Theatre is a beautiful, unique, expensive art form.
I’m not one to splurge on anything, but theatre is the one thing I occasionally let myself spend big bucks on. Just last year I was in New York, and I spent $100 on a ticket to Once On This Island. And though spending that much on a ticket stressed me out, it ended up being some of the best $100 I’ve ever spent on anything.
That said, I wanted to share some stories of how I’ve gotten cheaper theatre tickets (for professional productions) over the years. Once On This Island was worth the money, but it was still a little too pricey for me, and much more than I’d be willing to spend for most musicals.
I’m hoping this blog will inspire you, rather than act as a guide. I take no responsibility if you do what I did but fail to get cheap seats.
Student Rate: $28
I saw a variety of tours at my college’s professional theatre with the student discount. This included, but wasn’t limited to: Once, Rent, Something Rotten!, and An American In Paris. Before you buy your full-price tickets, check to make sure they don’t have any discounts for students, veterans, etc.
Lottery Loser: $40
I was determined to see the national tour of Wicked when it came to my college in 2016, but the tickets were ridiculously expensive. They didn’t have the aforementioned student tickets for the show, and I was super disappointed. That is, until I heard about the lottery.
I entered the lottery once, and even though I lost, they gave all lottery losers $40 tickets. That’s how I was able to see this show twice during its run at my local theatre. I’m not sure if this is still something this national tour does, but it’s something to inquire about if you’re interested in seeing Wicked on a budget.
Perfect Timing: $60
It was April of 2018, and I was with a friend in Chicago for a conference. We arrived in Chicago around 12 p.m. on a Wednesday, and what do you know, there was a matinee performance of Hamilton at 1:30 p.m. We thought we’d take our chances and go to the box office to see how much tickets were. Upon arrival, we learned that while the matinee was totally sold out, there were $120 tickets available for the evening. This was way too much for both of us.
Defeated, we walked out of the box office. On a whim, I loaded Ticketmaster on my phone and looked at the seats available for the matinee performance. Lo and behold, there were two resale orchestra seats open for only $50 each. Though each ended up being around $60 with extra fees, we didn’t hesitate to snatch these tickets up.
Blunt Courage: $50
I had just gotten back from an overnight flight from the Middle East, and I was jetlagged and exhausted from not having slept on the 14-hour plane ride. However, I couldn’t waste a precious day in New York. I dropped my bags off at my Airbnb and immediately headed over to Times Square. I was determined to get cheap seats for some show – I didn’t even care which one.
I initially went to the iconic TKTS booth, but their cheapest seats were way more than I was willing to pay. Thankfully, the Palace Theatre is located right across the street. At the time, SpongeBob SquarePants was playing. I walked across the street, waited in line at the box office, and asked the cashier one simple, perhaps courageous, question.
“What are your cheapest seats for tonight?”
I’m not sure how cheap the other seats around me were for, but I felt pretty dang cool getting those great seats for only $50.
Willingness to Settle: $80
Sometimes, if you’re really itching to see a show, you’re going to do whatever you need to do to make it happen. A few months before my trip to New York, I was perusing Frozen Broadway tickets because that was the only show I knew I had to see.
On the Thursday night I was planning on being in New York, there were many seats still open, and some were in the orchestra. I found a fourth-row $80 orchestra seat surrounded by seats that were at least twice the price. It was technically “restricted view,” but you could hardly call it restricted. There was only one scene where the discounted seat was an inconvenience, and I can’t imagine that the more expensive seat next to me had any better of a view.
Media Tickets: $0
One way to get free tickets? Be a member of the press.
My first experience with this concept was in college when I wrote an article promoting the upcoming engagement of the Cabaret national tour. When the tour came through a few months later, I was able to see the show for free. It was positively thrilling.
This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to write for my region of BroadwayWorld.com. As a result, I’ve gotten to see a lot of free shows. In regards to national tours, this has (so far) included Hamilton, Come From Away, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, and The Sound of Music. I’ve seen a bunch of community/college shows for free as well including, but certainly not limited to: Next to Normal, Heathers, Ragtime, and The Spitfire Grill.
Plain Luck: $0
There were two incredible instances where I went to purchase tickets for national tours and the box office attendant asked me if I’d be interested in a free ticket. Um, yes please?
This happened with Finding Neverland and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I got lucky with the former, but with Curious Incident it was even more interesting because it was a snowy Easter Sunday. Someone apparently couldn’t make the trip to East Lansing, and because of that, I got their third-row orchestra seat for free.
And while all of the above turned out great for me, it doesn’t mean that community theatre can’t give you the same thrill. I recently saw a community production of Next to Normal that, I swear, could’ve been on Broadway. If you can’t afford professional theatre, check out what shows local theatres are putting on! Chances are you’ll find something pretty great.
Any tips and tricks for getting cheap theatre tickets? Let us know in the comments!
Categories: an american in paris, broadway, Cabaret, Come From Away, Community theatre, Disney on Broadway, Finding Neverland, Frozen, guides, Hamilton, Heathers, Les Misérables, Live theatre, Miss Saigon, musicals, National Tours, Next to Normal, Once, Once musical, Once On This Island, Playbills, plays, Ragtime, Rent, something rotten, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Sound of Music, The Spitfire Grill, theatre, tickets, TKTS, Uncategorized, wicked