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New York is home to some of the best theatres in the world, with Broadway shows on the must-see list for most travellers bound for The Big Apple.
Yet the tickets don’t come cheap. When booking online, it’s common to pay almost $200 for a seat towards the front, with a spot on the balcony returning little, if any, change from a hundred.
But there’s a better, and cheaper way to nab your seat if you’ve a little time to spare. On the day of the show, tickets to most performances can be scooped up in Times Square at 20-50% off what you’d normally pay.
You’ll find them at TKTS – tucked in underneath the red ‘selfie steps’ on the corner of Broadway and 47th street, or also in the Financial District at the South Street Seaport and at the MetroTech Centre in Brooklyn.
If you’re hoping to see some of the year’s hottest musicals and plays at a fraction of the normal price, here’s what you need to know.
TKTS discount Broadway tickets: the basics
You’ll find tickets to most Broadway and off-Broadway shows at TKTS, with live screens at the Times Square venue displaying which shows are available and their starting time, along with the percentage discount that’s currently on offer:
The boards light up 30 minutes before the outlet opens – that’s at 10am on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 11am on Sundays for the matinee shows, plus 10am on Tuesdays and Fridays if one of the theatres is featuring a matinee.
You’ll only find tickets to the next performance of each show, with the evening runs available for sale from 3pm rather than earlier in the day.
The promoters of each show determine how many seats to release at a discount, and what the discount is for each show.
It can also vary throughout the day – for a matinee performance of Matilda, we spotted tickets at 30% off when the outlet first opened, which grew to 40% closer to show time.
TKTS discount Broadway tickets: have a backup plan
As the discount rate can change, so too can the tickets and shows: you may join the queue after spotting your favourite show on the board, but then discover that the last tickets have been snapped up by the time you reach the counter.
To avoid any disappointment, we’d suggest downloading the free TKTS app for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone that shows what’s currently for sale – and when the outlet is open, the percentage discount applicable to each show.
The list is updated in real-time, so as you get closer to the front of the line, just pull down on the show titles to refresh it:
As a backup, choose your top three shows and be prepared to buy a ticket to your second or third choice if that’s all that there is – or to walk if only one show takes your fancy and it disappears.
Also consider the length of the line versus the discount you’ll receive. On a good day you’ll wait around 10 minutes, but in the hour or two after TKTS opens, the line can be over an hour:
If the saving you’ll make on the show isn’t significant even if it’s still there by the time you reach the front, buying your ticket online at full price may be the smarter option.
TKTS discount Broadway tickets: tips and tricks
If you’re hitting Broadway with a colleague, partner or a larger group, decide ahead of time whether you’d be prepared to sit apart in order to get a seat.
That’s because seat pairs may be difficult (although not impossible) to find at the last minute, with the theatregoers queued in front of us resorting to their fifth choice in order to sit together.
As this author was only hunting for a single ticket, getting a spot just rows from the stage at If/Then – starring Broadway legends Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp and LaChanze – was effortless, and at 40% off to boot.
For plays rather than musical theatre smash hits, as noted by the ‘P’ next to the title in the app and on the live info boards, look for the dedicated Plays line to skip the bulk of the queue.
If you’re facing towards the red steps in Times Square, the Plays line is to the left, while the general queue forms on the right-hand side.
TKTS discount Broadway tickets: buying your tickets
Not sure what you’d like to see? There are a number of TKTS representatives roaming about in red ‘Got Questions?’ shirts that can answer all of your enquiries, or even just eavesdrop on the few orders ahead of you to see if there’s a common theme.
All up, you’ll be looking at roughly US$70-100 for an ‘orchestra’ ticket at the big musicals – the Broadway term for what Aussies would normally call A-reserve or the stalls – while plays, particularly those off-Broadway, will set you back around US$50 when sold at half price.
TKTS accepts both cash in US dollars and Australian credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and AMEX, plus Diners Club cards bearing the Discover logo on the back), with a US$4.50 fee levied per ticket in aid of the Theatre Development Fund.
That’s the not-for-profit organisation that operates the TKTS service and is included in the final price you’re quoted by the sales representative, but remember that the overall price you’ll be paying is still significantly less than when booking directly.
Finally, TKTS doesn't sell tickets to popular shows such as The Lion King, Wicked and The Book of Mormon – so if those are on your list you’ll need to stump up the normal (and very high) asking price and grab your seat the old-fashioned way via Ticketmaster or TeleCharge.
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