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May 2015 Theatre in London - - what is a "must see?"

We're heading to London in May and have tickets for a concert at Royal Albert Hall and a play at the Globe. We also wanted to see some shows - like musicals and plays - anything with really good acting, superb sets, good story.
We're considering the following shows and wondered if you had seen any or heard about them:

  • Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
  • The Book of Mormon
  • Billy Elliott
  • War Horse
  • Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

and new ones not yet there:
-- High Society
-- Elephant Man - Bradley Cooper
-- Man & Superman - Ralph fiennes
-- American Buffalo - Damian Lewis
-- The Audience - Kristin Scott Thomas

As you can see, our tastes are eclectic, but we only have 1 or 2 nights for a show and want to see something really wonderful, we'll remember for years.

Posted by
646 posts

Someone in a different thread mentioned seeing "Wicked" and it having wonderful sets. I've personally never been to the theatre, so can't help beyond that :o)

Posted by
3110 posts

On your first list we've seen two of them twice and they are still very memorable to us for their historical story lines and acting, Billy Elliott, and the most unique and breathtaking visual "props" ever, War Horse.
I really liked seeing plays set in the UK for my extra dose of place and history when I'm in London.

We will see either Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda with our granddaughters this summer. Hard decisions, aren't they. You'll enjoy whatever you end up choosing.

Posted by
16883 posts

Anything with a movie star sells out quickly. I would probably choose Ralph Fiennes, if you can get same-day or returned tickets, even though GB Shaw is not my favorite. The fact that it's at the National Theater is another reason to trust the quality. They also have a new Tom Stoppard play, which would be a top choice for me, personally; the first performance of his Arcadia at that theater is a great travel memory for me. Since it's a new play, it might not be produced in the USA very soon, whereas the big-budget musicals are mostly available here, in New York, on tour, or in filmed versions (such as NT Live).

Posted by
4692 posts

I've seen Billy Elliott, War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time, and The Book of Mormon from your first list (all in London). All were good, but Billy Elliot and The Curious Incident are among my favorites. The staging of "The Curious Incident ..." is unique and I thought the production was exceptional. If you haven't read the book, I'd suggest you read a synopsis to see if it is something you are interested in. "Billy Elliot" is a great choice if you are looking for a musical with a British theme.

For the new plays, production with well-known actors can sell out quickly so keep an eye on the dates that tickets are released. I saw "The Audience" with Helen Mirren a few years ago and it was excellent (although it was Helen Mirren's acting that really made the play outstanding). Brush up on the Prime Ministers if you go to see Kristin Scott Thomas in that.

Posted by
6349 posts

War Horse is an incredible piece of theatre. I absolutely loved The Book of Mormon but many individuals are SHOCKED and whole heartedly offended at the content. Depends on your sense of humor, possibly your age. If you liked the irreverence of South Park then the Book of Mormon is for you. Otherwise War Horse. Given other responders recommendations I'm checking to see if they'll still be on later this year when I'm in London, especially Curious Incident of the Dog at Night. Great that you'll be seeing a production at the Globe. Took me years to see one as I travel in late Fall/Winter but finally saw a production in May of 2011. Fabulous!!! You'll definitely enjoy the experience. A silly FYI but my favorite part of seeing theatre in London is the ice cream cups that are sold at intermission. Brings a smile to my face every time!

Posted by
449 posts

If you are in the mood for a romantic play with an upbeat ending and with great songs check out "Once" which has been playing steadily for the past several years. You can preview this by renting the movie on which the play is based (normally it is play first, movie later). I saw this during my visit to London in August and really liked the show. The tkts booth in Leichester Square did not have discounted tickets for the performance but I was able to get a discount of about 40% by going through timeout.com (or something similar) ticket service. The play is set in a pub in Dublin and folks with ground floor seats can walk onto the stage before the show and during intermission and purchase a drink and maybe talk with some cast members.

Note: Normally my first choice would have been War Horse because of the tie in with the 100th year anniversary of the start of World War I, but I have seen the movie twice, a broadcast of the play as it was presented at a West End theater, and a live performance so I was looking for something else. The theater used for the broadcast was rather small and I could not figure out how they could make money off the ticket sales. Maybe it was staged there just for the broadcast.

Posted by
68 posts

I saw War Horse and thought it was awesome. I don't think that there is a dud among them, they will probably all be brilliant. Have you looked into the TKTS booth in Leicester Square? You can go there for same day discounted theater tickets. It is possible the show you want is sold out but if you have several it's a good way to save some money. They can advise you to get the best seats (i.e. once they up sold me and once they sold me a cheaper ticket that was a better seat). I don't think you can go wrong if you like musicals and theatre. If you don't like musicals I would vote War Horse since it's not a musical

Posted by
5547 posts

I agree with Michelle about the ticket booth in Leicester Square - their tickets are good value and they open at lunchtime for that day's performances (and future ones). Some shows such as Book of Mormon will have to be booked online well in advance - I have just checked this for a couple of dates in May and there are not that many seats left already. This is a good show, but I would not take my mother!

Be careful about booking a show just because a "star" is in it - they do not perform 7 days a week so you may get the unheard of understudy. Matinee performances are cheaper than evening performances. Many theatres close on Sundays.

The above are all good shows, so which to attend is down to personal taste e.g. heavy drama or light musical.