Update July 8, 2015: Everything in this post is still valid, but if you’re looking for additional information, check out my latest post on the topic: Broadway on a Budget: Six ways to score discount Broadway tickets.
Update May 1, 2015: Because so many of you have asked for it, here’s an alternative to Broadway ticket lotteries: give the discount ticket app TodayTix a try. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with it. For $20 off your first order, use my code: ZGYOD. Okay, on to the blog post!
Being a lover of musical theatre living near NYC makes my wallet cry. Poor wallet. All it wants is to know what it’s like to not feel a devastating emptiness all the time. In an effort to prevent my wallet from going off the deep end, I’ve stopped buying full-price Broadway tickets and have started frequenting lotteries.
For those who haven’t heard of a Broadway lottery before, here’s the gist: Most of the shows on Broadway have a lottery system where you show up approximately 2-3 hours before the curtain and enter your name to win a pair of tickets. These tickets range from $20-$40 and can be anywhere in the theater — front, back, side, full view, partial view, box… Whatever the theater has left that day. The last pair of tickets in the Hedwig lottery, for instance, stick you in a box with the speaker system. (Here’s a tip: Bring earplugs.) The odds of winning a lottery change depending on how many tickets are available, and how many people enter the lottery for any given performance.
I’ve been searching for lottery tips online, and I’m not finding many. So, in the spirit of camaraderie, here are the top tips I’ve discovered in my Broadway lottery-going experience:
1. Plan your attack. This site is my personal favorite for lotteries because it gives you the full schedule, in chronological order. This way, you can run to a 4:30 lottery, then still make it to a 5:00 if you don’t win. If you’re planning to lottery-hop in case of emergency, be nice to the people around you at the first; chances are you’ll be seeing them again very soon.
2. Bring cash. Some shows take credit cards as payment for lottery tickets; others don’t. Come prepared with multiple forms of payment, including cash. You’ll also need to show at least one form of ID most of the time, so make sure to bring that along, too.
3. Single? Mingle. Pairing up with another single (each putting in for two tickets, and promising each other your extra if you win) doubles your chances at ending up with a seat. I like to accomplish the mingle by awkwardly holding up one finger at people who look lonely and shooting them my best pathetic puppy-dog eyes. Double win: You get a lottery partner AND a new best friend!
4. When it rains… Bad weather? You’ve got a much better chance at scoring a ticket, sheerly based on the fact that some potential lottery-goers aren’t going to want to stand outside in bad weather. Bring an umbrella, rain boots, and a change of clothes so you aren’t watching the show completely drenched. Snowstorm? Even better.
5. Don’t go for gold. The more popular the show, the less likely it is you’ll win tickets. That’s math. When attempting a lottery, your best bet is to go for a show that has been out for a while; your Wicked chances a fews years ago were slim, but now you may find them (slightly) less slim. Going right after the Tony’s is always rough. Of course, this piece of advice doesn’t apply when you have your heart set on a certain hot-ticket performance, in which case you’ll have to…
6. Prepare to wait it out. I know someone who entered the lottery for Book of Mormon every performance for six weeks before winning. Is that really worth it? Wouldn’t you have rather just coughed up money for pricey tickets earlier on and saved yourself hours, days even, of personal time? Maybe not. I’ll admit it: At the end of the day, it’s the luck of the draw. Just like in gambling, a true lottery-goer always expects to win on that next pull…
And, one bonus tip:
You think you’re smart because you’ve put your name in the lottery multiple times. You’re not. Rest assured, they do check for repeat entries in the two hours between the lottery drawing and the curtain going up. As the lottery host at Hedwig said on Saturday, “If your name is in here multiple times, I’m going to take your ticket away. And won’t that be sad? Oh, the shame.” Moral is, play fair.
Help a girl out: What are your Broadway lottery, rush, and SRO tips?