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How to Enjoy London Theater on a Budget

For such a small country, there's a mind-boggling amount of things to do in Great Britain.

While I've had the chance to explore more of the country on previous visits, it was the World Travel Market, something of an industry trade show, that brought me back to London last November. But, it wasn't all work and no play during my 5-night stay.

There was one musical I'd been waiting to see in the West End since my last visit in 1998, The Phantom of the Opera.

The cool thing about buying tickets to the theater in London is that it doesn't have to be expensive. By buying last-minute tickets, you can save big money off the regular cost.

Theaters try to sell every ticket, for every show, and are therefore willing to release excess inventory at a discount.

Back in '98 I'd buy same-day, restricted view tickets from a stand in Leicester Square for under $20 a pop. On the weekend, I doubled up, catching a matinée performance in one theater, and an evening show in another.

Les Miserables, Rent, Chicago. I saw some of the top shows of all time on a backpacker's budget.

Fish & Chips at Pier 1

Fish & Chips at Pier 1

This time around, I bought my tickets from a stand in Picadilly Circus. Situated under the giant neon signs, it's all but impossible to miss.

You can pay in cash or credit, and ticket prices to the popular shows now run around $60 – $70. You never know what's available, but you'll often have a choice of tickets that are cheaper and further from the stage, or a little more costly and closer.

Bought about 7 hours in advance, My Phantom of the Opera ticket cost $71.83, and I was no more than 10-12 rows away from the action.

The West End, London's theater district, is filled with restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat before your show.

To make it a quintessential British experience, I sat down for a plate of fish and chips. Hardly the healthiest option, but I do appreciate a lightly fried, crispy filet of cod as much as the next guy.

The smashed peas, on the other hand, did not find a fan in me.

Her Majesty's Theater

Her Majesty's Theater

After dinner, I walked further down the street to Her Majesty's Theatre, which was the current home to The Phantom of the Opera.

The interior of the theater was smaller than I expected, but given the nightly performances, and the fact that it's one of the longest continuously running musicals ever, it made sense.

I'd been wanting to see The Phantom since '98, when I was unable to get an advance ticket during my second trip to London. Since then, the movie version had been released, and I became a huge fan of the music.

The live production lived up to my expectations, and the movie version. Perhaps I'd be more critical of the movie had I seen it live first.

One thing that surprised me was the stage. It was tiny, yet they were able to put on the whole production as though they had much more space to work with.

I chalked it up to the magic of live theater in London!


This article was written by Dave, and brought to you by Visit Britain.

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