Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The London Theatre from Stalls to Balcony

Her Majesty's Theatre stage view of 'Phantom' set from balcony. Photo by flickr/dbray46 (2008)
London stage theaters name the levels of seats differently from Broadway houses. When purchasing tickets for London it's important to know this distinction especially if you are very particular about seat selection.

In most Broadway theaters, there are only two levels but at least a couple have three. They are classified from the lowest to upper levels:
- Orchestra
- Mezzanine
- Balcony
So if you purchase a balcony seat, you will find yourself on the third level. However many local theaters outside of New York classify their second level as the balcony. Because of this some ticket holders to a Broadway show, such as 'Mary Poppins' at the New Amsterdam Thetre, are disappointed to find they are seated much higher than expected.

In most London theaters, the lower to upper levels are classified as follows:
- Stalls
- Dress Circle or Royal Circle
- Upper Circle or Grand Circle
- Balcony
So if you purchase a balcony seat, you will likely find yourself in the most upper reaches of the auditorium.

Keep in the mind the higher the level, the more severe the rake of the balcony. Handrails are usually present to help patrons guide themselves along the steep aisle steps.

Palace theatre stage view from balcony. Photo by: webshots/ptschan (2003)
Another important distinction is the arrangement of seats on the stalls level in London compared to orchestra level on Broadway. Almost all Broadway houses have a orchestra left, center and right with two center aisles and two side aisles. In London, the stalls level on most theaters have seats in an unbroken row with aisles only on the sides. Some London theaters will have a singular center aisle. The largest of London theaters: Palladium, Apollo Victoria and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane have stalls seating arranged similar to that of Broadway houses.

Because many London theaters were constructed when there was a distinct class system and mixing of the classes of avoided, some balcony ticket holders will find themselves using a separate entrance from ticket holders seated on the stalls or dress circle levels.

Below are two samples of London seating charts. One for London's Palace Theatre which currently houses the musical 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' and the Noel Coward Theatre which currently houses the revival of 'Deathtrap'.

Noel Coward Theatre Seating Plan.


Anonymous said...

Great informative article. Please publish more about ticketing or attending a Broadway show.

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