After years of waiting, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child finally landed in Australia at the end of 2018. It's playing at Melbourne's specially-refurbished Princess Theatre, which is also the only place you can see it in the Southern Hemisphere.
That means that if you don't live in Melbourne and you want to see the critically acclaimed show, you'll have to travel for it. And, with general ticket prices ranging from $65 to over $200 per person for each part, it's worth thinking about where you want to sit and how much you're willing to pay for the experience.
So, I set out to learn more about the different ticketing options – including what you get if you book a "cheap seat" (priced at $65 per part).
As with musicals and other major shows, the general rule of thumb is to book as far ahead as you can. This gives you a better chance of getting the seats and ticket price you want. This also helps if you're planning to travel to Melbourne for the show.
But you can still find tickets a few weeks before your visit, or even at the last minute if you're lucky. Ticketing manager for the show Christopher Vance says his hot tip is to regularly check the website, phone line or box office for availabilities.
"At the moment, because we're so popular, there's not a lot of last-minute tickets," he says.
"But if you've only got a short amount of time that you can attend and you see 'sold out', keep checking."
Outside of packages and the Friday Forty (which we'll get to later), there are a few different price points for tickets, and what you pay tends to affect where you sit. So, let's take a look at what your money can get you in different areas of the theatre.
The Princess Theatre is set out over three levels: the Stalls on the ground level, the Dress Circle in the middle and the Grand Circle right up the top. Each level offers a mix of ticket prices, from the very premium right down to the "cheap" restricted view seats.
The seating map you see when booking Cursed Child tickets through the Ticketmaster website. Image: Screenshot
If you want the very best seats in the house: The centre areas of the first 6-7 rows in the Stalls, or the first 4-5 rows in the Dress and Grand Circles promise the best views of the entire show.
If you want to be up close and personal: Go for seats in the Stalls. If you don't mind seeing into the wings (the sides of the stage), a seat towards the edge of the theatre could cost slightly less than one in the middle section.
If you want to take in the magic of the show: The first 3-4 rows of the Dress and Grand Circles give you amazing views of the entire show, including some very pivotal moments.
If you don't care where you sit: Look online (or ask) for the cheapest seats, including restricted view options.
Where are the best seats under $100? If you want a cheap seat that doesn't compromise too much, check out the General Reserve tickets in the Grand Circle, from $65 per part.
What's the worst seat? My pick of the worst seat is R14 in the Stalls. You have a pole right in front of you and you'd have to lean towards the people on either side of you to be able to see the centre area of the stage. If you were going with someone else and wanted to make this seat work, I'd suggest booking it alongside R13 or R15 (at a higher price point) so you could lean towards your friend's seat to see.
Where did you sit? My partner and I were in seats G16 and G17 in the Stalls, which felt very close to the stage and the action and also put us in prime position for some of the magic.
"If you want to be right in the action, definitely look in the Stalls," says Vance.
Take note, though, there isn't much of a seating rake (i.e. slope) when you're in the Stalls, so you may sometimes have to peer between other people's heads to see the stage, particularly as you get farther away from it. If you're with little kids, you can ask the front of house staff (ushers) for a free cushion to help them see – as long as they meet the height requirements.
The most expensive seats in the Stalls put you around the front and centre of the stage. When I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, my seats were in row G, which made me feel like I was a part of the action. As a petite person, I was also happy to find that no heads got in my way.
The view from a Premium seat in the Stalls. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
As the seating curves towards the stage, choosing a position closer to the wall can help bring the cost down, even in the first few rows.
"If we head out [towards the side] here in row G, we'd be sitting in A Reserve," Vance says. "And it's still a very good seat, but there will be some instances where entries and exits are visible. They won't be at the centre of your view though. And you can see into the wings."
"So, because it kind of – well, it doesn't diminish the experience, but it kind of gives away a little bit of the magic compared to a Premium seat – that's why these ones are a little bit cheaper."
However, they are still at the higher end of the price scale.
As you move towards the sides and the back of the Stalls, ticket prices will drop down. This is what's referred to as B Reserve and C Reserve. Many of these seats are located underneath the Dress Circle (you can see which seats the Dress Circle overhangs when you book).
The view from a C Reserve seat in the Stalls. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
What's appealing about these seats is that you can still have a centred view of the action and pay less if you're a little further back. For example, from row T back.
"[Some of] these seats are priced, not so much because of the view, but more because we needed to fulfil a certain quota for having a portion of seats under the $100 mark."
Vance explained that this is a unique policy for the show, which was set out by Sonia Freidman Productions to help make it more accessible to people.
"These seats would be priced over $100 for the majority of [other] productions."
Thanks to many years of shows, I've learned that "restricted view" can have a different meaning depending on the theatre. So when I asked Vance about it for this show, he explained that in this case "a seat has a restricted view if there is something between you and the stage – like one of the poles or these lights over on the sides of the stage."
"For seats that are on the extremes… they have a warning on them saying that you may miss some key moments of the plot. And they're priced as such."
The view from a restricted view seat in the Stalls, near the front of the stage. Note the light in the left-hand corner. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
The interesting thing about some of these seats is that you can still be really close to the stage and the action, if that's what you want. Restricted view seats are priced around the $65 mark per part, which means you can potentially see the whole show for less than you'd pay for one Premium seat.
But be aware that you will need to crane your neck a bit, and you have to be okay with seeing into the sides of the stage. And if you get a restricted view seat towards the back of the Stalls, you could have a pole right in front of you.
The Dress Circle is the middle seating section of the theatre. It takes you above ground level and puts a lot of the action either at, or just below, eye level.
These seats are worth their weight in galleons. As well as putting you front-and-centre, the fact that they are more elevated than those in the Stalls means you can really take in all the magic of this show (and trust me, there is a lot, but #keepthesecrets).
"The Premium seats go back to row D, then we go back to A Reserve and, after that, B Reserve," Vance says.
Similar to the B Reserve seats in the Stalls, these still give you a nice, clear view of the action. But you may see into the wings a bit.
The view from a B Reserve Dress Circle seat to the left of the stage. From this angle, you can see into the wings (the side of the stage). Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
The same principles apply to these restricted view seats as you'd find anywhere else in the Princess Theatre. In general, the restricted view seats in the centre section of the Dress Circle mainly revolve around poles.
The pole in this photo gives you an idea of the restricted view you could face in the Dress Circle. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
These poles are 4 inches in diameter and Vance suggests thinking of it as similar to "watching the television while holding a pen in front of your face."
"Not right in front of your face, but at arm's length, I think."
He said it is possible for your brain to filter it out once the show is in full swing.
"The more you become engrossed in the show, the less of an issue it becomes."
The Grand Circle
If you've always dreamed of being a Seeker in Quidditch, you'll feel right at home in this section of the theatre. It's as high as you can go, with enough stairs to feel as if you're heading to the Divination Tower at Hogwarts. It also has a very steep seating rake, which means that other people's heads won't get in the way.
"It seems very steep and very high, and it puts a lot of people off," Vance says.
"In other productions, I tend to discourage people from sitting in the Grand Circle, just because of not knowing how they're going to react when they get to the top. Whereas in this production, I definitely encourage it."
Up here, you can see the entire spectacle of the show, so it's no surprise to learn that the first three rows in the middle are Premium and often considered some of the best seats in the house.
The view from an A Reserve seat in the Grand Circle makes you feel like you’re in the Ministry of Magic’s box during the Quidditch World Cup. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
Here, even up so high, you feel as if you're part of the show. Vance pointed out that this has to do with the layout of the theatre.
"The balconies in this venue in particular are not that far from the stage, whereas in venues like the Regent, the balconies are a lot further back."
"I think because [the balconies are] stacked up on top of each other here… it feels very close to the stage."
The middle three rows in the centre of the Grand Circle, as well as the middle three rows on either side, are classed as B Reserve seats (currently $125 per person, per part).
Vance added: "There's a great sense of community up here. It's probably just a little bit under the capacity of the Stalls, and the [reactions] at certain moments make you feel a part of it."
The view from a B Reserve seat towards the front, left-hand side of the Grand Circle. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
There are a lot of General Reserve seats up in the Grand Circle, which means you can get tickets for $65 per person, per part, without the risks of a "restricted view" seat.
Vance says that the theatre provides more than 200 tickets per show at $65 or less as part of a mandate set out to help make the show more accessible, and a lot of these seats are located in the General Reserve seats up here, including the back three rows in the middle and the back three rows on either side.
The view from some General Reserve seats in the centre of the Grand Circle. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied
There are parts of the show where I think being in one of these General Reserve seats in the Dress Circle would be magical. But, due to the price, Vance says that you usually need to book even earlier for lower-priced seats such as these.
"Later releases are less likely to be at the lower end of the price spectrum and more likely at the higher end."
So basically, if you want to get tickets at a lower price point, book as far in advance as possible.
Vance says that prices can vary from what we've discussed, largely based on demand. He also says that visiting the box office or calling the booking line (1300 799 753) may help you find other options.
"If you call the Harry Potter booking line, which goes to Ticketmaster, or you come into the box office, they can say 'I've got this option at this price, or this option at this price', and they can whip through dates probably a lot more quickly than you can online," Vance says.
"Because they're doing it all day, they tend to just know, like 'I saw these seats earlier today, these are great seats.'"
Calling the booking line or visiting the box office also gives you a way to get seats at different price points or in different locations. For example, if you want to book a restricted view seat plus a seat next to it that's at a higher price. Or, if you want to book seats in different spots for each part (you can also do this online by making separate bookings for Part 1 and Part 2).
"Sometimes we have really good seats that aren't next to each other but are in prime positions and both the box office and the call centre can book them in one transaction. So you may not be sitting next to each other but it can be a good way to do it as well."
For a bit of extra luxury (and cash), you can also book a Premium Lounge Package, which gives you a Premium seat in the Grand Circle, premium lounge access before the show and during the breaks, a pre-show drink, hors d'hoeuvres, a souvenir and – very importantly – access to private bathroom facilities so that you don't have to line up with everyone else. You can book this package online, with a price check in July 2019 showing a cost of $270 per person, per part.
Federici Bistro – which is housed in the Princess Theatre building – also offers a dinner and show package, starting from $455 per person. Vance says this package is managed directly by the venue, and you can book directly through the Federici website.
"Their allocation is all in the Premium seating areas, and the majority is in the Dress Circle," Vance says. He added that the venue also offers corporate packages if you're thinking of taking people as part of a work function.
Finally, if you're on a budget and you can be super flexible (and you can get yourself to the Princess Theatre at very short notice) then you could try your luck with the Friday Forty. Basically, every week, you can enter a TodayTix competition that gives you the chance to book tickets to the show for $40 per person, per part. The Friday Forty seats are in the first three rows of the Stalls, which puts you literally front and centre for the show, and they only set you back $80 per person for the entire experience.
This view could be yours for $40 per person, per part if you enter and win the Friday Forty booking competition. Image: Jim Lee/Supplied