Viv, Jon and Totoro recently made their way to New York, where we spent an amazing week sightseeing, picnicking in the park and seeing theatre. This post is going to be dedicated to finding tickets to Broadway shows on a budget, because producers have realised that they can charge a fortune because tickets are in demand and will therefore always sell out. We saw four-Tony award winning Pippin for $37.50.
However, since we can’t all afford to spend $150-250 on seats to musicals, there are thankfully ways around this expenditure, so here are some tips on seeing the best of New York theatre on a budget, with a guide to terminology and links to resources:
“Rushing”, which we thought was a hilarious description, considering that you end up sitting still for ages) is the term for lining up for rush tickets – heavily discounted tickets for a limited number of seats that may have a partial view or that might be a bit too close to the stage for comfort. Typically, this involves getting up quite early (ie 5am) and queueing for a few hours (ie four) till the box office opens.
Check the Broadway World Forums for discussions on when to arrive for the different shows, and how many people you can expect to be there at what times. We went to the Pippin rush one day only to find that there were 30 people ahead of us, so we joined the queue for Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike (which, by the way, we ended up hating – over-acted, poorly directed and lacking in actual jokes. A shame because it was starring David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver and written by Christopher Durang).
As we sat with Totoro in the queue, we even got interviewed for Japanese TV about Broadway (“What does Broadway mean?” “What will win Best Musical at the Tony Awards?”, and other such philosophical questions). Totoro said “ohayo gozaimasu” to the viewers, but kept his views on musicals to himself.
Some shows offer standing room only tickets to their shows. Sometimes there is a stipulation that all seated tickets must be sold before SRO tickets will be sold, so don’t do this if you only have a brief stay and can’t afford to have your evening undecided until the last minute.
The lottery is a fun way to get tickets and doesn’t take up as much time as rushing, however you have a much smaller chance of getting a seat. Lotteries are typically held a few hours before curtains: you gather at the theatre, put your name in a hat and if you get selected, you’re entitled to two tickets. Again, it’s not something you want to pin your hopes to, but great fun if you get selected.
Wicked is probably the most famous and most contested lottery. No-one gets free or discounted tickets to Wicked (not even cast members can get you good seats), so the only way to see it on the cheap is to win the lottery.
The “Half-Price” TKTS booth in Times Square offers discounts (rarely 50% off – usually more like 20%). You still have to queue, but if you definitely want to see a particular show, can’t get rush tickets and have a decent budget for it, this is a way to get a bit of cash off.
See something indie
A “Broadway” show is merely defined by the size of the theatre it’s in – 500+ seats in a New York theatre maketh a Broadway show. 100-499 is Off-Broadway, and anything below 100 is classed as Off-off-Broadway. There’s loads of cool theatre going on in New York all the time. We saw a lunchtime soiree performance of Twelfth Night, including lunch and wine, by donation (we gave $15). Take a chance, try something new. The amount of money you pay in this town doesn’t necessarily mean a better or worse show.
- Be wary that certain shows offer tickets to students only, or for youth seats; check this ahead to avoid disappointment.
- You will be limited to either one or two tickets per person for rush, SRO and lottery tickets, and beware that rush etiquette dictates that you shouldn’t hold a place in the queue for a friend who wants to sleep in, as people will join the queue based on the number of people in front of them and whether they think they can get a seat, so don’t be a dick.
- Usually the box office will take card, but sometimes they require cash only.
- See Broadway for Broke People for a comprehensive run-down of Broadway and off-Broadway shows that offer discounted tickets.