Monday, April 10, 2006

The Kate/Eloise Project Hits the London Stage

My buddy, Laura, called early on in the Kate/Eloise Project with the suggestion that we take out daughters to see Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a hilarious troop of 15 male dancers who interpret the great moments of classic ballet “in size 12 pointe shoes”. Let it be said upfront, I was the idiot who talked Laura out of Ballets Trockadero and into going to see the musical, Mary Poppins.

I should have known better (when was the last time Disney did anything fabulous?) I just couldn’t help it, being infused with so much Project enthusiasm for children’s entertainment. At the time, Mary Poppins seemed to be the classic choice. I didn’t listen to Laura’s impeccable instincts, I didn’t consult Eloise and here is the result. Mary Poppins was OK , but not better than that. Laura’s daughter, Lucy, left the theatre humming a song from Chicago if that gives you any idea. I contend that any visitor to London with children can and should do better, particularly when theatre for children in London can be outstanding

For example, when my nieces from Rome where last in town and went to see The Lion King (and yes, that was the last time Disney did something fabulous), they were so thrilled and amazed by it that they could hardly believe such experiences were available to London children all year long. London even has theatres dedicated to children such as the Unicorn Theatre in Southwark, the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon and the Puppet Barge Theatre which spends the winters in Little Venice.

I can recommend two ways to take children to London shows. The first method is all about chance and luck, the second method is all about research and planning. And here’s the best news of all, both methods work equally well.

Method One entails buying a copy of Time Out, London’s guide to what’s in town, and heading with your child for the bottom of Leicester Square (near the National Gallery) and the tkts kiosk selling same day tickets at 50% discount. In the line, with the reviews from Time Out in hand, you and your child can choose from a large list of shows on offer, buy the tickets, get something to eat (see the previous post) and go to the show. It feels good to save the money. Children like being involved in the selection. I’ve never waited in line more than 10 minutes and we’ve never failed to find tickets for something we wanted to see.

The tkts ticket booth is open from 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and 12pm to 3pm on Sundays. Just make sure you are at the real tkts booth run by the Society of London Theatre. There are countless ticket outlets in the area which misleadingly prey on unsuspecting tourists claiming to offer half price tickets. They are rip-offs. Don’t use them.

Method Two entails buying tickets on-line in advance, often at a discount. Here are the websites you can use to do this:

The website of the Society of London Theatres at is very good for reviews and information.

I have used all three sites, found the information about the shows useful and secured good seats at great prices.

And accordingly to Eloise, “make sure you give your kids the chance to choose what they want to see. Moms think they know what is interesting, but they don’t always know what you really like. I REALLY LIKED THE BLUE MAN GROUP.”

Which, for the record, was another show recommended by my buddy Laura.

Photo courtesy of The Blue Man Group website.

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