I told many of my friends and family that our party of six managed to watch ten Broadway shows in six days in New York City. My apologies. I was wrong. I miscounted. We watched eleven (11) shows. That’s right….11 shows!
It’s one thing to watch a show on Broadway, but it’s another issue to actually to pay for a show on Broadway. The prices aren’t exactly similar to buying movie tickets. Show tickets are very pricey, and could range hundreds to thousands of dollars. But thank you to the many available discount programs, we were able to watch many Broadway shows and did not have to spend an arm and a leg. Let’s review the discount programs that we took advantage of.
Watching a Broadway show is part of someone’s quintessential New York experience. Fortunately for me and my family, watching live theatre was not that big of a stretch. Nancy and I have always watched live shows long before she and I started to date. We made sure to share our love of theatre with our kids. So whenever there was a show that came to Los Angeles or near where we live, I made sure to get us tickets.
However, watching a Broadway show, or any live show for that matter is not exactly inexpensive. Depending on the popularity of the show, tickets could start near $100 or up to thousands of dollars. But I knew better not to spend an arm and a leg to pay for Broadway shows especially when watching shows in NYC.
To get tickets to a Broadway show, there’s usually a website where the show will be playing, or the show could direct you to ticketing outlets such as Ticketmaster or Telecharge. When going directly through these outlets, chances are you will be paying full price plus additional service fees. For Hamilton, I wrote an entire blog entry on how we bought Hamilton tickets WITHOUT paying an absurd amount to scalpers. It was thanks to my American Express Platinum Card (click here for more). The Amex Platinum card gave me access to Amex Concierge service (meaning Amex will act as the ticket outlet)…this is the one that got me 3rd row orchestra seats to Hamilton with no sweat…I didn’t have to queue in….Amex Concierge did all the work. They also have access to MANY other shows on Broadway, and other shows in general. By signing up, you can get American Express Membership rewards good for air, hotel, and many other perks. Here’s a blog entry on my Top Travel Credit Cards that we use to earn rewards.
With Broadway shows, these are the ways one could get discounted tickets, or ways to avoid paying absurd, inflated ticket prices from scalpers.
- RUSH TICKETS – typically sold on the day of the show, heavily discounted, and they’ll sell whatever is available. People tend to line up outside the theatre’sbox office before it opens, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning. For instance, for Miss Saigon, we paid $39 for orchestra seats (regular price was $149 or more). The box office opened at 10am, and I was in line at 9:50am. For Come From Away, we got four box seats tickets for $38 each (regular price was around $177). We were in line at 9:20am and the box office opened at 10am.
- LOTTERY – a raffle drawing, a game of pure luck. There’s a designated time when names will be drawn, typically 20 seats are given out, so if there are a lot of people, then your chances are slim, but you just never know. Tickets are even more discounted for the lottery, and there’s an added thrill when your name gets picked. You have to enter the lottery by going to the theatre usually 2 to 2.5 hours before the show. So if the show is at 2pm, entries are accepted between 11:30-12:00pm, the winners are drawn after 12:00pm. Six of us submitted an entry for the Wicked lottery, and three of our names got picked. We were just too lucky, we got orchestra seats and paid $30 each (regular $149 or more)! Same with the Book of Mormon, two of our names got picked and we sat in the front row orchestra. We paid $32 for orchestra seats (regular price $149 or more). Depending on the show, some of them require cash only (like Wicked), while others accept credit card. Please make sure to bring a Photo ID.
- DIGITAL ONLINE LOTTERY – similar idea as the above lottery, however, there is no need to show up at the theatre. Instead, you will submit your entry online. There are certain windows of time when entries are accepted. You must be 18 years old or older to join. An email notification or text will be sent to you informing you if you’re one of the lucky winners. For our recent trip to NYC, we were notified that we won digital lottery tickets to three shows – Sunset Blvd., The Great Comet of 1812, and Groundhog Day. We purchased the tickets using the links sent via email, and picked up our tickets at the theatre.
- TKTS – this is a ticket booth that offers discounted prices to shows on and off-
Broadway. The discounts I’ve seen could range from 30% up to 50% off. There are three TKTS locations. Click here for the location and times. Some of them will only sell you tickets for shows on the same day. Other booths will sell you tickets for the next day. NOTE: Not all shows are sold via TKTS. For this Spring Break 2017 trip, would you believe that we did not have to resort to getting tickets from TKTS? True story!!!
- CANCELLATION TICKETS – this was an idea that never crossed my mind. In the many times I’ve traveled to NYC, I’ve never had to try this method. So, what exactly is cancellation line? This is especially applicable to sold-out, extremely popular shows. These are for the shows with very hard-to-get tickets. The box office, at different times during the day, could get phone calls informing them of viewers who can’t attend the performance that day. Sometimes the box office hold seats for guests of the cast members, or hold seats for VIPs they expect to watch the show. It is common for these seats to be released anytime during the day, and even minutes before the show starts. The problem here is the uncertainty.
Key things to know about cancellation tickets. (1) you could be waiting for hours or a few minutes (read my story below), (2) Selling price for these are typically sold at face value, (3) There simply are no guarantees that staying in line all day will result to getting a cancelled ticket. But when a cancellation becomes available, bingo!!! I have two cases in point:
- Dear Evan Hansen (DEH) – Other than Hamilton (which we already had purchased tickets long before our trip…click here), DEH was the other show that was on my bucket list. I’ve searched high and low for tickets for the week that we were in NYC, but the show was sold out. I checked StubHub and Vivid Seats, got tempted to purchase ahead of time, but didn’t. On our first day in NYC, we arrived at JFK at 7:45am. Took the E train to 50th St. Walked down to 45th St and made it to Music Box Theatre after 10am. No line. We went to the box office… and there were two cancellation tickets at $189 each (face value) and they were center orchestra seats!!! We didn’t have to wait or stand in line for a whole day. It was a no-brainer. We bought the tickets. Ethan and I watched the show on our first night in NYC.
Three days later, we lined up again at DEH for a chance for some SRO tickets. Again, those who line up usually get to the theatre at 3:00-4:00am.We arrived in line at 9:20 am, about 10-12 people were in front of us. By the time we got to the box office, only one $99 box seat was available. Another no-brainer. Bought it…Nancy got to watch the show this time. She had since become a FANsen.
- Sunday in the Park with George – another sold-out show that’s only playing on Broadway for a few weeks. To top it all off, Hollywood star, Jake Gyllenhaal, is in the show, and yes, he can sing. There were no tickets other than paying absurd after-market price, or waiting for a chance in the cancellation line. However, something interesting happened. Here goes. The show on that particular day was at 3:00pm. I lined up around 12:30pm (I was 3rd in line). I had to leave because I wanted to join my family in trying to get Wicked lottery tickets. Alex, the guy in front of the line who I chatted with, offered to get me a ticket if it becomes available (he could get up to two tickets, and he only needed one). Of course I accepted his offer. I left the theatre and walked towards the Gershwin Theatre (Wicked). By the time, I got to Wicked for the lottery, Alex texted me and said that only one ticket became available and he grabbed the opportunity and purchased that ticket. I couldn’t ask him to stay in line longer, he had already done me a favor by offering to buy a ticket on my behalf. He also mentioned
that the cancellation line had grown longer, thus making my chances in getting cancelled tickets even more difficult. I decided to head back to the Hudson Theatre anyway. Ethan was with me and we stood in line and chatted with a few others. After waiting for fifteen minutes, two ladies (mother and daughter) went to the box office window and asked if they could return three tickets to the 3:00pm show. Silently, in my mind, I knew the box office would not accept return tickets. Sure enough, the ladies turned around to the cancellation line and informed us of the three tickets they had for that afternoon’s show. Before they finished talking, I yelled without hesitation, “I’ll take one!” The others around me scrambled at the opportunity. One of them tried to bargain for the tickets. Clearly, these ladies were not trying to make money. They were selling the tickets at face value. Two other folks from Florida jumped at the opportunity. We all went outside and paid them by using Venmo…done! That’s how I got my tickets to Sunday In The Park with George without really trying.
- Stubhub, VividSeats, Craigslist – These are all after-market tickets that are available but are most likely being sold at some absurd price. For instance, when we watched Hamilton, we paid $199 for the orchestra seats. Ethan sat next to someone who said they paid $1,000 each for their tickets. HA!!! Same thing when we watched Dear Evan Hansen where we paid $189/ticket. The folks next to us paid $450 each. Also with Sunday in the Park, one of the ladies who was in line with me said she paid $400 for rear mezzanine seats, yet there I was sitting in the orchestra and paid $169. Here’s a tip with Stubhub or VividSeats. On the weeks leading up to our trip to NYC, I checked online or the app and observed the ticket prices. Bottomline, it’s all a matter of supply and demand. There were tickets to DEH that were being sold over $300, but when it got closer to the final hour or minutes before the show, I did see the ticket prices go down to under $100. If you are willing to risk it, it’s a game that you could play. However, I only advise that if you frequently visit NYC. In my case, I had six days to try and get tickets to DEH at face value. I was ready to try on all six days if each day turned out to be a failure. If you only have a few days in NYC, then I suggest you evaluate your best ways in trying to get tickets.
Again, we had six days, there were six of us (with 4 kids), and we watched eleven different Broadway shows. Here’s a breakdown of what we watched and the deals we got. You can also click here for a better view of the spreadsheet.
To get an idea of Broadway shows that offer discounts, lookup the following keywords on Google – Broadway Rush Lottery. As of April 2017, these were the websites I used to help guide us with the shows and the discount programs they had available:
Broadway for Broke People – how appropriate!!!
Lastly, I suggest that you come up with a strategy on how you plan on getting tickets in New York. If you are alone or with a group, that in itself could add degrees of ease or difficulty. Know your budget, know your limits. Know your timeframe, prioritize what shows are a must-see for you, and have a back-up plan. If you don’t get tickets to a particular show, you might have some time to walk towards another theatre and find out what other discounted seats are available, or try and walk towards TKTS for more last-minute deals.
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