As theatre editor of Time Out, I get hauled on telly or radio roughly once a year to answer the only question anyone ever wants to ask me on telly or radio: ‘are theatre tickets too expensive?’ And I usually mumble something about what good value London’s subsidised theatres are, and how it’s only the odd dementedly expensive West End show that gives theatre a bad rep for being overpriced.
Well ‘Elf the Musical’ is definitely That Show. Prices were unveiled yesterday and have caused quite the stir: tickets to the all-singing family adaptation of the Will Ferrell screen classic run from £51.80 to an eye-watering £240, meaning the cost to a family of four run between £207.20 (for nosebleed seats) to £960 (best stalls on a busy night). The odd one-off ‘evening with…’ a big Hollywood celebrity has in fact cost more, but I’m pretty certain ‘Elf’ has set a record for being the most expensive regular West End show of all time.
Unlike the subsidised sector, the West End has no obligation to provide affordable tickets, and it’s not like London is short of loaded people. And while it’s tempting to worry that it’s part of some sort of depressing trend, the fact is that as a rule West End producers have gotten better in recent years at providing affordable bottom-priced seats.
No, I think the most depressing thing here is that it’s ‘only’ ‘Elf’ – by all accounts a decent show, but there’s absolutely nothing about it that explains why it should be the most pricey West End ticket of all time: the stars (Ben Forster, Kimberley Walsh) are not going to break the bank, and by all accounts neither are the sets or special effects. As far as I can tell, the producers are simply charging those prices in the hope they’ll get away with it.
I don’t want to act like Scrooge over a musical I haven’t seen, that’ll doubtless bring a lot of pleasure to those who can afford it. But don’t let these crazy prices give London theatre a bad name.
Find out more about 'Elf the Musical'.