I am a self-confessed Broadway nut.
From the first few notes I heard of Cats The Musical, as it toured in a circus-like big top across Australia in 1999, I was hooked (not with Cats, but with the genre). From there it was Grease, The Sound of Music, Annie, and the list goes on.
Of course these days my musical theater taste and sensibilities have become a lot more refined, but the obsession to see as many musicals as possible has remained. And, when I lived in Australia, those four or five shows a year didn’t break the bank balance. Now that I live in New York City the musical menu has grown exponentially, and so has my appetite for shows. I want to see at least a dozen or two a year, so my strategy for buying full-priced tickets has had to change. And I’m not the only one. Fellow AWNY members and Broadway fans Zoe Wetherall and Rachelle Grierson have also opted for the cheap seats and have shared their strategies of how to see a show on a budget. The three of us have compiled the following guide.
We’d like to thank all the full-priced musical tickets we purchased in our days as tourists and in our early days in New York City for showing us what not to do, and reforming us to nosebleed, cheap, last minute, lottery, and free tickets for life.
This recipe is so very easy—honestly the hardest part is not eating all the warm raw dough.
How to Get Cheap Broadway tickets
Broadway doesn’t have to break the bank. Seriously! Here’s the low-down on the different ways to find the cheap seats and discounts on shows in NYC, and our thoughts on whether each option is worth your time and money.
This is one of the first places tourists go to get cheap seats, but as locals, it gets the thumbs down from all three of us. The pros of the TKTS booth is that it is cheaper than retail price. The cons are you have to show up in person at Times Square and to be honest it’s not actually that cheap.
This app pulls together a list of several discount Broadway shows. The pros are it is easy and allows you to see all the discount options for tickets available for shows in NYC in one place. The cons are there is a pretty hefty booking fee, unless you choose a no-fee promotion. These days you can also see some rush and lottery tickets here and either enter or purchase them.
Line Up for Rush Tickets
Rush tickets are a great cheap option if you live close to the theater district and you get in line early enough to secure a seat. If a theater offers rush tickets, it will only offer a limited number. That means you need to line up before the doors open in the morning to secure a ticket. This option takes a bit of research sometimes, but it can be worth it for what might be a $30 or $40 ticket. Most Broadway news sites compile lists of the rush tickets available, like Playbill. The pros are that this option is cheap and it can be a fun experience meeting other broadway fans in line. The cons are that depending on how popular the show is you could be lining up for hours, and sometimes not even secure a seat. AWNY member Zoe Wetherall’s advice, research online the amount of approximate tickets offered by the theater and show you are planning on attending. If you get to the line that morning and it doesn’t look like you will secure a ticket. Leave. Save your time.
“I have lined up many times for hours to get rush tickets or standing room, even in the freezing cold – you gotta be dedicated to do that,” she said.
“I usually do rush tickets on the weekend. The box office usually opens at 10am on a Saturday, and I’ll try to get in line around 6am to get a ticket.”
No matter what the season, she suggests bringing a foldable chair, oh and if you forget to bring food, remember you can always order food on Seamless.
“I have lined up many times for hours to get rush tickets or standing room, even in the freezing cold – you gotta be dedicated to do that,” she said.– Zoe Wetherall, AWNY Member and Broadway fan
Enter the lotteries
There are lots of different ways to enter the lotteries for Broadway shows. A good place to start your research is Broadway For Broke People. It will also give you the lowdown on lotteries/rush tickets/standing room for each show you are interested in learning about. If the website isn’t updated, you can always go directly to the website of the show you want to see as they might have info about lotteries/rush tickets. There are some lotteries you need to enter every day and some you can enter once a week for the whole week. If you Google lottery + the show you are interested in seeing, it should also give you options to enter. AWNY member Zoe Wetherall suggests setting up a shortcuts folder on your phone to lottery sites and setting an alert for the times you need to enter.
This site is a little bit of fun if you aren’t attached to the show you want to see. You choose the day and pay a flat rate depending on whether you want to see a play, musical or off-Broadway show. You can cross out a certain number of options you aren’t interested in seeing, and it will spin the wheel and allocate you a surprise option. The tickets cost about $59 for mezzanine seats and $89 for orchestra seats.
Just Show Up at the Box Office
Sometimes the stars align and you show up at the box office for a show and you can find standing room, rush or discount tickets. Just ask what the cheapest discount tickets they have available are on the day of a show or a few hours before end see what happens.
If you are a freelancer or work in education:
https://www.tdf.org/ is a good site to be a member of if you are a freelancer or work in education. Here is the list of eligibility: https://www.tdf.org/nyc/24/Eligibility-Requirements
You can buy cheap tickets to shows that are listed on here. It’s basically like being a member of the TKTS booth, so good because you can plan and buy tickets a couple of days in advance, but not as cheap as lotteries or rush tickets usually.
If you are young:
There are also cheap tickets for young people at some places:
Keep your eye on message boards like this: where you can search things like ‘Music Man rush’ and there will be people discussing the rush line and what time they started lining up. Alternatively if it’s an in demand show you could go to the box office just before it opens and ask the first person in line what time they arrived.
That’s it for now. If you have any other tips and tricks.