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Buying Tickets at Full Price

What do tickets sell for, anyway? Not counting the limited "premium seat" category (or discount deals), the top ticket price for Broadway musicals is now hovering at $136; the low end for musicals is in the $50 range. Nonmusical comedies and dramas start at about $70 and top out at about $120. Off Broadway show tickets average $50-$90, and off off Broadway shows can run as low as $15-$25. Tickets to an opera start at about $25 for nosebleed seats and can soar close to $400 for prime locations. Classical music concerts go for $25 to $100 or more, depending on the venue. Dance performances are usually in the $15 to $60 range, but expect seats for the ballet in choice spots to cost more.

Scoring tickets is fairly easy, especially if you have some flexibility. But if timing or cost is critical, the only way to ensure you'll get the seats you want is to make your purchase in advance—and that might be months ahead for a hit show. In general, tickets for Saturday evening and for weekend matinees are the toughest to secure.

For opera, classical music, and dance performances, go to the box office or order tickets through the venue's website.

For smaller performing-arts companies, and especially for Off Broadway shows, try Ticket Central (416 W. 42nd St., between 9th and 10th Aves., Midtown West 212/279-4200 www.ticketcentral.com Daily noon-8 A, C, E to 42nd St.), which is right in the center of Theater Row; service charges are nominal here. SmartTix (212/868-4444 www.smarttix.com) is a reliable resource for (usually) smaller performing-arts companies, including dance and music; their service charges are nominal as well.

Inside the Times Square Information Center is the Broadway Concierge and Ticket Center (1560 Broadway, between W. 46th and W. 47th Sts., Midtown West 888/broadway www.livebroadway.com Tickets: Mon.-Sat. 9-7, Sun. 10-6 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to 42nd St./Times Sq.; N, R to 49th St.), where you can purchase full- and premium-price tickets for most Broadway (and some Off Broadway) shows.

Sure bets for Broadway (and some other big-hall events) are the box office or either Telecharge (212/239–6200, 800/432–7250 outside NYC www.telecharge.com) or Ticketmaster (212/307–4100, 866/448–7849 automated service, 212/220–0500 premium tickets www.ticketmaster.com). Virtually all larger shows are listed with one service or the other, but never both; specifying "premium" will help you get elusive—and expensive (upward of $200–$350)—seats. A broker or your hotel concierge should be able to procure last-minute tickets, but prices may even exceed "premium" rates. Be prepared to pay steep add-on fees (per ticket and per order) for all ticketing services.

Although most online ticket services provide seating maps to help you choose, the advantage of going to the box office is twofold: there are no add-on service fees, and a ticket seller can personally advise you about sight lines—and knee room—for the seat location you are considering. Broadway box offices do not usually have direct phone lines; their walk-in hours are generally 10 am until curtain.

Best Tips for Broadway

Whether you're handing over a hundred bucks for a top ticket or shoestringing it in a nosebleed seat, seeing one show or seven, you'll have better Broadway experiences to brag about if you take our advice.

Do your homework. Remember—your friends' "must-see" may not be yours. If you're new to theater, or not a regular, try to discover Broadway for yourself. Subscribe to online services ahead of your trip; you'll get access to show synopses, special ticket offers, and more. If it's a classic play, like Shakespeare, you might enjoy it more if you read it before you go.

Reserve ahead. The TKTS booth is great if you're up for what the fates make available, but for must-sees, book early. While you're at it, ask whether the regular cast is expected. (An in-person stop at the box office is the most reliable way to score this information, but don't hold them to it unless it's the day of performance. If there is a change then—and the replacement cast is not acceptable to you—you may get a refund.) For musicals, live music will always add a special zing; confirm when ticketing to avoid surprises on the rare occasion when recorded music is used.

Check theater seating charts. Front mezzanine is a great option; with seats that overhang the stage, they can be better (though not always less expensive) than many orchestra locations. Always book with a seating chart at hand (available online and at the box office); although even the priciest seats might be tight, it is always worth splurging for the best sight lines. Check accessibility, especially at older theaters with multiple flights of stairs and scarce elevators.

Know when to go. Surprisingly, Friday evening is a good option; Saturday night and weekday matinees are the most difficult. Do as the locals do and go on weeknights. Tuesday is especially promising, and typically an earlier curtain—7 or 7:30 instead of the usual 8 pm—helps ensure that you'll get a good night's sleep for your next day of touring.

Dress right. You can easily throw on jeans to go to the theater these days, but personally we feel Bermuda shorts have no place on Broadway. Bring binoculars if your seats are up high, leave behind the heavy coat (coat checks are not the norm), and drop packages off at your hotel room in advance.

Travel smart. Trying to get to the show in time? Unless you don't mind watching the meter run up while you're stuck in traffic, avoid cabs into or out of Times Square. The pre- and post-theater crush will render Broadway virtually unwalkable, but that said, walk, especially if you're within 10 blocks of the theater. Otherwise, take the subway.

Dine off Broadway. Dining well on a budget and doing Broadway right are not mutually exclusive notions. Key is avoiding the temptation to eat in Times Square proper—even the national chains are overpriced. Consider instead supping in whatever neighborhood you're touring that day. Or, if you're already in Midtown, head west of the district to 9th Avenue. That's where many actors and other theater folk actually live, and you never know who you'll see on the street or at the next table. Prix-fixe deals and ethnic eateries are plentiful.

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