Cheap tickets, cheap restaurants: what theater goers wanted in 2009

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Apparently my reviews of shows are not NEARLY as interesting to people as where I like to eat beforehand and how I work to keep my ticket prices down. Figuring that with a new year I might have a look at how my blog has performed over the last 365 days, I looked at my stats and here’s the most popular posts I’ve written.

#1 most viewed post this year? Best (Top Ten +) cheap restaurants in London’s West End Theatreland. Clearly while different people may want to see different shows, everyone is interested in getting a decently priced dinner beforehand. I may only go to a given theater once or twice a year, but a good restaurant will see me visiting every month, or even close to weekly in the peak of the season.

2nd most viewed post this year? 12 best ways to get cheap theatre tickets in London. Once again, any individual show may not interest any given person, but lots of people want to know how to see theater while not getting hit in the pocketbook. And given how random it is (seemingly) whether or not you’ll enjoy a different show, this seems like a pretty fair concern. I don’t want to pay 50 to see any show, really; it’s just too much money.

Oddly, my third most popular post was not even for a show in London: it was a review for South Pacific at the Lincoln Center. This was certainly a good show but I have no idea why so many people came to my blog when there were perfectly respectable reviews out there from paid professionals. Still, it was a highlight of my trip to New York, and a rare example of when I paid more than fifty quid for a ticket (seventy five I think). This was my sad introduction to the economics of theater in New York. No wonder it’s fallen so out of style in the US; more state support would do wonders for encouraging people to go to the theater in America – by making it affordable.

My fourth most popular post, Shen Yu "Divine Performing Arts" Ensemble – Chinese Art Spectacular at the Royal Festival Hall – showed (for me) the value of reviewing a touring show, as it draws people to the blog as the show itself makes its way around the globe. This post has also become popular as “proof” of the evil of Fa Lun Da Fa/Fa Lun Gun. That really upsets me, as I was criticizing the production as an artistic performance, not criticizing the religious belief of those who performed in it. Still, I think that it’s important that people who are thinking of seeing this show know that it’s also very much a celebration of Fa Lun Gung and make their decision on whether or not to see it with full knowledge of what they’re in for.

My fifth most popular post was for La Clique at the London Hippodrome. This show had a very long run, through June, then reincarnated as a fun Christmas event at the Roundhouse. I was glad to be able to point people toward it, and also give some insight into the strange seating situation at the Hippodrome.

In sixth this year was a fairly late arrival, a review of Nation at the National Theatre. This show was a spectacular letdown and I kicked myself for buying full price (thirty quid in the balcony!) seats. It’s one of the reasons I’m deliberately planning to see fewer shows this year; I just can’t afford to be wasting my time and money on dreck.

Seventh most popular this year was a show that let me down shockingly, Annie Get Your Gun (with Jane Horrocks) at the Young Vic. Considering that it had its run extended, someone must have really loved it, but it wasn’t me.

Surprisingly popular, an event that only happened three times was my eighth most viewed post of the year, Romeo Castellucci's shocking … ly pretentious Inferno and Paradiso, part of the Barbican Spill Festival. I think this performance must have toured; I can only hope the time I put into typing it up spared someone else the pain.

Ninth and another surprising hit from last winter’s trip to the states was my review of City Ballet’s The Nutcracker, in, of course, New York City. It’s part of a tradition I have of seeing a different Nutcracker every year, and the popularity of this post justified my hard work getting this written up while I was on vacation. Theater review blogging; not just a hobby, it’s a vocation and sometimes, it’s just work. But I’m still surprised that this was my 9th most popular post – again, better writers have reviewed it.

#10: Three Days of Rain at the Apollo Theatre. I have no idea why so many people have chosen to read my review of this less than spectacular show, though I did get a lot of traffic from being linked to on a fan site for one of the actors. Actually, this is exactly why I got so much traffic. Tips for getting more people to read your reviews: write up shows that have famous TV or movie actors in them. Disappointing fact: this may lead you to see bad shows.

Celebrity casting was, in part, why I went to see Phedre at the National Theatre – big star (Helen Mirren) in a well-advertised show. Unfortunately I thought it was a big flop, but because I got my review in while it was still in previews, piles of people read it while, I assume, they were deciding whether or not to see the show. This was my 11th most popular post and it marked a watershed for me, in trying to see shows early enough to drive reviews by being first out of the gate. Unfortunately it led to me seeing a lot of crap shows. I’m going to fix that this year.

Though this was only meant to be a “top ten” list, I feel obliged to extend this to number 12, Phil Willmott's musical "A Christmas Carol” at the King’s Head Theatre. This is the post that’s got me the most vitriol of any I’ve put up. Let me tell you: insult some fringe show and these people are all over your ass, calling you names, making it personal. No, I did not drag the show through the mud because I had a personal vendetta against some cast member I’d been dating. In fact, I didn’t even drag it through the mud – I just criticized it’s completely unhistorical costuming, unacceptable plot changes, and willful misrepresentation of Charles Dickens’ life story. Seriously, you can’t just alter the facts of a well known historical figure’s life and expect to get away with it. This, apparently, gave someone the right to call me a heartless bitch. The facts, I suppose they are a cruel mistress. However, by reviving this under-reviewed play – and putting it on at the same venue as last year – the production team unwittingly gave me a site traffic bonanza. Thanks, guys! Too bad I don’t make any money off of this gig.

At any rate, this recap was an interesting way to see what drove visitors to my site. I’ll keep my restaurant reviews updated and be sure to let you know of hot deals for hot shows when they come through – though the actual number of reviews is likely to go down. Thanks for coming by and wishing you all good shows in the cheap seats next year! (And hey, if you manage to save money on a really good show, why not make a donation to the theater if it’s a non-profit? You may deserve affordable seats, but they deserve to keep operating, and your money makes a vital difference. Sadlers’ Wells, the Arcola, the Tricycle, the Royal Court, the Donmar, the Battersea Arts Centre and the Barbican, and of course those old warhorses The National Theatre and the Royal Opera House … they choose to be venues that have some, most, or all seats priced affordably and you should support them in their missions to produce good, original art. Without them, London performances could be as out of reach

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