If you’re planning on making a trip to the theater part of your Pride celebration, read this (skimming is okay — if it's absolutely necessary): Gay City News’ annual round-up of what you should see, what you can see, and how.
The good news is that, for the most part, if you want to see a show you can. You can invest time or money or just get lucky, but you don’t have to be shut out — even from the biggest hits. Sites like stubhub.com, vividseats.com, seatgeek.com, and even Telecharge.com may have tickets at the last minute, though you could be looking at $1,400 for orchestra seats for “Hello, Dolly!” or nearly $600 for rear balcony for “Hamilton.” The point is, they’re available, and in talking with many, many theatergoers I’ve realized that everyone has their own price threshold. I’ve also watched prices on resale sites drop as performances get closer, as resellers don’t want to be stuck with inventory that becomes worthless once a curtain goes up.
Prices on Broadway can range from as low as $39 to about $189 for standard seats. When it comes to premium prices, it’s hard to know how high is up. Dynamic pricing means that theaters can charge what the market will bear, which can be stratospheric. Seen in context, when people spend $2,500 and up for Super Bowl tickets, $750 for a hot show — and perhaps a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience — takes on a somewhat different hue.
But there are still many ways to see shows economically. Many sold-out shows also have cancellation lines and standing room. Cancellation lines for “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hello, Dolly!” can start very early in the day, so you may end up investing a lot of time for something that’s not sure. Standing room was once sold as a regular option. Now, most shows won’t sell standing room unless they are otherwise completely sold out. Be in line early, and be ready to wait.
For those willing to take a chance, lotteries have exploded in the past year, with many productions offering them. There are also day-of rush tickets for many shows. The best source I’ve found for these is the TodayTix app where you can sign up and purchase if you win. You can also purchase full price and discounted tickets through the app, and they have very nice people outside the theaters who will deliver your tickets.
Some shows run their own lotteries, so it can pay to check out their websites. Many also give you bonus chances to win if you share on social media. I know plenty of people who have won these seats, which can be anywhere in the theater. Your chances for “Hamilton” (lottery seats are in the first two rows and not ideal, but they’re $10), though, are still about one in 10,000. The odds are better for other shows.
There are also the traditional discounts. The most consistent site I’ve found for these is theatermania.com. You can choose discounts, if offered, or full-price tickets, and you’ll usually click through to buy on another site. It’s also the most comprehensive site for shopping around.
Then there’s my old friend, the TKTS booth, which has been around since 1973 and got plenty of my odd job money when I was a kid — and still does on occasion. The three locations sell day-of tickets for a 30-50 percent discount. Line up early for the best selection, and take advantage of the “Play Only” lines to cut your wait time significantly… if you’re not trying to see a musical. Find all the details at tdf.org.
Finally, you can go to the box office. I know in this age of digital everything this might seem quaint, but I have always had good luck even on short notice. You’ll pay full price, but you won’t suffer the additional convenience fees of online sales. I’m also a fan of this method since even when you pay a premium, all the money goes to the production, rather than the reseller. I’ve also found that asking for single tickets may yield better seats. If you are alone or you don’t have to sit with your theater companion, you may score some prize locations. I know I have over the years.
It’s highly recommended that you go through a legitimate vendor, whether direct or a reseller. Be wary of people selling tickets on the street, particularly to hot shows; there have been counterfeits.
So, that’s the how, now here’s the what: my recommendations and tips on what’s available as of June 15. Things can — and will change — but this should give you an idea of what you may be able to get. This list only includes shows from the current Broadway season from June 22-27, though you can find tickets for long runs such as “The Lion King,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “School of Rock,” and “Kinky Boots” and often at TKTS. Most shows play Tuesday through Saturday evenings with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
If I never see another show, I can die happy. This amazing, big-hearted revival is the reason we fell in love with musicals in the first place. I think my whole outlook on life improved after the performance I saw. Bette Midler in the title role gives a Tony-winning performance for the ages, hilarious, precise, and so richly human you’ll fall in love with her all over. With wonderful supporting performances from Gavin Creel — also a Tony winner in the show — and Kate Baldwin, this production is about as perfect as it gets. I missed the press nights, so I paid $350 at the box office for a front row mezzanine seat, and I’d have paid double for the joy this show delivers. Maybe it’s the spirit of the show, but it has the most helpful box office staff I’ve ever encountered.
Availability: Mostly sold out. The least expensive seats I found at the box office were $169 in the balcony. The most expensive I found were $1,900 for the seventh row of the orchestra from reseller sites. (Donna Murphy has started playing Dolly at Tuesday evening performances.) Best bets: resellers or box office for singles, which are usually premium seats at $300 or more.
Shubert Theatre, 224 W. 44th St.
Come From Away
This is a profoundly moving show that will leave you believing again in the power of human goodness. The ensemble cast is magnificent, but standouts are Jenn Collela, who took the Drama Desk Award for supporting actress, and Chad Kimball. The show also took the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, and it got my vote. (“Dear Evan Hansen” was eligible last season for the Off-Broadway run.)
Availability: Seats are extremely limited at the box office, but there’s a good selection at resellers, ranging from $171 at the back of the mezzanine to more than $1,700 for prime orchestra seats. The show also offers $38 rush seats available when the box office opens, but the show doesn’t say if they’ll be available or how many will be sold for a given performance. Best bet: resellers.
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St.
Dear Evan Hansen
The show just walked away with Tonys for Best Musical, lead actor Ben Platt, and featured actress Rachel Bay Jones. I had some quibbles with the morality of the story that posits that feeling good is more important than truth, but the contemporary take on the power of social media and belief is timely and often affecting. Platt’s performance is consistently spectacular, and the score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul is fresh and often exciting.
Availability: The show has a digital lottery and standing room for sold-out shows. The rumor is you can’t get near the show, and it is completely sold out at the box office and on Telecharge, but resellers have plenty of seats, ranging from $350 in the rear mezzanine and orchestra seats starting at just over $500. Best bet: resellers.
Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St.
This is the only Off-Broadway show on the list, and it’s one you should see. The pared down production emphasizes the Grand Guignol nature of the story of the demon barber and his accomplice in murderous pastry-making. Set in a 130-seat pie shop downtown, the scary intimacy of the production made it one of my favorites of the year. The company now features Broadway veterans Norm Lewis as Sweeney and Carolee Carmello as Mrs. Lovett. You have the option to order pre-show pie.
Availability: Daily lottery for $39. Some single seats available through the box office, and only a few resale tickets. Those available are about $300. Best bet: lottery.
Barrow Street Theatre, 23 Barrow St., btwn. Bleecker & W. Fourth Sts.
This buoyant, engaging show is so charming and entertaining, you’ll easily look past the formulaic plot. Andy Karl’s performance as the curmudgeonly weatherman is a knockout, and the score by Tim Minchin has all the sly humor and sophistication he brought to “Matilda.” It’s certainly one of the most fun shows on Broadway right now.
Availability: Daily lottery for $39 through the show’s site. Good availability at all prices at the box office and online. Often at TKTS. Best bets: box office or TKTS.
August Wilson Theatre, 245 W. 52nd St.
Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole take on Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, respectively, in a stylish look at their stories and their rise as titans of the cosmetics world. From the team that gave us the wonderful “Grey Gardens,” this is a sophisticated show with two unforgettable, bravura performances. Their stories may be slightly fictionalized for dramatic effect, but these two Broadway stars are the real deal and not to be missed.
Availability: Good availability at all prices at the box office and online. Often at TKTS. Best bets: box office or TKTS.
Nederlander Theatre, 208 W. 41st St.
A Doll’s House, Part 2
Lucas Hnath’s sequel to the Ibsen classic also manages to be a fresh and contemporary look at marriage and relationships. The cast, led by Tony winner Laurie Metcalf, includes the divine Jayne Houdyshell, a wonderful Condola Rashad, and a masterful Chris Cooper. Under Sam Gold’s direction, the play crackles with wit, innovation, and theatricality.
Availability: Fair in all sections at the box office and online. Often at TKTS. Best bets: box office or TKTS
John Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St.
The Little Foxes
It’s so nice to be reminded how enthralling a well-made play can be. Daniel Sullivan’s sumptuous production features Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternating in the roles of the domineering Regina and the dipsomaniac Birdie. I saw Linney as Regina, and it was a performance of depth and power like few I’ve seen. Nixon was Birdie with a sensitivity and fragility that was deeply moving, and it won her the Tony for Featured Actress. Gay City News’ review by David Kennerley, who saw the cast the other way around, can be found at gaycitynews.nyc/foxy-ladies.
Availability: Good in all sections at the box office and online. Often at TKTS. Best bets: box office or TKTS.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.
The Tony-winner for Best Play is a fast-paced, engaging, and engrossing play about the Oslo Accords that aimed at Middle East Peace. What might seem like heady material has an immediacy and tension in the production directed by Bartlett Sher. With galvanizing and unforgettable performances by Jennifer Ehle, Jefferson Mays, and Tony-winner Michael Aronov, you will be on the edge of your seat throughout.
Availability: Good for side orchestra and loge at the box office and online. Often at TKTS. Best bets: box office or TKTS.
Vivian Beaumont Theatre, 150 W. 65th St.
Kevin Kline and company give Noël Coward’s play a rollicking production that perfectly marries sophisticated drawing room comedy with flat-out slapstick. Kline is at the top of his game, as his Best Actor Tony demonstrates, and outstanding performances by Kate Burton and Kristine Nielsen are pure magic. Director Moritz Von Stuelpnagel keeps the antics at a deliriously hilarious pitch throughout.
Availability: Excellent in all sections and at all prices at the box office online. Often at TKTS. Best bets: box office or TKTS.
St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St.
The Play that Goes Wrong
Imagine everything that could possibly go awry in a show ever... and they all happen in one performance. That’s the premise of this rollicking comedy. I have often written that plays fall apart in the second act, but never before this one have I intended that as high praise. From raucous silliness to some of the best physical comedy you’ll ever see, this is pure escapism that will leave your jaw dropped from the antics... and your sides aching from laughter.
Availability: Good in side and rear orchestra, very good in the mezzanine, some in the balcony at the box office online. Often at TKTS. Best bets: box office or TKTS.
Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St.
A list like this can never be comprehensive, so I went with my favorites (don’t be a hater). Each of these has, for different reasons, offered an evening to long remember. I hope you find something to love, too.