in Toronto.
The west end production of Les Mis is impressive because it is the first English production and has been running non-stop in the London west end for the last 25 years. It is the longest running show in the west end with over 10,000 performances. And it was still sold out (or close to) when we went!
I was impressed by the performance for a couple of reasons. First I was able to understand what the performers were signing! I remember watching Phantom and not really understanding what was going on. I don’t know if it’s because the cast had better enunciation or if it was because the English accent is more distinct, but I was able to pick up and understand the details of the story and song.
Secondly, they used a very simple mechanism of rotating the stage to great effect. They would use it to show travelling/movement or do setup of the stage while the play was still going on. It’s such a simple device but I’m sure it saves a lot of money for stage costs.
Lastly, the story itself was touching. I suppose this is mostly to the credit of Victor Hugo who wrote the novel which the musical is based upon. But other musicals I’ve been to such as Phantom and Lion King also have a story as source material and were not able to create the same sort of emotional connection. In the end I think it was a very worthwhile experience to see Les Misérables in London!