Broadway Shows and Theatre District, New York City
One of my favorite areas in New York City, visited by locals and tourists alike, is the "Theater District." Also known as "The Great White Way," New York's Theater District is an area with somewhat defined, physical boundries within Manhattan stretching from 53rd to 42nd Streets, and between 6th and 8th Aves.
The energetic Theater District is also populated by scores of restaurants, shops, hotels, and world-reknowned attractions all catering to visitors from around the world, as well as day-trippers who come to visit the city for the day only.
The Theater District boasts of being home to over 30 theaters where plays are staged as matinees and nightly performances. Some of the greatest and most beloved stars of the stage and screen have performed at these theaters such as Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane, Helen Hayes, Elaine Stritch, Matthew Broderick, and so many more.
Some of the more famous theaters are The Winter Garden, the Helen Hayes Theater, the Music Box, the Minskoff, the Palace, the Majestic, and the list goes on and on. Many of the theaters date back to the early 20th century or earlier, and are unique in their size, seating arrangements and position of the stage which is often turned perpendicular to the front of the building, due to their pocketed, narrow positions between large buildings.
Except for a very few, the theaters are not known for their luxurious lobby or comfortable seating. However, this is more than compensated for by the quality of the plays and the actors that perform in them. (This is in contrast to Radio City Music Hall which has an enormous & comfortable seating area, and very large stage flanked by identical organs on each side of the stage. Radio City also has a beautifully ornate, staircased lobby with chandeliers.)
Over the years I have been privileged to see many plays, both dramas & musicals, as well several Christmas Spectaculars at Radio City. This is because my employer arranges for bus trips to New York City as well as is able secure good discount ticket prices. Otherwise, the list of plays I would have seen in New York would be quite small. If you love live theater, you cannot visit New York City without seeing at least one play.
Some of the best plays I have seen in recent years are:
"Fences" ~ an August Wilson play starring Denzel Washington & Mykeltie Williamson
"A View from the Bridge" ~ an Arthur Miller play starring Scarlett Johannson & Liev Schreiber
"Bye Bye Birdie" ~ starring John Stamos
"In the Heights"
"Phantom of the Opera"
"Beauty and the Beast"
"The Odd Couple" ~ starring Nathan Lane & Matthew Broderick
For tickets, if you have the time and are on a budget, visit "TKTS" at Duffy Island near Times Square (47th St. between 7th Avenue & Broadway) for deeply discounted tickets on the same day of the performance (similar to Leceister Square in London). There is an additional $3 service charge per ticket but you may well obtain tickets for half the face price--cash & travelers' checks only. (There is a satellite branch of TKTS at South Street Seaport but you must purchase tickets here on the day BEFORE the performance.) Tickets can also be secured in advance online at playbill.com or perhaps Ticket Master.
NOTE: (2012) I have recently heard that now on Wednesdays you can purchase deeply discounted theaters tickets if you arrive at the theater of your choice in the morning (9 to 10 am) for a ticket to the play shown only at that theater on that same day. Someone who I know has done this and been successful -- I have not yet tried this. Can anyone else verify this?
Look at a map of Manhattan and you will see instantly that Broadway is a bit of an aberration! From 14th Street north to Harlem and beyond, every street runs east to west and every avenue north to south – except this one. It starts OK, running neatly down the Upper West Side between West End Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue (which further south becomes Tenth Avenue), but at 78th Street it suddenly veers eastward and becomes central Manhattan’s only diagonal street, cutting across all the others until it reaches a point just north of Washington Square in Greenwich Village. Here it appears to decide to behave itself after all and conforms again to the grid pattern until its final destination at Battery Park.
Broadway is also perhaps unusual in that its name signifies not only a street, or even a district, but also an idea – that of the pinnacle of the established theatre in New York, in the United States and perhaps (although London’s West End might well challenge this) in the world. The nickname “The Great White Way” refers to the stretch of Broadway that runs through the Theatre District, brightly lit at night by all the neon.
Because we can see all the shows we want to in London (though rarely do!) we didn’t choose to go to one in New York but we did spend some time one morning walking part of Broadway and taking in all the activity. South of Times Square a real effort has been made to make this a pleasant place to walk, and along the centre of the road are paved areas with tables and chairs where you sit with a coffee from one of the many coffee shops, eat a sandwich or simply pause to rest your feet after too long pounding hard city pavements. If like us you enjoy taking photos of the sort of street scenes that seem to capture the daily life of a city, this is a good place to come, as I hope you can see from my photos.
If you're visiting NYC you must see a Broadway show. There are a ton of amazing Broadway shows but the really good ones are hard to get tickets to so you must book in advance. If you can't book in advance but don’t care about the price than you can go through a broker. One broker site is stubhub.com (this is the one I use, but there are plenty of other ones). I try to book in advance otherwise you can pay three times the face value (or more). I just went to see Avenue Q on Broadway and it was a hilarious two hour show. Very funny and dirty –so don’t bring your 6 year old child to the show, otherwise you will have to answer a ton of questions afterwards. There are also great Off Broadway shows like Jewtopia –very funny. There are so many wonderful musical Broadway shows so don’t miss it and definitely read the reviews. You can read some reviews on newyorker.com or other sites.
You can request tickets in advance to see a taping of a television show. It's fun, and interesting to see how it all happens. Both www.abc.com and www.nbc.com list the shows that are taped, and instructions on getting tickets. Request tickets as soon as you have your trip planned. I would recommend you send off requests to several shows, because most tickets are selected on a lottery system. Plan on a few hours, be prepared to wait in some long lines, and some daytime shows have really early morning taping times.
If you're into glamour and entertainment then Broadway is a must-see when visiting New York. When we were there we saw the show, "42nd Street," and although I'm generally not into theatre shows much, I must say i was very impressed. It's also very exciting seeing a show on Broadway, because a lot of the people are dressed in such expensive outfits and jewellery that you feel like some kind of honorary guest at a show that only rich people would visit. But in fact, it's still perfectly acceptable to wear casual jeans and t-shirts when you go to see a show! That's what I did anyhow!
Times Square, 15 minutes to curtain, and thousands filing into theaters, hearts pounding as they wait for those first notes of the overture. The best of the best tread New York's famed boards. As the song says, If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere...
Whether your choice is comedy, drama, or musical, you'll find it at New York's famed theaters.
Tickets can be expensive, but there are alternatives and many discounts. The Theater Development Fund (www.tdf.org) has two discount booths ("TKTS"), one in Times Square (at 47th St.) and another at the South St. Seaport, that sell same-day discounted tickets. Or, save your time and order discount tickets in advance via www.broadwaybox.com. Some theaters offer student and other "rush" tickets, or sell some seats (typically the first row) through lottery. To see which shows offer these, visit www.playbill.com -- a great site to keep up with the latest "in" news, too.
(This terrific photo of curtaiin time is by Geoff Fox - www.geofffox.com - and is reproduced with his permission.)
Whatever else you do in New York City, do go see a Broadway play or two.
During my two visits to the NY area I was able to see "Les Miserables" (since closed), "Cabaret" and "Rent" and they were all wonderful.
For "Rent" my daughter and I got half price tickets at the TXT outlet in Times Square; its a good idea if there are two of you, one to hold your place in line and the other to scope out what tickets are available. If I remember correctly, bring cash instead of credit card.
Everyone knows Monty Python and the quest for the Holy Grail...but to see it live on stage?! Spamalot is an excellent NY experience, but an even more authentic New York experience can be had with last-minute tickets! Head over to the Shubert Theatre, 6-7ish in the morning and get on line for $20 standing room tickets. It's more fun if you go with a large group of people, taking turns on bathroom breaks and running for coffee at the Starbucks underneath the Marriot Marquis. And trust me, waking up that early is WORTH IT. Spamalot is amazing. Don't worry about the fact that it's standing room. The show is relatively short and there's a break where you can go downstairs to sit.
Important: if you plan on going, bringing newspapers or something to sit on when you're waiting on line. Also, they can only sell 20 standing room tickets so if there are 20 people in front of you on line, don't bother waiting. Each person is allowed to buy only 2 tickets each, so you can buy them for someone else. Once you're in, the taller you are, the better, so you can lean on the barrister / the back seat of the back row. I'm 5'3 and I *just* was tall enough to comfortably lean on the barrister. I wouldn't recommend standing room for people under 5'2, you won't be able to see very well.
This tip is actually applicable to other shows, not just Spamalot, but I used Spamalot as the example because it's simply AMAZING. I was lucky enough to catch the last show with TIM CURRY, DAVID HYDE PIERCE, and HANK AZARIA! :sigh: I 3 3 3 Tim Curry and David Hyde Pierce.
We were staying just round the corner from all the theatres, so it was very tempting to see a show! We purchased a ticket through our hotel, the Milford Plaza, which cost just over $100 per ticket, but was well worth it as the show was outstanding.
Tickets can be purchased for a cheaper price in the middle of Times Square from ticket booths (TKTS), these are tickets for shows that are taking place that night. The tickets sell for either 50% or 25% of the original price. Queues were normally quite long so that is why we ended up going through the hotel, and we knew which show we wanted to see as well, and it was a good choice......
So much happened before Dorothy dropped in ...
A great new musical! A must-see!
Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Thursday at 8:00 p.m.
Friday at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday at 2:00 p.m & 8:00 p.m.
Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
TIP: A day-of-performance lottery for $25
front-row seats will be held daily for WICKED
at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre.
Each day, 2½ hours prior to show time
(11:30 AM for 2 PM matinees; 12:30 PM for
3 PM matinees; 4:30 PM for 7 PM performances; 5:30 PM for 8 PM performances), people who present themselves at the Gershwin Theatre box office will have their names placed in a hat. 30 minutes later, names will be drawn for 28 front-row seats at $25 each. This lottery is available only in-person at the box office, with a limit of two tickets per person, cash only. Photo-ID required.
Its not "the New York experience" without seeing a Broadway show! Broadway is so much fun and everyone enoys it. If you are here around Christmas time go see the rockets at Radio City Music Hall.
I also very strongly recommend and suggest to go see the show 42nd STREET. It was the best Broadway show I have ever seen. Also go see the famous Chicago, and the always fun Mamma Mia!
One of the newest hits is Thoroughly Modern Millie! (havent seen it yet)
There are so many great shows right now in NYC, on Broadway and off. I would check the latest listings and catch at least one or two.
In NYC, its not uncommon that a celebrity will be headlining a show. You never know! Hugh jackman was amazing in the "Boy from Oz".
My favorite is no longer on Broadway, the show has closed down, Les Miserables. I saw it at least six times, it was not enough. If I ever get another chance I will make sure to catch it at least ten more times.
The following shows are recommended:
The Phantom of the Opera
The Lion King
Beauty and the Beast
Fiddler on the Roof
I haven't seen these:
Brooklyn: The Musical
A few ways to get tickets:
Plan [way] ahead - ticketmaster.com
Spur-of-the-moment - check box office day of show or a couple days before, call a broker (pay through the nose)
Have time to spend waiting - tkts booth in Times Square (No tips to give you here, I haven't done this myself)
Dress code: Years ago, it was a dressy function, I have *no clue* what happened. Nowadays, people come in jeans/tee shirts and its just terrible! A ticket to these shows are almost all over $50, this evening deserves alittle more than jeans and sneakers! Give it its due and dress up!!
Don't get your tickets in advance of coming unless you're getting a good deal already or you really want to see a specific show.
There are two places to get Same-day discount tickets to broadway and off-broadway shows.... why pay full price if you don't have to?
See the website link provided for exact locations and info on how to get there.
**My personal recommendation for the location is to go to the Seaport downtown - there is less of a line then the Times Square location and they have all of the same tickets available.
Catch one of the many Broadway shows. They have a large variety of productions going on at all times. I recommend some of their classics like "Phantom of the Opera, Chicago" and some of the new productions like "Jersey Boys, Grease, Mamma Mia, Cat on the Hot Tin Roof"
The last Broadway show I saw was "Spamolot" (before Clay Aiken joined). It was quite good and we had a good laugh.
When you're in New York you have to go see a Broadway show and I don't think you could find better than Phantom of the Opera - it is fantastic!
We ordered our tickets before we arrived, but you can buy reduced price on the day tickets from a booth in Times Square. (You are not guaranteed every show if you do this.)