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Tales of a Broadway Bargain Hunter

By: Linda Buchwald
Date: Jan 05, 2016


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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

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tweets about theatre at @PataphysicalSci. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.