When I travel to New York City for a show I make sure to arrive with plenty of time before the opening curtain. Besides grabbing a bite to eat I like to poke in and out of the gaudy Times Square shops and wander over to the half price ticket booth at Duffy Square at 47th and Broadway to see what’s up on the board. To my surprise, when I was in the city last week for a double helping of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and A Life in the Theater (reviews to be posted soon), I was amazed at the abundance of productions one could choose from. They included A Little Night Music, American Idiot, Driving Miss Daisy, Fela, In the Heights, La Cage Aux Folles, Mary Poppins, Memphis, Promises, Promises, and Phantom of the Opera. Even such blockbusters as Billy Elliot and The Addams Family had tickets available. Most tickets were discounted by 50% (some were 30%). So, one begs to ask, why the plethora of musicals and plays to choose from?
The most obvious answer is the still unsettled economy, which has a cascading effect downward on discretionary spending—as in costly theater tickets. Less money to spend produces a lower demand for full-priced tickets at the box office, which translates to more tickets being available at the half priced booth.
There are also more seasonal factors to consider. October through early December (discounting Thanksgiving week) is the beginning of the annual slowdown for New York theaters. Tourists are in shorter supply and the weather is beginning to become colder and more unpredictable. Lastly, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings are less attended then the weekend performances.
So, what does this mean for the average theater-goer? Based on my unscientific research of one night’s postings at the Duffy Square Booth I would suggest now is a good time to take in a Broadway show. Yes, the lines can look long, but they move quickly. I have almost always met the most interesting people in the queue—both out-of-towners and well as foreign visitors—which makes the waiting time fly by. Many productions on Tuesday nights have a 7:00 p.m. start time and, therefore, an earlier completion. This makes for a more reasonable bedtime, especially for us older attendees. With a few of the recently opened shows lasting only 1 ½ hours (no intermission), a Tuesday night out is more in the realm of possibilities.
Some words of advice--aways have at least three choices of shows in mind before stepping up to the window to purchase the reduced tickets. Why would this be necessary if your first choice is listed on the constantly changing sign boards surrounding the booth? Availability only means seats are on-hand. The type of seats can vary from center orchestra to the far sides of the theater to the rear mezzanine. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you ask about location before you hand over your payment (which does now include credit cards). If side orchestra seats are offered I would suggest nothing higher then seats 13 or 14 (the aisle seats, depending on which side of the theater, will start with 1 or 2. Count over from there -- 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc. or 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc. The higher the number the more to the side you will sit). The attendant may be a bit gruff by all your questions since he or she wants the line to keep moving and doesn’t want to spend precious time haggling or explaining, but don’t be intimidated. It’s your money. I had friends that just went in to see Fela and they didn’t ask. They ended up being so far on the right side of the orchestra the show was hard to enjoy. They should have simply gone to their second choice.
So, if you have the time, the money, and the inclination this is probably one of the better times to head to NYC for a taste of Broadway (or Off-Broadway, also sold at the Duffy Square location).