One of the many reasons that I love London is the theater scene. We try to go to NYC every year and always see a Broadway show. While some of the same shows are currently on stage in both places, there are some West End exclusives too. On this Girls Trip 2022, we checked out one London show exclusive and one classic musical available in many places.
The London theater district aka the West End is spread out over a larger area than the Broadway area in NYC. These theaters are lovely old buildings for the most part and rarely is there a bad seat. Usually, you want to arrive at least 30 minutes at least prior to the performance in order to find your seats and go to the bathrooms. I am always shocked at how few bathrooms they have at these venues for women so plan ahead! Some theaters allow you to buy beverages and bring them to your seats and others make you chug down your beverage in the lobby. Cheers!
First show on our trip was & Juliet, a “coming-of-age jukebox musical” that is a glorious eruption of dance and song. Shakespeare is introduced at the beginning and his wife suggests he change the ending to Romeo & Juliet, wondering what would have happened if Juliet did not kill herself. At Romeo’s funeral, Juliet finds out that Romeo had many female AND male conquests besides her. Oops. Juliet takes a liberating road trip to Paris with friends and hilarity ensues especially when Romeo returns to pursue Juliet again. Winning many awards in the UK while playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, & Juliet will close in March 2023 and has already moved to Broadway in NYC. A very diverse cast sings cover tunes from the Backstreet Boys to Britney Spears. This show can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates music, dancing and an original story.
Our second show was the classic musical Mamma Mia. We all watched the movie prior to going to London to refresh our memory of the story and practice singing along! It was well staged, and, at the end, the talented cast all came back to the stage to lead a singalong of a few tunes from the show. We danced in our seats while we belted it out and loved every last minute of it. What a great way to spend your evening in London!
We only had time to check out two shows on this trip but on a previous trip, Thom and I went to the Globe Theater and saw a wonderful modern (goth punk style) rendition of Romeo and Juliet. Opening in 1997, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, is a replica of the original theater, set in an open-air space with capacity for 1,400 patrons. It is located on the banks of the River Thames, in the Bankside Cultural Quarter. If you want to interact with performers, get tickets to stand vs. sit. When we went, the show moved from the stage to the floor and back, all the while staying in character. So. Much. Fun. Their shows go on even if it is raining so come prepared with a poncho. If Shakespeare isn’t your jam, not to worry. They also put on modern plays, music concerts, film screenings, etc. Attend a show, take a tour of the theater, and experience what it might have been like in Shakespeare’s days. Located somewhat close to London Tower, a perfect day might be taking a tour of London Tower, lunch and shopping at Borough Market and then taking in a theater performance at the Globe. All within walking distance, if you like to walk!
No trip to London would be complete without diving into the theater scene. Enjoy the journey!
Buying tickets and theater manners
With regards to theater manners, I would suggest not standing to dance and sing with your favorite musical unless everyone around you is doing it. Otherwise, you’re “that person” who is ruining the view for others. That goes for leaning too. For Mamma Mia, we sat in Dress Circle seats on the side of the theater and were on the railing. Which was fine until the very tall person next to me leaned way forward to check out the side of the stage, obscuring the entire stage for me. I tapped on her shoulder and asked her nicely to please lean back in her seat. While she was outraged, she did it and I enjoyed the rest of the play. Awkward yes but it had to be done. So don’t let some rude patron ruin your night. Be polite and tell them to behave. And, of course, for the singalong at the end, we all stood up and danced the night away!
We bought our theater tickets in advance at a savings (20-40% off face value) on TodayTix | Theater Tickets to Musicals, Plays, Broadway, More. Similar to TKTS where we buy our NYC Broadway tickets, you get a discount that gets steeper the closer to the date you attend the show. We wanted seats together (single seats are really cheap if you don’t mind sitting separate from your party!) with a good view so we booked a few months in advance. You can also check out the tickets on https://officiallondontheatre.com/tkts/ which is the London TKTS site. If you are really flexible and want to show up the night of the play and see if you can get “rush” tickets, which are tickets that are still unsold and cheap-usually single tickets and may have some obstructed view-that is the most economical way to see a show. Tickets are all digital and you just pull them up on your phone to be scanned when you enter the theater.