One of the must-do activities in New York, whether you’re visiting or living locally, is attending live theatre. This is where the best of the best work – and a Broadway run is where it’s at.
So, how does one get an affordable ticket to a show? With prices ranging from $25 to $400 for the primo seats, it can be a bit daunting. With that, here are some easy tips to help you find the cheap, but still awesome, seats.
TKTS Ticket booths
The most popular is the Tickets Booths, called TKTS. At any given time they offer approximately 50 shows at a discount and change what shows they offer every day. There are three locations: Times Square, Downtown Brooklyn and the South Street Seaport. Each booth offers something different and each has their advantages. The Times Square sells tickets for same-day evening performances. Brooklyn sells evening performances and for matinees next day. And as of this article being published, the South Street location is closed due to damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy. In general, there are significantly longer lines at the Times Square location, so if you can make it to Brooklyn you very well might say yourself 30 minutes or more in a line.
Show tickets can be discounted from 20 to 50 percent off, but as there is usually a bit of a wait, be prepared. Also, TKTS take most major credit cards, but you should be advised that some Off Broadway shows will only accept cash. All of this information is available on their website. There is also a nifty app for smart phones (which I highly recommend) that let you know what shows are available each day.
Bonus tip: if you are a student, theatre professional, clergy, teacher, active military or over 65, you can become a member of the Theatre Development Fund which runs TKTS. It costs $30/ year but it gets you even steeper discounts for tickets offered by TKTS as well as access to some cool events and access to some off-Broadway shows for as little as $9.
Standing Room Tickets
There are some shows on Broadway that offer standing room tickets. You are usually at the back of the house on the ground floor- and yes, you will be standing for the entire show. One show that notably does this is Book of Mormon – one of the most expensive and sought after tickets at the moment. Standing room tickets go on sale for most shows 1 hour before curtain, but people line up long before that for some (such as Book of Mormon). This type of ticket is harder to come by than a standard theatre ticket and require some research on your part. You usually have to visit a shows website to get information regarding standing room options.
This is sort of a BINGO type situation. Some shows will do a drawing prior to the start of the show. You write your name on a piece of paper and the theatre pulls names out. Newsies and Book of Mormon are examples of shows that have done this. Show up to the Theatre two and a half hours before curtain and enter your name. Names are drawn 2 hours prior and there is usually a two ticket per person limit. Some houses require cash only; others will take credit card, so make sure you check the website of the show you want to attend for all the rules.
Some of these Broadway houses are HUGE. As a result, there are literally nosebleed sections. You know- the back of a Theatre, 3rd balcony with thinner air. Luckily, these theatres were also constructed with acoustics in mind- so even if you can barely see what’s going on, you can usually hear it pretty well. For example, Phantom of the Opera offers rear mezzanine seats starting at $27. A pretty good deal if you ask me, as often on a weekday you may be one of a handful of people up there. Again – check the show website and see what they offer.
A Word of Warning
Tickets are a hot commodity in NYC. A lot of shows, especially if they’re new or if they’ve just won awards, will not have discount tickets. If you want to see a show badly enough, you may end up paying full price for a ticket. That being said- do NOT buy tickets off of someone on the street. Fraudulent tickets are a serious problem and if you find yourself with fakes, they will NOT be honored. So the guy on the corner that says he has the hottest, cheapest tickets for that show you are just dying to see? Don’t do it. Good rule of thumb: If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Remember, to get these deals, it will require a sacrifice of your time – standing in line, with no guarantee of getting the ticket that you want. So always have a backup plan. Make sure you have 2 or 3 shows you want to see when in line at the TKTS booth. If you don’t get that standing room ticket at Mormon, pop over to Phantom and buy a cheap seat. There is so much good theatre in town; there is always something to see.