broadway tips

Broadway on a Budget: Six ways to score discount Broadway tickets

In case it isn’t clear by now, going to Broadway shows is by far my favorite activity, and the best part of living in New York City is the easy access I have to them. Physically, that is — the theaters are literally steps away from my apartment — but not financially. Broadway isn’t cheap… but it can be, if you know where to look. Here are my six favorite places to buy discount Broadway tickets, whether I’m looking to see a show in a few months, a few weeks, a few days — or even a few hours.

1. TodayTix is an app that I started using last year, and now it’s my #1 go-to for quick, cheap tickets and mobile lotteries. The app is very easy to use; if you’re looking to buy tickets for a show within seven days, and have a smartphone, this is the way to go. You order the tickets through the app, then pick them up from a TodayTix representative outside the box office a half hour before the show. Shows I’ve seen using TodayTix: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (with Michael C. Hall), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Fun Home, On the Town. Pros: Easy to use, excellent customer service, and a ridiculously good value. For an extra $20 off your first purchase (which could mean a free ticket in some cases), you can use my code: ZGYOD. Cons: You don’t get to pick your exact seats; you only get to select your section. In my personal experience, though, the seats have always been good. No complaints here.

2. Ticket Lotteries: If you’re willing to take a risk, a lottery is a good way to get last-minute tickets to popular shows. There are two kinds of lotteries: physical lotteries, in which you show up at the theater a few hours before the show and enter your name in a drawing, and mobile lotteries, which you can enter via TodayTix (see above). Either way, tickets will likely run you $20 to $40. The odds of winning a Broadway lottery vary from day to day and from show to show; for the best odds, try a weekday, or even a rainy day. And read my post on tips for winning, too! Shows I’ve seen through Broadway lotteries: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (with John Cameron Mitchell; second-row center seats!), Wicked (one of the harder lotteries to win, but the front-row seats are worth it!). Pros: Cheap tickets, and that feeling of elation when your name is called. Cons: That feeling of depression when your name isn’t called, and the fact that you can only win one or two tickets. If you’re hoping to see a show with more than one other person, lotteries might not be your best option.

3. General and Student Rushes: My favorite discount when I was in college! I loved student rushes, and fully took advantage of them. General rushes are also useful, though the discounts may be slightly less. To buy rush tickets, you just need to make sure the show has a rush policy, and show up early at the box office. Shows I’ve seen using Rush tickets: Way too many to count! Gypsy, Hairspray, Once, The 39 Steps… Pros: A good option for day-of tickets if you’re not willing to risk a lottery. Cons: The seats are typically up in the nosebleeds or partial view, all the way up front and to the side (so you miss half the stage); you may also find yourself waiting in line at the box office early in the morning if it’s a hot-ticket show.

4. HIPTIX and HIPTIX Gold: The Roundabout Theater Company is very kind to its younger fans, hoping to turn them into future patrons — which they do! At least, they did with me. The HIPTIX program allows theater-goers under 35 to purchase up to two mezzanine tickets for every Roundabout production for $25. (The purchaser has to be under 35; their guest can be any age.) For a $75 donation to Roundabout, you can become a HIPTIX Gold member, bumping those two tickets up to orchestra seats, still at only $25. Shows I’ve seen via HIPTIX: Cabaret, Into the Woods, The Real Thing, On the Twentieth Century. Pros: Great shows at an excellent price, and special offers and events like their extremely informative pre-show theater talks. Cons: Non-Gold HIPTIX can sell out fast, so you may find yourself buying the next available HIPTIX seats for a few months down the line, and this only applies to Roundabout productions — so, only a few a year.

5. 30 Under 30: Another great age-specific program, 30 Under 30 is exactly that: $30 tickets for theater-goers 30 and under. The program is part of the Manhattan Theatre Club. Though I haven’t purchased tickets through it yet, I’m amazed at the excellent offers that occasionally pop into my inbox just because I joined the mailing list. Just this last weekend, for instance, they shot out a 2-for-1 e-mail deal for Of Good Stock that I absolutely would have taken advantage of if I were in town. Pros: Good flash deals, and their post-show parties (who doesn’t love wine and cheese?). Cons: The age restriction, obviously, and access only to MTC productions, of which there may be few that a non-veteran theater-goer would recognize.

6. Standing Room Only (SROs): This is exactly what it sounds like. If a performance is sold out, some shows choose to offer standing spots, typically behind the back row of the orchestra. I’ve found these to cost in the range of $30. I haven’t purchased an SRO ticket, but speaking to friends who have, it sounds like a viable option if you’re willing to be patient and flexible. Pros: Access to hot-ticket shows you might not be able to afford otherwise, and the occasional run-in with someone associated with the production — a friend of mine was lucky enough to find herself standing next to Stephen Trask at an early Hedwig performance. Cons: You never know for sure if a show is going to sell out, so you may find yourself waiting in line all day only to be told no SRO tickets are available. Extra tip: A good idea here is to double down; while waiting on the SRO line, you can enter a ticket lottery. If you win the lottery, great! If not, you’ve still got a shot at SRO.

There are so many more programs, apps, sites, and discounts that I haven’t covered or yet tried. Broadway Roulette, for example, seems to be gaining some headway in the discount theater space; and sites like TheaterMania.com and BroadwayBox.com often offer discounts that rival some of these options. And I didn’t even cover the Theatre Development Fund’s TKTS booths! Mostly because the thought of standing in line in the middle of Times Square for an hour gives me hives. But that’s another story.

What are your favorite discount tips? Feel free to share them, and your discount success stories, in the comments below. 

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Six tips for winning Broadway ticket lotteries

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?