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CRANKY CONSUMER
 
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Scoring Seats for a Broadway Show

We Look Online
To Find a Bargain;
A Bat's-Eye View
By BRYAN KEOGH
SPECIAL TO THE WSJ
February 15, 2007; Page D6

Getting last-minute tickets to a Broadway show often means standing in line at the box office for a chance to get "rush" seats that are released shortly before the curtain rises, or joining the queue at the TKTS booth near Times Square, where discounted seats are sold the day of the show. A third option has cropped up in recent times: Web sites that help theatergoers snag discount seats.

Whether you're a local or an out-of-towner planning a theatergoing trip, such online ticket services also can be useful if you're willing to fork over whatever it takes to get a few choice seats to a Tony-worthy show. But the fees can sting, and even the seats you're buying may be a mystery until after you've paid your money.

To see if such sites are a good place to get decent seats or if you end up with a partial-view seat behind a concrete pillar, we bought tickets to Broadway plays and musicals from five online services. We tried for discount tickets, last-minute seats and spots at a sold-out musical. All but one site charged jumbo service fees and two required subscriptions for access. Most of them were fairly easy to use.

An annoying issue: the inability to pick particular seats. Instead, most of the sites let us choose by section only. Flexibility with dates was another concern. If you're willing to pick a weekday performance or place an order at least a week or two in advance, you can typically get steep discounts from some of the sites. But if you have a specific weekend date in mind on short notice, you'll probably have to pay regular prices, as well as anywhere from a few dollars to $23 in service fees -- or select a different show.

We bought a $4 per month subscription to nytix.com's Broadway Ticket Guide to receive discount codes. We wanted seats to the musical "Jersey Boys." But we found only options for "rush" tickets. Our second choice, "The Drowsy Chaperone," offered similar results. Finally, we found a discount code for "Butley" and called Ticketmaster to get the lower price. We scored two orchestra seats for $65 apiece ($30 off the regular price) plus $5.95 in handling fees per ticket.

When we went in search of tickets to "The Vertical Hour" at Broadwaybox, we were sent to other sites to get promotional codes and to actually buy the tickets. It took about a half hour to buy two tickets for $65 each with $15.50 in service charges. Regular price was $96.25, but the discount wasn't much better than other offers we've found on the Web or in mailers.

We visited Gotickets.com in hopes of taking our parents, who were in town for a few days, to the musical "Wicked," which usually sells only at premium prices. After selecting our show two weeks in advance of the date we wanted, the site listed all the tickets available for the Saturday-night show. We picked seats that gave us an eye-level view of the fiery mechanical bat flapping its wings above the stage. But the price was even more frightening: $185 apiece, or $75 above the face value.

At Broadway.com, we picked our performance day for "Company," chose orchestra seats and requested an aisle seat with a full view of the stage. We ended up with middle-aisle spots that obscured a part of the stage. We coughed up a $22 per-ticket fee on top of the full ticket price: $110 (plus a $1.25 facility fee).

Entertainment Link charged $39 for a six-month subscription. At the last minute, we tried to get three Saturday tickets to "The Producers." But the site showed no discount seats available until the next Tuesday, too late for a relative's visit. A few steps later, we had three spots ($110 each) in the front mezzanine, and the $15 charge for holding the tickets at the theater was mysteriously waived. The same seats discounted would have been $65.

--Brian Cronk, Jason Leow and Shivani Vora contributed to this article.

  Write: Cranky@wsj.com
 

SERVICE/WEB SITE SHOW/PERFORMANCE/SEATS TICKET PRICE/REGULAR PRICE* COMMENT
Gotickets.com
Website Link
"Wicked"/Saturday night/Front mezzanine, E107-109 $185 per ticket, plus $10 shipping/$111.25 Good seats, considering the show has mostly sold out since it opened in 2003. Useful for getting tickets for must-see shows, if you're willing to pay the high price. Best to check elsewhere first for discounted tickets.
Broadway.com
Website Link
"Company"/Sunday matinee/Orchestra, E9,E7 $110 per ticket, plus $1.25 facility fee, $22 service fee/$111.25 You select seats by section, but site allows you to give preferred spots. We received seats with a partial view despite our special request and the site's claim to provide only full-view seats.
Entertainment Link
Website Link
"The Producers"/Saturday/Front mezzanine/ J111-113 $110 per ticket, plus $1.25 restoration charge, $6.50 for ticketer service fees, $2.50 for ticketer handling fee (total for order), and $39 for six-month site subscription. Site waived $15 concierge fee/$111.25 Choose seats by section but no preferences option. Site provides useful tidbits upfront, such as emphasizing that the two actors who made The Producers famous are no longer in the play, as well as age content-appropriateness.
Broadway Box
Website Link
"The Vertical Hour"/Saturday night/Left orchestra, F5-7 $65 per ticket plus $15.50 fee/$96.25 We were happy with the seats and the price. The time-out feature is annoying because you have to race to fill in your personal data and credit-card information; we received a flood of email spam after using the site.
New York TV Show Tickets/ www.nytix.com "Butley"/Friday/Orchestra, H10-11 $65 each plus $5.95 handling fee per ticket plus $1.25 facility fee per ticket; plus $4 per month subscription/$96.25 Subscription gives access to a discount theater guide. Service is worth it for regular theatergoers who are open about what to see and when.
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