An insider’s guide to Broadway

By Mark Shenton for British Airways High Life magazine

Photography by Matthias Haker Photography/Getty

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May 2016

Regular transatlantic theatre visitor and critic Mark Shenton shares his top ten tips for getting the best out of your Broadway experience when you’re next in New York.

Book early – or late!

‘Broadway’ is a collection of around 40 theatres that are geographically mostly located in and around Times Square, between West 41st and West 54th Streets (though Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre, up on West 63rd Street, also counts as Broadway). Tickets are famously expensive – ‘regular’ box office prices stretch from around $50 to $170, with ‘premium’ seats also available for every show at prices from $250-$300 and more. Either book very early to get the best choices – or last minute. Good seats will often be returned from the producer’s own extensive ‘house seat’ allocation, saved for celebrities and other favours, close to the performance time.

Broadway is pricey – but you don’t have to always pay top dollar to experience it

Half-price tickets

Broadway is pricey — but you don’t have to always pay top dollar to experience it. Tickets are available for almost every single show (except the biggest hits) every day at the Half Price TKTS booths in Times Square and downtown at the South Street Seaport – you may have to queue for a bit, but it’s worth it for the bargain!

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  • The majestic Harvey Theatre, part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music © Elliot Kaufman

    Pillar of New York

    The Brooklyn Academy of Music has been showcasing adventurous artists for over 150 years and is a firm favourite for both New York locals and global audiences. In addition to the 200-odd stage performances the academy puts on every year, BAMcafé Live performs an additional 75 free performances annually.

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Online discounts

If you want to avoid the booth queues, grab a bargain via your mobile instead: download the TodayTix app, and get a bargain ticket for the night at the click of your finger, then collect the ticket from a representative who will be outside the theatre on the night.

Rush, standing, student and lottery tickets

Even better bargains are also available through the box office, either when they open at 10:00 (weekdays), 12:00 (Sundays) or two hours before the performance (depending on the show) for a range of other tickets: ‘general rush’ is available for some shows, others offer ‘student rush’ only, making some tickets – usually on the extreme sides of the stalls – available at a very reduced price of $20 to $30. If tickets are entirely sold out, theatres may offer standing room at a low price. Finally, some shows offer ‘lottery’ tickets, where you put your name into a hat (usually two hours beforehand), and they draw names to sell discounted tickets to.

Show recommendations

For recommendations on what to see, pick up the The New York Times on a Friday, when they publish a digested guide to everything playing in town in the daily arts and leisure section. offers Broadway’s most extensive news and information service, including updated details on which shows are offering rush and lottery tickets.

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  • St. Ann’s Warehouse fills a vital niche in New York City’s artistic landscape

    Beyond Broadway

    No theatrical adventure in New York is complete without a taking in a unique performance at St Ann’s, now located in a historic tobacco warehouse next to the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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  • A slice of the vibrant Upper West Side: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

    Backstage pass

    Don’t miss the opportunity to for behind-the-scenes exploration at The Lincoln Center – a highly renowned venue that hosts world-class performances from the likes of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet.

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Broadway to take home

For Broadway playscripts, related books, CDs and other memorabilia, visit the Drama Bookshop (250 West 40th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue), or for a more tourist-focused selection, visit the Theatre Circle Shop (268 West 44th Street, adjoining the St James Theatre) and One Shubert Alley (in Shubert Alley between the Shubert and Booth Theatres).

Backstage tours

Not many theatres offer glimpses behind-the-scenes, but you can go on a great behind-the-scenes tour of Radio City Music Hall (daily between 10:00 and 17:00) – not a Broadway house, but the greatest (and biggest) theatre in the city, at 6,000 seats, which also hosts the annual Tony Awards every June – the most prestigious night in the theatre calendar. There are also daily backstage tour of the Lincoln Center, between 10:30 and 16:00.

Broadway dining

The most popular theatre hangouts in town are Joe Allen Restaurant on West 46th Street’s Restaurant Row (between 8th and 9th), home of a famous wall of posters of Broadway flops. There’s also a famously ‘secret bar called Bar Centrale, with an unmarked door above Joe Allen’s (at 324 West 46th Street) – but its tiny so reservations are essential to get one of its booths.

Go beyond Broadway

There’s more to New York theatre than Broadway. There are a host of off-Broadway (100-499 seats) and off-off Broadway (99 seats and less) around town, and some great theatres across the bridge in Brooklyn – such as the influential Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM for short, that hosts international visiting theatre companies in its grand Harvey Theatre, and St Ann’s Warehouse – which begun its last autumn season at a new home in a former tobacco warehouse on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Go beyond New York

Leaving the city environs entirely, a number of theatre destinations are also within easy reach, like New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn or the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, both just a short train ride away, and both of which have originated shows that came to Broadway last year.

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