A Broadway Ticket Primer

By Sharon Isch
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, November 20, 2005

With Oprah Winfrey's "The Color Purple" in previews, musicals about Bob Dylan and the vampire Lestat in the works, a "Sweeney Todd" revival getting raves, and Harry Connick Jr. and Julia Roberts making their way to Broadway, it wouldn't surprise us to see you heading in that direction yourself.

But nowadays, a Broadway seat has about as many prices as an airline seat. And for mega-hits such as "Wicked" and "Spamalot," the recent introduction of "premium" and "VIP" seats at scalper-caliber rates have eaten into the availability of regular-priced orchestra tickets. So here's a primer on how to navigate the ticket thicket, starting with what can be done in advance from home and then what can only be done once you get to New York.

Three things to keep in mind:

There are easier ways to get discount tickets than lining up for a long wait at one of New York's venerable TKTS booths.

Sometimes -- especially on weekends -- you've just gotta pay retail. That means $100 for most Broadway musicals (although "Spamalot" just upped its regular orchestra-seat prices to $110), and $80 to $90 for Broadway plays.

Just because a show's "sold out" doesn't mean you can't get a ticket.

Step 1: Start Shopping Online

Forget waiting in line. Forget not knowing what you're going to see till you get there and sacrificing fresh for cheap. Forget having to pay cash. Now you can pull out the plastic and shop for discounts online in advance. And there are lots of them. When last we looked, 23 of the 34 Broadway shows and 72 off-Broadway shows were selling seats at discounts ranging from 20 to 50 percent.

Some examples: "The Woman in White," 20 percent off; "The Color Purple," 35 percent off; 2005 Tony winner "Doubt," 34 percent off; "Jersey Boys," the new musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, 50 percent off premium seats; "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life," 25 to 38 percent off.

Where to find these deals? Start at BroadwayBox.com ( http://www.broadway%20box.com/ ), which lists the most offers and doesn't charge to let you see them. This community Web site, the brainchild of an Internet entrepreneur who once paid too much for a ticket, is powered by theater fans who contribute discount codes they find in the mail, in ads, on posters and at show sites. Virtually every Broadway discount will show up at some point on BroadwayBox.com, along with dozens of off-Broadway deals.

Just go to the site, click a show title, read the offer and click to buy tickets. Usually this will take you straight to Ticketmaster.com, where you enter the discount code when prompted for special offers; or to BroadwayOffers.com, the site that handles both discount and premium offers for shows sold by Telecharge. Or you can submit the code to the phone rep or at the box office. Occasionally you may encounter a code that doesn't work, but most do.

If you're interested in an off-Broadway show and can't find what you're looking for at BroadwayBox.com, try the free online membership clubs at TheaterMania.com ( http://www.theatermania.com/ ) and Playbill ( http://www.playbill.com/ ). TheaterMania. com, which specializes in off- and off-off-Broadway, frequently has discounts for those venues that can be found nowhere else. Playbill's discount club has a smaller selection of discounts but will usually have a few off-Broadway offers that are unavailable elsewhere.

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