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NYC: How to Make the Most of Your Night at the Theater

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TKTS Sign
TKTS and other outlets help you score cheaper tickets, but tyou should still make the most of your night out at the theatre. Photo: Kevin H.

If you’ve ever seen the full price of Broadway tickets in New York City, you may still remember the shock. The good news is that with all kinds of ticket discounts and show options, you rarely need to drop top dollar for an exceptional experience.

No matter how much you spend, though, it’s always a good idea to make the most of your night at the theater. Here are our tips to do just that.

Related articles:

7 ways to save on Broadway tickets

Head Off-Broadway for Great Shows and Cheaper Tickets

Read Reviews Before You Buy

The staggering cost of bringing a new show to the stage means complete bombs aren’t nearly common as they once were. Still, you don’t want to waste time seeing a mediocre show when there are dozens of great ones happening all around. You can usually guarantee a good experience by reading reviews before you buy your seats.

Sure, reading reviews can take a little time. But for people who love theater, New York is the world’s biggest and best candy store. Part of the enjoyment is sorting through what will be on the shelves when you arrive — and deciding which ones to sample.

Two particularly helpful sites:

DidHeLikeIt.com is a one-stop roundup featuring top reviewers from the New York Times, Washington Post, Variety and other major media outlets. Click on a show to get a quick look at which reviewers give it a thumbs up, thumbs down or are on the fence. Then, go deeper by reading full reviews, learning what new shows will open before you arrive or signing up to get new reviews by e-mail on opening night.

Time Out New York is a particularly good source. The short, concise format makes them easy to read, the star rating system helps you sort through options and their reviewers cover a lot of ground — including plenty of Off-Broadway productions.

Alan Rickman stage door

Brave the crowds by the stage door and you may get an autograph from a star like Alan Rickman. Photo: jastrow75.

Meet Stars at the Stage Door

The stage door is literally as it sounds: The place where actors and musicians enter the theater to get backstage. More importantly, it’s where they almost always leave, which gives you a chance to meet the people you just saw perform.

Of course, there are no guarantees. Once in a while, an actor needing to get away quickly slips out another exit. And on two-show days — usually Wednesday and Saturday — they may stay inside between performances. But more often than not, even the most famous take time to sign programs, pose for photographs and maybe even hang around to talk with fans.

What to expect depends on the size of the crowd. The scene was a madhouse when Daniel Radcliffe, AKA Harry Potter, was performing in “How to Succeed in Business.” On the other hand, I’ve seen the entire casts of “Next to Normal” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” — two Tony Award-winning shows with Tony-Award winning actors — hang out for a good 30 to 40 minutes with two dozen fans.

To have an enjoyable stage door experience, bring your camera and a Sharpie marker or two (in case one disappears in the crowd). Then, before the show begins, ask an usher where the stage door is located and whether your favorite actor is likely to sign autographs and talk with fans. While some stage doors are obvious, others can be hard to find; one is actually located one block behind the theater’s main entrance.

After the final curtain, move quickly to the stage door. Depending on their obligations after the show, some stars will come out quickly; others may take a while. A member of the theater security staff will usually let you know if your favorite performer is still inside or has already left.

And one more tip: Out of respect, don’t ask actors to sign anything that’s not related to the show they’ve just performed. It’s considered rude and many simply won’t do it. After all, actors are generous with their time because people have taken the time to come see them perform that show.

About the author

Chip Pate

Chip Pate is a marketing and public relations consultant who has spent way too much money attending theater. He supports regional theater back home in North Carolina's Research Triangle Region and travels to New York City several times each year to catch new productions and eat pastrami. His "Top 5" New York productions in recent years are "Venus in Fur," "Red-Eye to Havre de Grace," "Next to Normal," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and Fiasco Theater's "Cymbeline." (Followed closely by "The Book of Mormon.") The local celebrities he'd most like to meet for lunch are Nina Arianda, Tim Gunn and The Bowery Boys.

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