Broadway on a budget
Seeing a Broadway show like Wicked does not have to break the bank. (Charlotte Evans)
As the annual Tony Awards (10 June) shine a spotlight on the best works on Broadway, many of the top productions will get increasingly difficult to see, thanks to sold out crowds and frighteningly high price tags.
But for those in the know, there are still a few ways to see a Broadway musical in New York City without breaking the bank.
If you have more time than money on your hands, “rushing” a Broadway show is your best bet. Most theatres hold around 20 discounted orchestra seats for that night or afternoon’s show, even if the performance is sold out. They sell them on a first come, first serve basis to the first 20 people in line when the box office opens. For example, box office tickets for Once, nominated for Best Musical at the Tony Awards, are currently selling for as much as $147, but through the daily 10am rush, 20 tickets are available for $26.50 for each show.
It’s important to note: some shows only offer rush tickets for students and a valid ID is required. Many rush tickets can also only be purchased using cash, though some box offices have started accepting credit cards as well. Playbill.com breaks down the rush policy theatre-by-theatre. Also, the more popular the show, the earlier you will have to arrive in order to be one of the first. The average wait time is about an hour, but for shows like Once, plan on arriving three to four hours in advance.
If you are too old for rush tickets, or you don’t have the time to wait in line, a lottery is probably your best bet. The lottery is a late afternoon event, usually starting between 5:30 and 6:30 pm, and people can enter into the lottery for the 30 minutes prior to the event. Then, theatre employees draw names from the lottery until all 20 tickets for that nights show have been given away. Unlike some rushes, which limit one ticket per person, each lottery winner can purchase up to two tickets, but that also means the odds are slim for larger groups.
Disney’s Newsies, nominated for eight Tony Awards, runs a lottery at its Nederlander Theatre. Lottery tickets are a steal at $30, as opposed to full price tickets at $145.
If you are not one of the lucky winners, stick around after the lottery is drawn. Sometimes the box office gives away highly discounted seats in the upper levels of the theatre.
What to see
During Tony hype, when newer shows are the focus, some of the longer standing shows often have less competition for rush and lottery tickets. Wicked (lottery tickets available for $26.50) and Chicago (rush tickets available for $36.50) are both wonderful choices. Aim for a mid-week show, as landing a Saturday evening ticket is tough.
For a greater choice in shows, the TKTS booth in Times Square sells tickets for 20% to 50% off on the day of performance. Be prepared to queue for several hours for tickets to the most popular shows. The South Street Seaport TKTS booth, located in Manhattan’s Financial District, and the downtown Brooklyn location often have shorter lines and allow customers to tickets for buy next-day matinee performances.
However, if time is really of the essence, Stubhub.com offers last-minute deals, slightly reduced seat prices or tickets for sold out shows. This site is perfect for buying tickets for shows like The Book of Mormon, which is booked out until the end of the summer.
Standing room only
Finally, if you don’t mind standing during a performance, head to the box office an hour before the show for standing room only tickets at the back of the theatre. Playbill.com lists which shows offer standing room only, and the tickets are only available if the performance is sold out.
Figure out a plan B, C and D for the day. If the morning rush is unsuccessful, try the lottery for a different theatre and try for a standing room only ticket after that. By the 8 pm curtain call, you will definitely be seeing a show.
While there are many options to buy discounted tickets, do not buy tickets sold by hawkers outside of the theatre. Many are fakes.
If you miss your show but still have the ticket, ask the box office for past date ticket information. As long as the ticket wasn’t scanned by an usher, many theatres allow customers to use the ticket at a future performance.