Entertainment in New York City

Discover the Big Apple’s diverse theatre scene: from popular high-voltage musical entertainment on Broadway, considered the best theatre district in America, to less commercial but highly innovative plays and shows on Off Broadway.


New York Entertainment

As they say on Broadway, “There is no business like that of show business.”

Between the scenes of Broadway, Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway, there are more than 350 theatres and shows to choose from at any one time, offering a huge variety of new productions and classic revivals, from musicals and drama to comedy.

Take in a classic such as Phantom of the Opera and A Chorus Line or one of the more recent productions such as Legally Blonde and Wicked.

New York Theatre Overview

New York theatre is traditionally considered the pinnacle of live theatrical entertainment.

For more than a century Broadway theatre has been home to America’s greatest playwrights, composers, and lyricists, as well as the people who bring great plays and musicals to life – the actors, singers, dancers, directors, designers and choreographers.

Generally, New York theatres are divided into Broadway, Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway.


A theatre is generally classed as a Broadway theatre if it is located between 41st street and 54th street and between Sixth and Eighth avenues and provides at least 499 seats.

The majority of theatres are located in side streets around the famous thoroughfare.

Only three theatres are located on Broadway itself: the Marquis – on Broadway between 45th and 46th streets and inside the hotel of the same name; the Palace – the entrance of which is located on the east side of Broadway just below 47th Street; and the Broadway Theatre – which sits on the corner of 53rd Street.

Typically, Broadway theatres are more commercial and offer a huge range of musicals, dramas and comedies.

Expect big-budget musicals such as Chicago, Grease, Guys and Dolls or Les Miserables, with an A-list of well-known actors and actresses in lead roles. With 39 theatres to choose from, you’ll never be at a loss to see a great musical or play.

Off Broadway

This refers to theatre size rather than location. Typically, playhouses in Manhattan with fewer than 499 seats are considered ‘Off Broadway’. Off Broadway theatres are less commercial and offer a great range of dramas and comedies.

Off Off Broadway

Playhouses with fewer than 100 seats are generally called ‘Off Off Broadway’, and for the most part are also non-profit. There are around 79 Off and Off Off Broadway theatres located in various neighborhoods throughout Manhattan.

What shows to expect on Broadway

At any given time you can see plays such as comedies, dramas, thrillers and the occasional tragedy (Shakespeare and works from ancient Greece). These are generally spoken, with no singing.

Add song and dance and you get the Broadway musical, one of the United States’ greatest art forms. ‘Book musicals’ tell a story, while a ‘revue’ is a loosely structured collection of musical numbers. There are also occasional dance shows and operas.

Solo performances might contain songs, stand-up comedy, dramatic or humorous monologues, or any combination of these elements.

Theatre tickets

Booking – If you already know which shows you want to see then it’s probably best to play it safe and book before you leave home. This can be easily done through your travel consultant, with a surcharge of between AUD2 to AUD9 per ticket depending on the show.

If you’re happy to take the risk, you can avoid service fees by purchasing tickets in person direct from the theatre box office once you arrive. Each theatre has its own box office, usually open from 12noon until 8pm. This is the cheapest way to buy Broadway tickets in advance, unless there are online specials being offered.

Tip: TKTS (www.tdf.org) is a non-profit organization, recognisable by its white and red discount ticket booths in Times Square and South Street Seaport that sell tickets to everything from Chicago to Rent on the day of the performance, with just an additional USD3 surcharge per ticket.

Tickets can often be had for discounts of 25 to 50 per cent. Arrive in the early evening to avoid the lines. TKTS booths accept only cash or travellers cheques.

Hotel concierges – If you decide to see a show at the last minute, many better hotels offer concierge services or even Broadway ticket desks that can find hard-to-get theatre seats.

Concierges act as a middle-man between you and a reputable broker. For good seats at the last minute, expect to pay premium prices (often hundreds of dollars each), plus a USD20 to USD25 tip to the concierge, depending on the cost of the tickets.

Standby tickets – Some theatres have standby tickets available right before show time. Call in advance to find out which theatres offer this option.

Prices – Broadway shows typically range from USD20 to USD100. Expect to pay higher prices for the best seats for shows on weekend nights. However, you can save money if you’re willing to sit in the mezzanine or watch shows mid-week.

Some shows even offer standing-room tickets at a steep discount. Premium tickets (preferred locations in the theatre) are available for certain shows at higher prices.

Performances – Evening performances usually begin at 8pm. However, many shows offer special 7pm performances on Tuesdays. Matinees on Wednesday and Saturday usually start at 2pm, while Sunday matinees usually begin at 3pm.

Shows generally take one day off a week, but this day varies from production to production. Sunday evening performances are rare and only a few shows perform on Monday.

Scalpers – Buying tickets from characters hovering on street corners in Times Square is not legal or even a good idea.

Dress code – Nowadays it doesn’t really matter what you wear to the theatre: dress up or dress down, it’s your choice.

Tip: To get the latest info on New York’s Theatreland, plus the closest hotels and restaurants and a map of Broadway theatres, visit www.ilovenytheater.com.

For a brief synopsis on each production visit www.newyorktheatreguide.com, and for the latest reviews visit New York magazine at www.nymag.com

Did you know?

The Fantasticks is the world’s longest running musical, with more than 17,000 performances since it made its Off Broadway debut in 1960.

Phantom of the Opera (7700+ performances) is the longest-running musical show on Broadway (composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the produced by Cameron Mackintosh), followed closely by Cats and Les Miserables.

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