If first-class theatre and titillating showbiz talent is what you’re after, a city break might be top of your holiday list this year. When it comes to West End shows showing in spectacular venues this spring, you really are spoilt for choice.
It can be difficult to get your head around all of the productions and small-scale happenings that are popping up all over the capital. Theatres in London are divided into ones situated in the West End, Fringe and repertory like The National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Chances are that every commercial show you can think of (including the biggest grossing ones) will be showing in the West End, where ticket prices can be high. While it might be hard to bag a great seat for less than £100, cheaper tickets for obstructed views can be as low as £15 depending on the day of the week.
In contrast, the National Theatre is subsidised, which means you’re more likely to catch a first glimpse of new and unknown writers or more unusual plays.
War Horse, for example, now the toast of the West End and Broadway, premiered at The National Theatre five years ago. This is a spectacularly popular show so you’ll need to book ahead but it’ll be worth it. War Horse, according to Time Out London, “is technically and visually singular and an oft-unflinching depiction of the futility and horror of conflict,” and furthermore “it is not the greatest play of our time, but it could well be the best West End show.”
If you’re in New York, you’ve got to go and see The Phantom of the Opera. In January, the longest-running show in Broadway history, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom, directed by Harold Prince, reached an extraordinary milestone when it celebrated its 25th anniversary. The show’s total worldwide grosses are estimated at over $5.6 billion, doubling the estimated profits from the world’s highest-grossing film Avatar (at $2.8 billion).
Sadly for New Yorkers, Cameron Mackintosh’s all-new production of the musical is currently enjoying a rip-roaring, record breaking UK National Tour, though it will be back on Broadway in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, the best show in the city might be this decade’s third revival of Tennessee Williams’s 1955 Pulitzer winner Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Scarlett Johansson as Maggie. According to the Telegraph’s theatre critic, Mark Hughes: “It’s Johansson – who spends much of the first act of the play dressed in nothing but a slip – whom the audiences will flock to see. And they will not be disappointed.”
You can’t make a city break in Rome without booking a show. Since its foundation in the 19th century, Teatro dell’Opera has continued to stage magnificent shows. In fact, you can choose from eight different productions of major operas between Nov and May. Contemporary productions don’t always match the red velvet majesty of the setting, but they won’t fall far short. If it’s magnificent ballet you’re here to see, Teatro dell’Opera’s Giselle won’t disappoint. Tickets for Giselle will cost anywhere between €12 and €80. During the summer, opera is staged under the stars at the monumental Terme di Caracalla, a 3rd century Roman baths.