Playbill for Lincoln Center’s “The King and I” with Kelli O’Hara

Things to know when buying Broadway tickets

My plan in this entry is to tell you everything that will be helpful in buying tickets, seats, etc. I will also tell you what my preference/style is and why so you can make your own call. It will depend on what you want out of your trip to the Great White Way.

How do I know what is playing on Broadway?

Broadway has both plays as well as musicals. Plays typically are a limited time period (anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months) and musicals can either have a pre-determined closing date or be an open run (until they decide to close.) Some musicals have been on Broadway for years. For example, Phantom has been running since 1988, Chicago since 1996, and Lion King since 1997. Other shows run for a couple of years and then tour after they close. Check out these websites to see what is playing currently. They also include what is coming soon.

What is the difference between “on” Broadway and “off” Broadway?

Well surprising, it has nothing to do with being on “Broadway” the street. The short answer to this is that any theater that holds 500 or more people is “on” Broadway. So lest you think that being “off” Broadway means the show isn’t as good, it only means it is a smaller (and often much more intimate) theater. 99% of the big shows you have heard of are on Broadway.

Where should I look for tickets? How do I know if I am getting ripped off?

My safe-bet suggestion is to search for the musical’s name and type “official site” into your search. A zillion sites will pull up. Go to the show’s official page and then follow their link to tickets. I like this better than buying through the above (or other) sites because they can have extra fees for the same seats. For example, I just compared an official site ticket link to another link and their face value was the same but the official site only had $10 in extra fees and the other link had $56 in extra fees.

A good rule of thumb is that your typical musical with orchestra level seats (but not in the middle to close front) will run you around $150.

By the way, this is also true for touring shows. When you are looking for tickets to Wicked on tour, follow the above steps and just add “tour” to the search. That way you won’t get gouged by some second sale site when it comes to town.

Sometimes my friends show me what they paid for tickets to Broadway tours and they ask if I think it is high. I just want to curl them up in a hug when I realize they paid $75 more than I did for the same seat. I want to wrap them up in the comfort of a We’ll get it right next time moment.

What if I want to save some dough by sitting further back? Will my seats stink?

Not likely. Broadway theaters are plentiful but they often are much smaller than professional theaters in other cities. For example, the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle holds 2,100 people and the Paramount Theater 2,880. In comparison, many typical Broadway theaters are more around the 1,100 range. So, the worst seat in a Broadway theater isn’t nearly as far back as the worst seat in Seattle. That being said, I’m not a fan of sitting toward the back in any big theater. The reason is that, for me, it feels like I am watching a movie when I am that far back. I feel less connected to what is happening on stage. But that’s just my deal.

If you want to know the size of the theater when making your purchase, here is a link to click on the theater name to give you an idea.

What are “Prime” tickets? Do I want them? Are they worth it?

Prime tickets are center orchestra seats that often start a couple of rows back (since front row can sometimes lack the big picture feel.) Prime have a hefty jump in cost from the $150 ish I mentioned above. I’ve only bought a couple of prime seats. I would rather be in the front row or on the 4th row on the side than to pay another $70 bucks to sit across the aisle. That’s my preference. I like to be up close. I want to see their facial expressions, the details of the amazing costumes and who spits the most when they sing.

And yeah, they spit. Very sexy.

Ok, enough with the big amounts, what about discounts?

There are multiple ways to get discounts to shows. Much of that depends on flexibility in terms of what you are willing to see and if you feel comfortable waiting till day of to buy it. If you want to try for a super-discounted ticket to a show day of you can check out TKTS in Times Square. You take what you can get.

Another newer option I haven’t used but have heard about a bunch is Today tix. They make it so you can get discounted tickets day of through an app on your phone.

What if I want to buy tickets ahead of time? Are there discounts for that?

I completely get it. That’s me. I don’t just go to NYC and see one or two shows. I see something every day and twice on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (If you didn’t catch that, theaters in New York usually have a Wednesday and Saturday matinee.) I set up the whole plan before I leave so I can see as many of the shows as possible that interest me. I also don’t wait until I get there because I am almost always seeing this season’s new shows. I am not there to see something that has been on Broadway for 5 years. I am there to see the shows that were nominated for Tonys this year. So that drives my choices.

Broadwaybox.com is a good place to keep an eye on for discounts to shows you want. Their discounts will often show up for the dates that are about a month away, so if they don’t have a discount to the show you want, check back later because they might. Theater Mania (above) will also have discounts.

What about discount tickets to Book of Mormon, Wicked and Hamilton? How do I get my hot little hands on those?

You don’t. You could try to play their “lottery” (which I am happy to explain to you if you message me) but you will be playing with a TON of other people. It is possible, but a crap shoot.

And while I’m mentioning Hamilton (before you get your hopes and dreams attached to tickets) let me just tell you that the cheapest seats (worst seats) I found recently for Hamilton recently ranged from $350 to $600 A PIECE. These are all 2nd sale sites.

How far in advance should I buy tickets?

A good rule of thumb (depending on your personal comfort) is a month in advance. I tend to buy my tickets in May for a trip in July. However, if you want certain seats, or if one of the leads is uber famous, or if you want the tickets on a Friday or Saturday night, you may want to push up those dates.

For example, I tried to get tickets to Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch using that timeline and that was a big, fat, no-go.

Even better example, I tried to buy Hamilton tickets in February for a July show. No original seats left. Cheapest second sale seats were $350 a piece.

Can I see shows every day of the week?

From your lips to God’s ear…Sadly this is generally not the case as most theaters are “dark” on Monday. However, more and more, certain shows have added Monday performances. It is worth a look. This year I saw a show on Monday and we chose from multiple options.

If you don’t see a show you want and you are there on a Monday, try checking out Feinstein’s 54 Below. It is a cool Broadway supper club with the greatest vibe and brings you up close and personal with some of Broadway’s biggest stars. They will often do a couple of shows and all of the tables are no more than 24 feet from the stage. I saw Patti LuPone here and she was fabulous. It has the feel of being invited to a private concert.

What about famous people on stage?

An easy way to find out who is performing on Broadway is to checkout Broadway.com’s Celebs on Stage. One thing to note is that stars don’t stay in roles forever. Stuff comes up. TV shows beckon. If you are smitten with a certain star, you may want to check and see if there is info on when they are leaving the show. Some will take a couple weeks off in the summer to go film something or vacation. Others finish their run with the show and you show up not knowing they weren’t going to be there to fulfill your dream of seeing them spit while they sang. Also, just because it doesn’t have a “star” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have Broadway rockstars. It just may mean that someone from a TV show you know isn’t in the show. For example, Jessie Mueller won a Tony and is fantastic in Waitress. However, she won’t be listed as a “celebrity.”

What about shows that are appropriate for kids?

Broadway.com also has a category for that. I can safely tell you that Book of Mormon isn’t appropriate for kids. I’m in my 40’s and B.O.M. isn’t even appropriate for me. Ha.

Do shows ever get cancelled? If so, what happens?

Yep. You get your money back.

This can happen for a number of reasons. This summer two shows I had tickets to were cancelled. One closed early (thanks to a lack of Tony wins) and the other cancelled the day before (Off Broadway) because of an actor illness. I am assuming that show just didn’t bother to have understudies for such a short run. They ended up refunding my money and shortly after cancelled the rest of the run.

Anything else you want to know about buying tickets?

Message me and I’ll do my best to answer. Specific thoughts on certain shows is coming in another entry.

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