Broadway sure can be expensive! Last week, the average paid admission for 2011 Tony Award winner The Book of Mormon was $201.13. The top ticket price for the 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots was $349.00. But you don't need to be Daddy Warbucks to have a fun night out on Broadway. It is quite possible to enjoy a night of dinner and theater for two in midtown Manhattan for under $100. Here's how:
1. Select a show: Buying a ticket on Broadway is kind of like finding the right apartment. It takes a lot of planning and forethought, but once the time comes to seal the deal, you have to strike fast and act decisively. There are several options:
Lotteries: For those with more flexible schedules, one of the several shows offering a ticket lottery might be a good option. Lotteries are daily drawings, usually held two hours before curtain, the winners of which are eligible to purchase two inexpensive orchestra seats, often in the front row. Newsies ($30.00), Wicked ($30.00), and The Book of Mormon ($32.00) all offer lotteries. You can even see Kinky Boots for $37.00 per ticket if you win their lottery. Of course, winning the lottery isn't a sure bet, so again, this option is better for people who can keep coming back to the drawing and are not easily disappointed. If you don't have a flexible schedule and if you don't win, don't let that spoil your night. $27.00 standing room tickets are available at the box office on the day of show for sold-out performances of Kinky Boots (and many other Broadway shows) so just get those and think of the $20 you saved that you can now use toward drinks with your dinner. Just don't forget to wear comfortable shoes, because you will literally be standing through the whole performance.
General Rush: Some shows offer affordable tickets when the box office opens on the day of the performance. These are called rush tickets, a term that conjures images of hordes of Broadway fans racing to the theater and squeezing into the box office like it's the last helicopter out of Saigon, but is actually far less scary. Pippin ($37.00), A Night With Janis Joplin ($30.00), and Once ($35.00) offer these tickets. Since you buy them on the morning of the show, it's more of a sure bet, allowing you to leisurely plan your pre-theater activities. General rush tickets are open for purchase to theatergoers of any age. Policies vary from show to show (some offer one ticket per person, some two) and they're always dependent on availability, so once they're gone, they're gone. You may want to arrive at the box office earlier than the 10AM opening. Some people start lining up as early as 6AM.
Student Tickets: If you're a student (with a valid student ID) you can often find some pretty great ticket prices. The Glass Menagerie ($35.00), Jersey Boys ($27.00), and Mamma Mia! ($31.50) all offer rush tickets (see above) specifically for students. Some shows, like Romeo and Juliet and anything at Roundabout Theatre Company allow students to buy discounted tickets in advance online. If you buy those, you never have to worry about waking up early and waiting around for the box office to open. Click here for a complete list of rush/lottery/student ticket policies.
TheaterMania Discounts: Another great way to avoid a trip to the box office is to buy discounted tickets through TheaterMania.com. Several shows offer tickets in the $27.00-$40.00 range. You might spend a little more than $100.00 for both tickets, depending on the seats you select, but that kind of peace of mind might just be worth it to you. (You can also print TM discounts and present them at the box office to avoid paying fees online or over the phone. Those service charges can really add up!) TheaterMania's Gold Club is also an option: for a yearly membership fee, you could go to Broadway several times a year for just $4.50 per ticket!
2. Select a Restaurant. If you follow the above advice, you should have between $26.00 and $46.00 left out of the original $100.00 for food. This may not seem like a lot, but it's more than enough if you know where to eat.
Get to know 9th Avenue: 9th Avenue is the best place to grab a nice sit-down meal in midtown without spending an arm and a leg. There's an entire ecosystem of affordable restaurants representing a veritable United Nations of cuisine. Turkish, Indonesian, Greek...it's all there. I highly recommend Pam Real Thai Food (404 West 49th Street, right off 9th Avenue), where delicious food is served by some seriously sexy waiters. Two chicken Pad Thais will cost you $16.00, which leaves ample room for an appetizer/dessert and tip.
Other 9th Avenue Recommendations:
•Renaissance Diner (776 9th Avenue): You can dress your dinner up or scale it down, depending on your mood and budget. The back room has a fireplace and a retractable roof — perfect for all seasons.
•Kiran Indian Cuisine (401 West 53rd Street): This place has an excellent dinner special: less than $15.00 per person for a 3-course meal. Think of the spooky vibe as a feature rather than hindrance.
•Istanbul Kebab House (712 9th Avenue): Great food, tables, but no service (no tipping!), and you can watch Turkish music videos while you eat!
•Zen Palate (663 9th Avenue): With a reasonable prix-fixe menu, this is a good option for all of you vegetarians/vegans.
So that's it. It may seem complicated at first (especially the myriad ticket options), but it's simple once you get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect, so keep going to Broadway and pretty soon you'll find your own tricks and secrets too.