Tales of a Broadway Bargain Hunter
Tuesday, January 05, 2016  •  
Tue Jan 5, 2016  •  
Broadway  •   4 comments Share This
I would have never seen some of my favorite shows if I hadn't been able to find affordable seats.

How one theatre lover discovered some of her favorite shows thanks to discounts


Losing the Wicked ticket lottery was one of the best things that ever happened to me as a theatregoer. It was 2004 and I was in New York City for the fifth time in my life, determined to see a show. By the time the Wicked winners were announced and I was not among them, I had less than two hours to find a ticket to something else. But what? I recalled that two performers I admired, Michael Cerveris and Neil Patrick Harris, were in a show that was just a name to me: Assassins. I made my way over to Studio 54 and managed to get rush tickets. That's the day Assassins became one of my top five favorite musicals of all time.

My seat in the back of the house didn't feel that far away from the action, definitely a bargain for such an unforgettable production. During the duet "Unworthy of Your Love" between John Hinckley (Alexander Gemignani) and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Mary Catherine Garrison), the brilliance of what I was seeing really hit me. I was transfixed by the way Stephen Sondheim's beautiful melody contrasted with his terrifying lyrics as the would-be presidential assassins declared unwavering devotion to their obsessions. There were many more moments -- like the cast pointing guns at the audience and shooting -- that still give me chills when I think about them.

A few years later, my mom wanted to see the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I wasn't familiar with the movie it was based on, and the plot description about swindlers on the French Riviera didn't really appeal to me. But to please mom, I hit the lottery with her, and there were so few people that everybody won! Turns out I lucked out in another way, too: I got to enjoy one of the best performances I've ever seen -- Norbert Leo Butz as conman Freddy Benson -- from the front row, always a thrilling way to see a show.

I would have never been introduced to those productions if I hadn't been able to find an affordable seat. I was a college student back then, and I relied on deals like lotteries, rush tickets, and, of course, TKTS. I ended up catching a lot of shows I didn't originally set out to see. And I think being able to experience such a wide range of productions is part of what inspired me to move to NYC to write about theatre after graduation.

These days, I'm not only introduced to new shows thanks to cheap tickets, but I make repeat trips to ones I've loved, like Big Fish. The first time I saw that musical about a traveling salesman who spins tall tales, the reviews hadn't yet come out. When they turned out to be mostly negative, I wondered if I had been blinded by my love of leading man Norbert Leo Butz. But revisiting it a second time confirmed that I adored the show on its own merits. I was moved by the father/son dynamic and enchanted by its fantastical scenes, such as when Butz sang about daffodils as they magically filled the stage. It can be lonely to love a show that most people don't, but those are the ones that need the most fan support. Thanks to cheap tickets, I was able to convince friends to go with me that second time.

Have you discovered a favorite show through discounts that you wouldn't have seen otherwise? Tell us in the comments!


Linda Buchwald tweets about theatre at @PataphysicalSci

Top photo of Big Fish by Paul Kolnik

TDF MEMBERS: Browse our discounted tickets for theatre, dance, and concerts.

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Katie said:
When I was in high school, we were supposed to go see West Side Story on Broadway. There was a mix-up with the tickets and we ended up seeing Memphis on accident. BEST ACCIDENT EVER. For a group of high schoolers to see a show that was unknown to our ears and eyes was fantastic. Now I try to research new works as often as I can, I think it makes us a more rounded theatre artists.
Posted on 1/8/2016 at 11:36 AM
Daniel P Quiinn said:
My book Exits & Entrances (Amazon.com) documents many shows from Edward Bond to Stephen Foster and Janet Noble that I produced and which were offered on TDF. My membership w/TDF began in high school in 1968, when I saw INDIANS; HADRIAN VII;THE GREAT WHITE HOPE; FOLLIES and COMPANY all while still in high school. Tkts were expensive then at $10.00 while TDF was a few bucks. Unforgettable. Thank
Posted on 1/9/2016 at 2:51 PM
Megan said:
As a New Mexican, it's difficult to stay informed on off-Broadway shows; TDF is the best thing that's happened to my theatre-going. These prices make it not-so-risky to commit my cherished NY hours, and I'd never have heard of OTHER MOZART, PARTICLE OF DREAD, IMBIBLE, DROWNING GIRLS, PIECE OF MY HEART, or the wildly inspirational Theatre Breaking Through Barriers otherwise. TDF's reach is far!
Posted on 1/9/2016 at 7:48 PM
Lisa T said:
My daughter & I visit NYC several times a year from Maryland. We've had many occasions to obtain discounted tickets to shows we wouldn't have otherwise seen. Most notably for us was when we didn't win at Kinky Boots and got to see A Trip to Bountiful with Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Vanessa Williams. It far exceeded our expectations and always comes up when we review the shows we've seen.
Posted on 1/12/2016 at 1:15 PM
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