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Planning a trip to New York? Get your theater tickets before you go

Rick Rogers Published: May 3, 2013

When readers call to request information about New York City, you can usually hear the trepidation in their voices. It’s almost as if they were planning to visit some foreign city and had no command of the language. New York can have that effect on people, particularly for first-time visitors whose perception of the city often stems from the lurid accounts they see on television crime dramas.

Most of the calls I take are from people who want to know how to obtain tickets for Broadway’s hit shows. That, too, can be a challenge, although today it’s considerably easier than it was two decades ago. With orchestra seats approaching the princely sum of $150, you clearly want to know your seat location. The major ticket sources weren’t always so accommodating; they’d sell you an orchestra seat but weren’t allowed to disclose its location.

As a result, I’ve had to sit on the back row of the theater and near the side wall, both times, ironically, at the same theater, the Imperial. Today, you can request seats in a general area of the theater or even a specific seat if you know the theater’s layout. The old Boy Scout motto “Be prepared” clearly applies here. Before calling to order tickets – weeks in advance of the performance if possible; months for a hit show; longer for blockbusters such as “Wicked” or “The Book of Mormon” – find a copy of the theater’s seating chart.

They’re available online at Playbill.com (in the column at the left, look for Reference and then click on seating charts). Frequent visitors usually pick up a copy of “Seats New York: 180 Seating Plans to New York Metro Area Theatres,” a book that features seating charts for Broadway theaters, music halls and sports stadia. The next step is calling to reserve your tickets. Once again, go to Playbill.com and under Listings/Tickets, click on Broadway or off-Broadway and select the show you’d like to see. You’ll find links there to buy tickets.

If you wish to hold off buying tickets until you arrive in New York, you can go directly to the theater box office or head to the Times Square TKTS Booth. The latter sells discounted tickets for the current day’s performance only. Most hotel concierge desks also have ticket brokers who can usually arrange for tickets, but they will charge considerably more for the convenience.

Once you have your tickets, plan to arrive at the theater at least 20-30 minutes before curtain time. There’s often a large crowd trying to find seats at the last minute. Finally, sit back and enjoy the performance. All that hard work will have paid off.