Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Band A seats are among the best seats in the theatre with great legroom and unobstructed views of the stage. They are the perfect distance from the stage so you don't have to squint from a mile away, or crane your neck to look up at the stage. Naturally, band A seats are among the most expensive seats at the theatre, but the bee wouldn't be writing about them if there wasn't a way to get them cheap.
In this post, Theatre Bee answers the big questions about seating bands, ticket prices and value for money, especially the coveted band A seats.
What are band A theatre tickets?
Are band A seats the best seats at the theatre?
How much do band A seats cost?
What is the most expensive West End theatre seat?
How can I get cheap band A seats?
1. What are band A theatre tickets?
Theatres and concert halls label their seats with a band to indicate how nice the seat is. Band A seats are usually among the best seats in the house. They are neither so close to the stage that you can't see all of the stage, nor are they so far away that you would need to squint at the stage with all your might or use a binocular.
The Goldilocks principle also applies to the height of the stage relative to your eye level. The stage is neither too high that you have to look up at it, nor too low that you have to look down at it. Further, the performance happens right in front of you, meaning that you don't have to turn to the left or right to get a full view of the stage.
Which seats are designated as band A seats would depend on the size and seating capacity of the theatre, but on average, the middle area of the stalls (stalls are seats in the same floor as the stage, so the stage is at eye level) is where band A usually is.
In a small, intimate theatre with about 10 rows of seats and 20 seats to a row, band A might be in rows 3 through 6 (just the right distance from the stage), seat numbers 7 through 13 (just the right angle to face the stage).
In a larger theatre with, say, 25 rows of seats in the stalls and 30 seats to a row, seats 10-20 in rows 7-14 may be designated as band A seats.
Theatres that have dress circles (balcony seats on the first floor, looking down at the stage from a small height) tend to designate the first few rows of the dress circle as band A too.
Usually, the dress circle hangs over the stalls, meaning that it is located vertically above the last few rows of the stalls. If your seat is too far to the back of the stalls, then the overhang of the dress circle may obstruct your view, which is why seats to the very back of the stalls are usually designated bands B, C or worse depending on the extent of obstruction, whereas seats in the first few rows of the dress circle offer a completely unobstructed view of the stage (albeit from a small height) and are therefore designated as band A.
Seats that are too close to the stage but still offer great unobstructed views of the performance would just miss the band A mark and be designated as band B or C. Seats that are in the dress circle, the grand circle (the floor above the dress circle), and balcony (the floor above the grand circle, from where you'll veritably look vertically down to see the performance) account for the remaining bands of seats. The bands run from B for the second best, to C, D and so on, all the way through F or G for a large theatre. Some theatres even have standing room at the far back end of the top floor of the venue, behind all the seats, offering the worst views of the stage and legroom tiny enough to cause you cramps, but one of the cheapest possible tickets.
2. Are band A seats the best seats at the theatre?
That depends on how you characterise the best. If you want the best view of the stage in the theatre, then band A is your absolute best bet. If you don't want to spend an arm and a leg on a theatre visit, then band A is not for you. If you don't mind spending a bomb but want good value for money, the bee's humble opinion is that band A still does not have a good value-to-price ratio. So unless you have bundles of money flying into your home every day, you really do not need those coveted, fancy, pretentious, exorbitant, atrocious band A seats to have a good day at the theatre.
Besides, there are a few theatres that label their absolute best experience as 'Premium' rather than band A. Maybe the folks who pay for these tickets don't like being just one of many 'bands' and want to feel like an exclusive group. I call what these tickets give you 'experiences' rather than 'seats' because they usually offer you more than just a good seat view. Premium seats give you quite the VIP treatment. You may be served a free glass of Prosecco, or get a free champagne or souvenir or programme. Take the word 'free' with a grain of salt, though, because it is not really free when you are among the people who paid the greatest amount of money to be at the theatre that evening.
3. How much do band A seats cost?
A lot. Triple digits. On average, 150 quid a seat. The Stage conducts a survey of the highest and lowest prices of tickets at West End theatres. Using their data, the bee put together the following histogram of ticket prices. As you can see, the majority of theatres charged between £146 and £186 for their best seats at the time of the survey.
If it is any consolation, the lowest priced seats in all these theatres averages to around £24. Quite a range, isn't it? But London theatre is accessible that way to people with any budget (unless your budget is even lower than £24, in which case don't worry at all as Theatre Bee runs this site for people like you, and it is possible to go to the theatre and watch a great West End show from one of these band A seats for under £25. Keep reading to find out more).
Top priced seats are not just expensive, but are getting more expensive with each passing year, according to this article by The Stage (paywall) summarising the insights from their analysis. It seems the top priced seats in summer 2022 are about a fifth more expensive than their pre-pandemic levels.
4. What is the most expensive West End theatre seat?
The award for the most expensive theatre seat in all of London's West End, as of July 2022, goes to Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, playing at the Playhouse Theatre. The bee saw with its very own eyes seats priced at £300 per person at one point, although as of the current writing the prices appear to have dropped slightly to about £150. The Stage's published 2022 survey data (paywall) confirms the bee's memory with top priced tickets listed at a whopping £304 per person, so that a party of two would end up paying as much as a small vacation to watch Cabaret the musical! You would think you're sitting on a throne made of gold and studded with the Kohinoor diamond.
But before you despair, here is a consolation. There is a (very difficult to win but not impossible) theatre ticket lottery for same-day show seats on the TodayTix app. The bee has won this lottery before (albeit after months of trying and losing), and got to watch the musical from the best seats in the house! Visit the bee's comprehensive guide to the Cabaret musical lottery to learn all there is to know about this lottery.
And if you, like the bee, have tried the lottery enough times that it feels comical how you keep trying relentlessly, how about treating yourself to this 'I lost the Cabaret lottery again' mug (or t-shirt or bag or a range of other merch) from the Theatre Bee Store? It's the bee's own (non-profit) store where the bee publishes its designs to generate funds to support this site.
Unfortunately, as far as Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club goes, that's all the consolation the bee can offer. Other than the lottery, there is currently no other way to get cheap day seats, rush seats, concession seats, discounted seats, or anything of the kind (to the best of bee's knowledge, but please feel free to correct the bee using the comments below if you are aware of any other tips or tricks to get cheap tickets to Cabaret at the Playhouse Theatre). That's not the case with other shows, though. Read on.
5. How can I get cheap band A seats?
Is it even possible to get cheap theatre tickets for stalls seats or band A seats? Yes, the bee speaks from personal experience. If you don't believe the bee, check out the bee's savings tracker in which the bee records every theatre visit it makes, the seat it watches the show from, the price it pays for the seat, and the discount relative to the face value or full price of the seat. You will find plenty of theatre visits in there where the bee has spent as little as £25 and watched the show like a queen bee rather than the drone that it usually is.
Here are three ways to watch West End shows like royalty from band A seats for less than £30 per person
A. Check if the West End show you are interested in runs a lottery.
It is surprising how easy it is to win some of these lotteries and gets stalls seats for as little as £25. Unfortunately, Cabaret and Hamilton do not fall under the category of easy to win lotteries. But the bee has been successful in getting amazing seats to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on its very first attempt at the lottery. No kidding. For theatre bee’s guide to all West End lotteries running at the moment, visit the bee’s dedicated London theatre ticket lotteries page.
B. Check if the show has rush tickets on TodayTix
TodayTix offers rush tickets, i.e. tickets to same day shows, at 10 AM every day on its app. For most shows, this means that if you are on the app at 10 sharp, and if you’re fast with your fingers, you might be able to get amazing stalls seats for just around 25 quid a person. The bee has managed to get tickets to a large number of shows, including but not limited to The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre, Straight Line Crazy at the Bridge Theatre, The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
C. Check if the show has day seats by visiting its site and calling the box office
A number of theatres release day seats on the same day as the show. These seats are released in the morning and often provide great value for money. For example, the Royal Court Theatre offers tickets to all its Monday performances for £12 a seat. That’s right, every single seat in the entire theatre costs exactly £12. These seats are released at 9 AM on Monday mornings on the Royal Court website.
Another example is the show Grease at Dominion Theatre, which supposedly gives out day seats for as little as £30 if you call the box office on the phone. Similarly, Disney’s Frozen playing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane and The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre offer £25 tickets on Mondays to performances the entire week. Here is the official Disney page for rush tickets. Perfect if you want last minute tickets + great seats + cheap prices. Talk about having the cake and eating it too.
One list thing before the bee buzzes off for the day. No guide to London theatre seats is complete without a link to one of the most comprehensive resources out there. Check out TheatreMonkey's venue-specific guides here. For nearly every theatre venue in London, the monkey shares its opinion on which seats to get, and which ones to avoid. There are colour-coded seating layouts describing what the producers deem to be the best seats and what the monkey deems to be the best seats. Surprise, surprise - they don't always coincide! You can sometimes get royalty-like views at drone-like prices!
Please leave a comment if you found this guide useful, or if you have any more tips to share, or have anything to say at all, really. The bee is so grateful.
Information in this post is current as of 23 July 2022.