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Broadway, Theater land, Musical Theatre, NYC ...the Place to Be
A guide to Broadway Theater in the Heart of New York City
Be a Broadway Baby In the Big Apple
In this lens, I will be looking at the wonderful world of Broadway theatre, in New York City's Theatreland, Broadway.
Have you always wanted to go to Broadway, but never got round to getting a ticket for a show because you don't know how? Well here you will find some great ideas to get good seats to the shows you've always wanted to see...including some clever ways to get money off the price of tickets and get discounts.
But now, you're probably thinking "I don't know what to see?" ...Fret not, read on for ideas of what to see, as well as other shows that you probably shouldn't miss!
The Heart of Broadway...Times Square
They Say that Neon Lights are Bright on Broadway
The Theatre District (which Broadway runs through) is generally regarded as being from 53rd street to 42nd street, between 6th and 8th Avenue. Within this relatively small area, it contains over 40 theatres! That's a lot of shows! I haven't come across another city quite like New York. It is famed for it's shopping, it's theatres, it's buzz, it's very self.
There is so much in the Big Apple, that you should never find yourself running out of things to do, it's jammed packed with museums, shopping, restaurants, central park, amazing architecture the list is virtually endless...However, if you find yourself in New York City, you MUST go and check out a show - if for no other reason than to say 'I saw a show on Broadway'. When I first went to New York, I was so excited that in 7 days, I saw 8 shows, then another time, in 4 days I saw 6 shows. I could list and write a mini review on each, but I fear that would lead to a one way ticket to sleepsville via yawnarama-land! Besides, some of the shows I saw aren't even there anymore!
In Phantom of the Opera: The original cast recording was the first in British musical history to enter the charts at number one. Since then it has gone gold and platinum in the UK and US, selling over 2 million copies.
I want to mention a little bit about the city as a whole. I find NYC an incredibly easy city to get around from A to B. The city, and the theatre district in particular is designed on the grid system (lower Manhatten differs slightly) - so you could say to someone 'I'll meet you 3 blocks that way, then 5 blocks uptown' and even the most disorienated mongoose that had been spun around 5 times couldn't get lost. The street numbers start at the bottom of Manhatten then work their way up. So if you're on 42nd Street and head 10 blocks DOWNTOWN, you'll be on 32nd street - then if you head 20 blocks UPTOWN, you'll be on 52nd street....get it? Easy Peasy. The 'numbered' streets run horizontally as you look at a map - then vertically the streets generally have names, or are called avenues, instead of streets...this sounds confusing...but check out a map of Manhatten and you'll understand what I mean.
The 'Subway' is also very comprehensive...although when you get there, it might feel a bit confuddlesome at first! There are also really cool tours you can go on: General Sightseeing tours, Sex and the City tour, The Sopranos tour, Central Park tours, Boat tours (information about these should all be easily found online or in most good travel guides in your friendly local bookshop!) The Theatre District and the 'famous' section of Broadway is right in the heart of it all, and once you are there, everything is more or less in walking distance...unless you plan to see an off-broadway show (which sometimes means 3 blocks west of 'the theatre district', no distance at all!)
The Heart of it...
Want to Find Some Tickets?
There are so many shows and plays on Broadway, so it's not a bad idea to research before you go, to get an idea of what you want to see or at least the sort of genre of show you want to see. I would recommend the best thing to do, is check online before you go to tell you what is on at the moment. Broadway shows come and go and demand for tickets can be higher than you might think. The best websites to have a look on are:
- Broadway Tickets and Discount Theater Tickets for Broadway and more
Get Broadway tickets at great prices and find discount theater tickets for your favorite Broadway shows at TheaterMania.com
- Tickets for Concerts, Sports, Arts, Theater, Family, Events, more. Official Ticketmaster site
Find and buy tickets: concerts, sports, arts, theater, broadway shows, family events at Ticketmaster.com
- Broadway Tickets | Broadway Shows | Theater Tickets
The most comprehensive source for Broadway Shows, Broadway Tickets, Off-Broadway, London theater information, Tickets, Gift Certificates, Videos, News & Features, Reviews, Photos, New York Hotel & Theater Packages.
What Are the Best Days and Times to See Something?
It might be worth noting at this point, that show times differ quite considerably to British show times. In England, the theatres tend to be closed on Sundays and Mondays, but a lot of shows on Broadway ARE open on Sundays, and are closed on what seem like random days, such as Tuesdays or Wednesdays (well, it feels random to me). On average, most shows perform 8 times a week, including 2 matinees performances. Evening shows tend to start around 8ish, and matinees around 3ish.
As already mentioned, most Broadway theatres are closed on Mondays, then you get those that don't open on Mondays or Tuesdays, and some that don't open on Wednesdays! I've never found there to be any rhyme or reason to individual theatre's schedules. So, if you want to see one show in particular, it's definately worth checking show times before you get there. Also, don't plan on a certain day to be 'your theatre day' and not check what's on - you might end up finding that the only thing Broadway has on that day, is some random off-broadway tribute to Sooty!
Want Some 'Show Business'...?
Ever wondered what happens behind-the-scenes of shows like 'Wicked', 'AvenueQ', 'Caroline or Change' and 'Taboo'...well wonder no more
This DVD is the single most honest and exciting insight into the world of Broadway. It follows 4 new shows journeys from opening night, to press reaction, to the show's longevity and 'shelf life'. Includes interviews with Idina Menzel, Alan Cumming, Boy George and Tonya Perkins. An absolute must for any theatre fan!
Gimme a Ticket...
This might seem very obvious, as I'm sure everyone has got a ticket to see something before. But along my travels (and since I work in the industry) I've come across some tricks and alternative ways to get good seats. Once you've worked out which show you fancy seeing, you can either book wherever you are (online or by phone, and pick up the tickets at the theatre - or they should be able to send them to you) or you can wait until you get over there to the buy tickets. Obviously, the more time you allow yourself to get tickets, the better chance you have of getting good seats...or if it's a popular show, even getting a ticket at all! A point worth mentioning, is that theatres in America give out free programmes (playbills) to all ticket holders, so you don't have to spend more than the price of your ticket, unless of course you want to!
Are Broadway Tickets Too Expensive? - ...have your say
Are top price tickets for a Broadway show too expensive these days? Should there be more cheaper options?
Are we paying too much for a ticket to a Broadway show these days?
What's the best way to get tickets for a show on Broadway?
If you want to leave choosing a show to see, until you get there (and also to add a nice element of surprise to your travels in a oh-my-golly-gum-drops-I'm-so-excited-which-show-sh all-I-see-today styley), you can get tickets for same day shows at the TKTS booth on Times Square (Temporary location is at the Marriott Marquis Hotel during the renovation of Duffy Square: West 46th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue) which is practically the same (but bigger - as everything tends to be in America) as the TKTS booth in Leicester Square (in London, formerly known as the half price ticket booth.) There's also another TKTS booth at South Street Seaport, incase you pop over there too.
You can also go to whichever theatre has the show that you want to see, on the day and see what availability they have. If you arrive a couple of hours before the show starts (which can sometimes be a bit of a gamble) they should have some 'standbys' at a discounted rate. Which basically means, cheaper seats than normal, as they want to fill the house. I got offered good tickets for 'Mamma Mia' an hour before it started (AND if I was a student these tickets would have been even more bargainacious!)
Pricing & Terminology of the Broadway scene:
I feel I should explain some American theatre terminology, before we go much further. In England (as you are probably aware) the auditorium goes like this: (Going from back stage into the house) We have the STAGE, then the STALLS (seats on the floor), then above is the (royal/grand) CIRCLE, then above there is the BALCONY. There are sometimes other levels in between - but that is the general pattern. In America they call them the following...
STALLS = ORCHESTRA
CIRCLE = MEZZANINE
BALCONY = BALCONY (easy to remember)
As a general pricing guide, Orchestra seats are usually around $100, Mezzanine seats can be anywhere from $100 - $70, Balcony seats can be between $50 - $35. Obviously, the higher the price, the better the seat (supposedly). It's also worth noting that a lot of theatres divide the seat numbers - why the blinky blonky they would do that, I'm not entirely sure...but as you look at the stage - ODD numbered seats are on the LEFT hand side and EVEN numbered seats are on the RIGHT hand side. There is nothing more frustrating than getting 2 tickets and thinking you've been given seats that aren't next to each other - oops! This is can be different for some theatres, but that is generally the way it is done in the US.
Can I Get Cheap Broadway Ticket Deals?:
Occasionally, some theatres reduce the price of all tickets for matinee performances, but again this depends on the popularity of the show. Most theatres do offer a student discount. i.e. $30 rush on all Mezzanine tickets, 2 tickets per ID. So if you are a student, make sure you take over some student ID...however...***BEWARE CUNNING PLAN***...If you are British, and can pass as a student (mature students too!), try taking with you any sort of ID type card, as long as it has your photo and your name. Once, when I was in NYC and I managed to use my Youth Theatre member's card (which literally just had my photo, name and Theatre company name on), to get discount. I explained that this is accepted as Student ID in Britain (oops, I lied, oh well, sue me) and they didn't even flinch or ask further questions.
So I was able to get half price tickets on top price seats!! ROCK ON!! This is not to say that it would work for everyone, but if you're game - it's worth a try...and at the time I was a student, I just didn't have the right ID. It's worth a shot - Some theatres can charge crazy prices sometimes anyway - hmmph! This sounds even more ridiculous, but I managed to chitchat with the box office of a show I wanted to see (this was recently) and they gave me student prices (knowing fully that I wasn't) because they thought I had 'a cute accent'.
How About Getting Front Row Seats, On the Same Day for Broadway?:
'No way' I hear you cry! But, Oh yes you can - depending on the show...there is another way to get cheap tickets. Depending on how 'hardcore' you are. If there is a show you are desperate to see, find out if they sell the first 2 rows for that day when the box office opens, as a first come, first serve basis. Participating theatres should have this information on the websites I've listed above. This practice is also becoming more and more popular in the UK too, but started stateside, I believe.
I remember the first time I went to NYC, 'Aida' (Disney's show, the one that never made it to film, that Elton John did the music for!) had just opened and they were doing this. So, my friends and I queued up at 5'o'clock in the morning (yes, I was insane)...and there was ALREADY a queue (yes, New York is insane too). It just goes to show how 'crazy' some people can be about seeing a show.
Some shows also offer a 'lottery' on the first 2 rows too. This usually involves turning up at the theatre 2 hours before a show starts, putting your name in a hat. If your name gets drawn (1/2 hour later) you can buy 2 seats for the first 2 rows for something like $25 each (bargain). This is better for all those people who can't be bothered to queue up at crazy morning times, but this does however involve some hanging around until the names are drawn out (they normally allow 1/2 hour to collect the names and then do the draw etc - it's also fun and very exciting!). The first website I've listed tells you about shows that offer this option too. When I saw 'Wicked', they did the lottery option, which I tried... the lottery was for 25 seats and there was over 500 people there entering into the lottery! Tickets for some shows, are literally like Gold Dust.
Of course, you can also pop into the Box Office to see if they have any cancellations (return tickets from people who can't go on the day). If so, you may be offered them at a discounted rate. But this depends on the show. A lot of shows have a constant 'cancellation queue' for this purpose. I've never known there NOT to be a cancellation line for shows such as 'Wicked' (one of 'Broadway's hottest shows') BUT they don't discount the prices. Again cancellation queues can start super early!
***WARNING*** TAKE HEED...Never buy from touts, not that I have, so I don't have a bad experience to tell you about...I just think there is too much risk for absolutely NO guarantee, that the ticket is real. ***DO NOT WASTE OR RISK YOUR MONEY***
Any Other Broadway Deals That I Should Know About?:
Keep an eye out for THEATRE & DINNER tickets - some companies offer tickets followed by dinner at certain restaurants. As well as some tickets offering discounts at selected restaurants (usually printed on the back of the ticket). I've never gone for the 'show followed by dinner' option because the thought of being hungry at the theatre would do my head in...plus the restaurants that tend to do this can be the rather pricey ones! If you're looking to find a nice restaurant before of after a show - the website I mentioned (is it obvious how much I love this site, I swear I'm on no kind of commission either) lists the nearest restaurants to whichever theatre/show you look at...jobs a good'un!
What Are the Downsides to the Broadway Theatre District?
The only thing I don't like about the Theatre District area is it can get congested and smoggy. I've been there when it was 103degrees - NOT NICE - the smog and the heat weren't a pleasant mix - so I would not recommend going in the height of summer, it's cooler from September to April...the Brucey Bonus with this is that the theatre's are less busy, so you stand more chance of seeing what you want with less tourists soaking up the good seats. Like it or not NYC literally DOES NOT SLEEP - sounds insane, but there is always a 'hum of life' (it was really busy when I started queuing for tickets at 5:00am that time) so if you need a break from city life - then perhaps NYC won't float your boat - however there is Central Park, which is like a little spot of paradise in the metropolis. But NYC is so worth going to because of the theatre district - don't decide not to go because it's too busy - that's just silly now! I know some people who don't like NYC as they find it very 'plastic' and full of tack...I think this is nonsense...I think it's more about personal preferences. Parts of NYC are very glitzy/glam, some parts are filthy/gorgeous and some parts are all about the jazz hands - by this I mean, kinda tacky...I'm sure this is all in the eye of the beholder.
Is New York and Broadway a Safe Place to Be?:
In my experience, yes...and in other friend's experience, no. I think this is about common sense. If you're walking around NYC, like any other city, do not walk around flashing your cash in your hand, do not have valuables on display, if you have an expensive camera make sure you have a hand strap that is round your hand etc. Don't make yourself vulnerable as a target by overseeing your personal security. If you do decide to queue up early for tickets, it's probably advisable not to go on your own...safety in numbers and all that!
Each performance of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has 230 costumes, 14 dressers, 120 automated cues, 22 scene changes, 281 candles and uses 250 kg of dry ice and 10 fog and smoke machines.
Broadway Photos Link
- Flickriver: Most interesting photos tagged with broadwayshows
Flickriver - view images as a 'river of photos' and more...
So...What Have We Learnt Today about Broadway?
A trip to Broadway and especially the Theatre District, can be very expensive, but with the right know how and some careful choices, you can spend some amazing nights being entertained by the citie's finest actors at a fraction of what it should cost! Whilst we have a theatre district (of sorts) in London, there is nothing on earth that compares to the sheer buzz that NYC has to offer. You can feel the buzz standing on Times Square, it's tangeable. If you're curious about going, but remain undecided, I would whole heartedly recommend going. I love NYC and I can't wait until my trip, in April, to satisfy my theatrical hunger!
Hope you enjoyed my lens :)
More of my pages about Theatre, that you will love!
Spring AwakeningSEE FULL PAGE
Parade the MusicalSEE FULL PAGE
Hairspray (Musical)SEE FULL PAGE
Equus (Dan Radcliffe)SEE FULL PAGE
The Lion KingSEE FULL PAGE
Jesus Christ SuperstarSEE FULL PAGE
RENT by Jonathan LarsonSEE FULL PAGE
Les Miserables Movie PostersSEE FULL PAGE
Rent Remixed (London)SEE FULL PAGE
The Edinburgh Festival 2012SEE FULL PAGE
Do you know another great way to get good seats for a show. Share it here...