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Top 10 ways to save on West End Musical tickets

BY Boon Koh
Published 6 July 2009

Phantom of the Opera No trip to London is ever complete without a trip to a musical, be it the classic Phantom of the Opera, or the modern x-rated Avenue Q. However, as every Londoner knows, tickets for musicals in the West End cost an arm and a leg nowadays. The following are the top ten ways of getting cheap and discounted tickets for musicals:

  • Official TKTS half price ticket booth at Leicester Square. This is the best way to get discounted musical and theatre tickets for shows on the same day. The number of tickets as well as the shows available varies depending on what the theatres have left on the day of the performance. You can usually pick up tickets at up to 50% off the face value, which is a good saving indeed! The ticket booth is located at the bottom of the Leicester Square garden/park, across from the small Odeon. This is the ONLY official half price ticket booth; all the other places in Leicester Square offering cheap theatre tickets are scams and you actually end up paying more than face value after they add their fees and charges.
  • Lastminute.com. They sometimes run amazing bargains where they sell theatre tickets for a fiver or a tenner, but these tend to go within minutes. However, they normally have a good range of discounted theatre tickets, where they are £10-£15 off. You can order online and the tickets are to be collected on the day itself from the box office. The only downside is that you cannot see or choose your seats during booking.
  • Ticketmaster. Although they do not sell tickets below face value as a general rule, sometimes they run special offers. In addition, on some of their musical tickets, for every top price ticket you purchase (i.e. stalls tickets), you get a free £20 pizza express gift card! Well worth it if you were planning to get some dinner before the show, or are a pizza lover. Beware though that the price you see on the booking page is sometimes different from the final price after they add on their (usually hefty) fees!
  • eBay. This is my favourite way of getting cheap theatre tickets, but it involves a lot of searching, waiting, skilful “sniping” bidding, as well as having a good eye to spot the fake con listings. I have managed to get tickets for Mary Poppins with a face value of £35 for only £6 each here, as well as well as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera tickets at prices well below face value. However, this option is best avoided if you are not a comfortable user of eBay.
  • Gumtree. This is essentially a classified listing site, where anyone can post for free anything they have for sale. If you are flexible, you can normally find tickets listed on the same day or the day before an event, where an emergency has come up and someone can’t make it for a show. Usually this means that sellers are willing to reduce their prices by a lot as they are desperate to recoup anything they can from the tickets. Bargaining is a must!
  • Direct from the theatre box office. If you are a student or a concession (e.g. Old Aged Person), many theatres keep a limited number of tickets to sell on the day of the show at deeply discounted prices to these groups of people. You normally have to buy in person at the Box Office when it opens, usually around 10-11am.
  • Go for matinee showings. These are afternoon performances (usually at 2:30pm), and the tickets are priced cheaper as well, especially weekday afternoons. But be aware that most of the time, the understudy of the lead actors and actresses perform during the matinees, so if you are going to see a particular star check with the Box Office before booking.
  • Book way in advance. Although this is not a money saving tip, it is a tip to get the most value for your money. Seat prices are set for whole blocks of seats; so row A to row W might all be the same price. However, obviously seats in row A are better than in row W, and when tickets are sold they are sold on a “best available at the time” basis, so all the row A’s will be sold first, then B’s, then C’s, etc. Hence if you buy seats the day before the show, you only have very limited seats to choose from and often do not get good value seats. Musical tickets are normally released 6-12 months ahead of the show, and so if you definitely know you need to get tickets (i.e. Birthday gift, Christmas present), it pays to book way ahead of time and get the most bang for your buck (oops, pound I mean!).
  • Extremely last minute tickets. I have turned up for so many theatre shows where I see someone outside the theatre trying to sell a ticket or two of people who are unable to make it last minute. Usually they find no takers as those who are entering the theatre already have tickets, and those walking by on the sidewalk are on their way to something. However, if you have time to spare and are in the area, it pays just to wait in front of the theatre half an hour before a show starts and see if anyone is trying to get rid of a spare ticket. Often you can bargain the price down to half or more off.
  • Get a group together. Musicals and other shows often offer good discounts for group bookings. Usually that means 15 or more, but sometimes it can be as little as 8 people. So if you can round up a group of like-minded people at work or among friends, you can organize one of these. Often a free ticket is thrown in for the organizer of the group too!

P.S. Here is a list of the top 10 musicals in London: Avenue Q, Thriller – Live, The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, Wicked, Oliver!, We Will Rock You, Les Miserables, and Mamma Mia.

Hopefully one of the above ten tips will help you save some money off your next musical show. But if none of the above work, and you want to get tickets for a sold out musical show, then there’s really only one way to get sold out musical tickets. And that’s through secondary websites like eBay, or Viagogo.

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  • Sal Steyn

    Great tips on getting rduced price west end tix – need to take my boyfriend to Ave Q, and top tix look to be dear!! V helpful;)