After all the suspense of lockdown-and-release, hope and disappointment and pingdemic cancellations, lovers of live theatre have finally had something to cheer about.

For those desperately in need of their fix of big show-stopping numbers, exhilarating outbreaks of tap-dancing, comedy and drama galore, there’s been the usual bevy of choice in London’s West End: from The Bob Marley Musical to Matilda, from fan-favourite Moulin Rouge — a spectacular Broadway import boasting eye-popping excess — to Mamma Mia! The Book Of Mormon.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to travel to these shows. Because ticket prices are on an inexorable rise, it is hard to get to the shows.

The cheapest seat for Moulin Rouge, when I tried to book for Saturday December 18, was £75, high up in the distant Grand Circle, while a good view from the stalls would set you back — hold tight — £250. A family-friendly outing that is unlikely for many.

For those desperately in need of their fix of big show-stopping numbers, exhilarating outbreaks of tap-dancing, comedy and drama galore, there’s been the usual bevy of choice in London’s West End. Pictured: Moulin Rouge! The Musical

London’s West End has a wide range of entertainment options for people who are in desperate need of large, spectacular numbers and exhilarating bursts in tap-dancing. Pictured: Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Elsewhere, it is common for stalls to cost well above £100 — even really good seats at the creaky old Lion King can be up to £203 — with the cheapest at £63.

And while it is wonderful to have Harry Potter And The Cursed Child back, the circle costs £65 a head — and you might need to book tickets for the sequel, too, since the first one ends on a rather grim Dementor-y note.

Last-minute deals can be found, particularly if you’re on your own.

Many theatres offer discounted times or offers. They also make efforts to provide entertainment for those who can’t afford designer clothes but don’t want to spend two and a quarter hours watching something they hate.

For instance the Criterion’s new, hilarious ‘Pride And Prejudice* (*sort of)’ deliberately offers no boastful ‘premium’ seats and keeps costs under £60. However, it is a rare find in West End.

A 2019 survey by The Stage found the average top price for tickets was £116, up from £95 six years earlier. While a family outing on the £200+ hot-tickets for the likes of Hamilton pushes you into the thousand-quid stratosphere, even before you account for travel and food.

There are many reasons for theatres to make a lot of money, particularly now. This pandemic has had devastating effects on the arts industry: many jobs have disappeared, and some even for good. 

Freelance status often drives actors, directors and musicians to the top, as well as designers, musicians, painters and skilled carpenters, and ushers and administrators.

Adam Cooper, an ex-star of the Royal Ballet and now a star performer in Singin’ In The Rain was paid Universal Credit. However, his unsuccessful application for van driving jobs resulted in him being denied.

The trouble is that actually getting to the shows is proving eye-poppingly expensive for many. Pictured: Hamilton

Many people are finding it hard to travel to these shows. Pictured: Hamilton

Musicians and singers who were orchestral found themselves on construction sites.

The Government’s delay in supporting and reopening theatre was resented: football supporters were allowed to crowd together, merrily spreading viruses as they howled their team’s name, weeks before theatres could let quietly behaved people sit with empty seats between them, in masks — and not uttering a sound.

The theatre world is in dire need of money.

But it is also true that this big-price ticket trend was ramping up long before the pandemic — and the irony is that it risks harming the industry further, killing the golden goose by putting people off for good.

In case you think I’m being unfair and write me off for not getting press, it is true that I get press tickets because of my review work. 

But I have also bought tickets all my adult life and still do, often hunting for the cheapest seats — or, perhaps more frequently, splurging because I’m desperate to see something wonderful again (despite the hefty price-tag).

Although I don’t like to bring up this topic, ticket inflation is a real problem when theatre lovers love the art and respect those who do it well.

Live shows can get expensive. Even if you don’t count actors, designers and writers (which very few do), then there is still the cost of buildings and heating.

It must be a horrible feeling to gaze out at the empty seats, knowing that every second you lose money. Another reason prices matter is that people are more likely to turn off the television or movie theater.

This is something that small playhouses and community theatres are well aware of: it takes great care to keep prices low to encourage footfall.

You can catch future stars for as low as 20 pence, in capital cities.

While there may not be “grandeur and glory”, it is possible to have music, humor, laughter, and other ideas that you can take with you, and still feel satisfied.

The West End is important for art, joy, great performances, glory and tradition of the buildings, as well as for Britain’s economic and international success.

Inflated prices can be seen as a way of taking advantage of others. This is especially true for shows that were initially developed using public subsidy at the National (such As The Ocean At The End Of The Lane or RSC (such as Matilda).

It astonishes me particularly now, because — due to Covid’s impact on travel — we are not awash with rich foreigners who have traditionally enabled mad pricing.

Independent ticket agencies often get the credit for their cut. Because they paid to be there, their names usually come up first in any Google search.

It’s far better to go to the theatre’s official box office site: in one press investigation before the pandemic a particular seat through an agency was found at £269 but could have been bought from ATG (the theatre group site) for £193.

However, the West End seats that are most often purchased at the box office for cheaper prices can be expensive and will not be remembered.

This surge may be an import from America, where big corporations are greedy and want to sell whatever market price they can.

The algorithms that determine ‘dynamic pricing” are used to show what they can do with it: A rise in star bookings or media attention pushes prices immediately up, without any relationship to actual value.

And that’s because ticket pricing seems to be on a ceaseless hike to inaccessibility. Pictured: The Lion King

Because ticket prices seem to have been on an inexorable rise to inaccessibility. Pictured: The Lion King

Our shallow obsession with celebrities means star names are bound to attract reckless spending by people who just want to be there.

The vast expense also becomes something of a status thing, too, a way to flash a £200 ticket at your date or corporate client. 

However, theatre-owners can be heroes or exploiters. In the case of the pandemic, many bravely poured their money into research and Covid safety facilities. 

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh are joined by Nica Burns and Nick Hytner in The Bridge, a brand new high-tech theatre that seats 900. 

Where, interestingly, prices are steady and reasonable: The Book Of Dust, this Christmas’s spectacular, has no seat above £70 (the cheapest, £15).

Produces don’t have to be vampires. They are passionate about their work and will not kill it.

The problem — the real worm in the apple — is this Broadway-style, algorithm-driven, corporate-minded price surge. 

Why is it so important? It not only excludes ordinary people, but also creates the impression that live theater is something exclusive for the wealthy, pretentious, or foolishly spendthrift.

It is, at its best, a joyous gathering, an excitement communal, an education, and inspiration.

You can read Libby’s reviews here

As a producer, I understand the anger.

David Pugh 

Producer Pride And Prejudice* (*Sort Of)

Live theatre has a magic that is unparalleled. Since I was small, I’ve been captivated by live theatre since my childhood. My parents used to take me every week to Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester.

It is thrilling to watch the excitement build in the crowd as the curtain raises and watch the drama unfold before your eyes.

This is a great experience, as you can share your laughter and weeps with each other. It’s impossible to get this from any screen.

For me, theatre producers, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a large audience fully immersed in what’s happening. A young boy captivated by Peter Pan flying above his head or a family chatting about the play during the interval. It is my ultimate reward.

Or it could be. Unfortunately, too many producers place profits above all. Even if theatre tickets were as expensive as they are now, I wouldn’t be able to see my family and would have never been given the ‘bug’. 

But never mind the future producers, writers and actors — what about future audiences? If parents are unable to afford tickets to the theatre for their children, they will likely not allow them to attend as adults.

But never mind the future producers, writers and actors — what about future audiences? Pictured: Pride And Prejudice* (*sort of)

But never mind the future producers, writers and actors — what about future audiences? Pictured: Pride And Prejudice* (*sort of)

It is important that we encourage people to visit theatres after they are reopened. We shouldn’t discourage them from returning to these venues by increasing prices, especially for those who feel the pinch following the ending of the Furlough Scheme and rising job uncertainty.

The theatre was never considered elitist. You could go to music halls and variety shows for a fraction of the price, which was affordable enough that working class people could still afford them. 

It was a raucous affair with actors and audiences exchanging ideas. 

It cost 50p for a visit to Morecambe and Wise at Blackpool later. Producers today would charge £150.

This is not inflation. That’s just greed.

The theatre owners who charge such high prices say that this is because it’s impossible due to the cost involved. It’s false. My goal is to earn profits for my investors as a commercial producer. 

However, I keep my tickets prices affordable. My production, Pride And Prejudice* (Sort Of), is playing in the West End’s Criterion Theatre. Our most expensive ticket is £59.50, and cheapest is £9.50, with a full range in between.

It’s easy for me to do, so why should others? Answer: They can. But they prefer to maximise their profit margins.

The show isn’t cheap, but it is worth the effort. 

Jan Moir 

Moulin Rouge is a great movie! This Musical is a complete waste of time. The plot is not what makes the Musical so interesting.

Moulin Rouge was first performed in New York’s Summer 2019 and has since been an instant success. It won ten Tony awards, as well as playing to sell out audiences.

It was my first year seeing it and I loved it. 

The Belle Époque fantasia not only did credit to the original Baz Luhrmann 2001 film, the stunning choreography took it into a new realm of the senses altogether. 

This version had it all — sex, absinthe and poor consumptive Satine (wonderful Karen Olivo) singing on a swing and then coughing into her hankie in time-honoured tradition.

Now, Moulin Rouge has come to London, where the ticket prices are causing some alarm. Can it possibly be worth it? Pictured: Jan Moir

Moulin Rouge now has a London show, and the tickets are quite expensive. It is possible it could be worthwhile. Pictured: Jan Moir

Moulin Rouge now has a London show, and the tickets are quite expensive. Is it worth the risk?

Well. New York was home to a stellar, hard-working Broadway cast that included renowned names like Aaron Tveit (Christian) and Danny Burstein (Zidler). Robyn Hurder was a standout, stating that Nini’s demanding role pushed her beyond her physical limits. 

The house is brought to a halt by her large number. This alone was, in my opinion, worth the money.

Is it possible for London’s cast and production to live up these high standards of excellence? The prices suggest this is what the producers think. A midweek top stalls seat in London is £184 (£250 at the weekend), while in New York the equivalent would be £179.

Yes, more ‘affordable’ tickets are always available — but we all know they are usually behind a pillar in row Z. Everything always seems crushingly more expensive in London — but can you really put a price on a magical, live theatrical experience?

A lot of the world is now seen through the tiny prism of a tablet, phone or hologram. 

It seems worthwhile to pay a premium to see a show that is real, and the performers live and breathe in your own presence.

Yet while audiences are accustomed to shows becoming ever more expensive, is there is a limit to our patience — and our pockets? Not yet — only a few tickets are left for Moulin Rouge! December. Yes, nearly all the highest-priced seats are gone.