One of the main attractions in New York that sets this city apart from many others is the unparalleled performing arts scene. Specifically, Manhattan is home to 41 professional theatres that brought in $1.7 billion during the 2017 – 2018 season. And while Americans do love their sports, Broadway attendance for the 2017 – 2018 season were higher than those of the ten professional New York and New Jersey sports teams combined (Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Islanders, Knicks, Liberty, Giants, Jets, Devils, and Nets). People come from all over the world to see both musicals and plays on Broadway, with tourists making up 62.5% of the audience according to the Broadway League. However, without living here and hearing friends and family discuss what they like and don’t like, it is hard to decide which Broadway show to see when you don’t have much to go off of and you are only here for a week on vacation. If you are a first time Broadway goer, here are my recommendations for you!
The Lion King
This titan of a show is the third longest running Broadway show of all time. Even though there have been 25 productions around the world and over 100 million people have seen this show worldwide, there is nothing like seeing The Lion King where it all started in New York City. This show transcends what you know to be the cartoon and truly takes on a life of its own that any audience member can appreciate. While children can enjoy this show, it is two hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission, so keep that in mind!
Another musical that has been a part of the bedrock of Broadway for many years is Wicked. Wicked is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, and examines the lives of both the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. When vacationing with family, my first suggestion would be The Lion King, as Wicked does not allow children under five and they do suggest children only eight years old and up. If you are with a partner or perhaps with a girl friend, I would suggest seeing Wicked! This show is also on the long side, with a run time of two hours and 45 minutes, including one intermission.
The Book of Mormon
Winner of nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon pokes fun at various Mormon principles and practices. The audience follows two Mormon missionaries as they get stationed in a Ugandan village to preach the Mormon religion, and hilarity ensues. Please note that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded indifferently, and the show itself is quite crude, so if that is not your type of humor, I would steer clear. The show is two hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.
Even though Hamilton is the relatively new kid on the block compared to titles like Wicked, The Lion King, and The Book of Mormon, Hamilton’s reputation is far reaching due to its fresh songs and color-conscious casting of non-white actors. Hamilton is both sung and rapped to tell the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. This show is in high demand, and many resellers and secondary markets artificially inflate ticket pricing. Therefore, the best place to get fair market value tickets for Hamilton is directly through the box office, Ticketmaster, and Broadway.com.
Come From Away
Come From Away is a relatively new musical, which opened on Broadway in 2017. Based on the true story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the town of Gander in the week following the September 11 attacks, this musical is full of energy, heart, and meaning. This show is not only cathartic, but it truly exhibits the kindness of people when they step up and help one another, even in times of darkness and uncertainty. Come From Away is 100 minutes with no intermission. While it is recommended for ages 10 and older, I would suggest this show for adults.
Say hello to the second longest running show on Broadway of all time! Definitely a show to see with a group of gal pals, Chicago is based on a 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on. Known for its jazz age glitz and its iconic choreography by Bob Fosse, it is an American musical crowd pleaser. While the story is a satire on corruption in the criminal justice system and explores the concept of the “celebrity criminal,” Chicago uses celebrities themselves as many of the lead characters for limited runs to keep the show fresh. The show runs for two hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.
Harry Potter & the Cursed Child
This play is written by Jack Thorne, based on an original story by Thorne, JK Rowling, and John Tiffany. The story takes place 19 years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry Potter is a Ministry of Magic employee and his younger son is about to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I admit, I might be a tad biased because CJ and I are insanely huge Harry Potter fans, but Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is visually stunning, the special effects are like nothing you have seen on a Broadway stage, and to see these beloved characters live again was nothing short of pure magic. Note that I strongly advise that you read the books, see the movies, or at the very least, watch movies 1 – 4 of the Harry Potter series before you see this play. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is definitely a time commitment, as it is split into two parts. My best recommendation is you can choose to watch part 1 during a matinee and part 2 during an evening performance, or you can see part 1 during an evening performance and part 2 the following evening. You will be placed in the same seats for both parts, but it is highly recommended that you purchase both parts together.
In general, look for tickets about three months in advance. The shows I am recommending are in high demand and will either be sold out or have very limited options if you wait too long. The best prices will be for performances during the middle of the week. During the year, the cheapest tickets will be for performances in January, February, and March. The most expensive tickets will be for performances around holiday time in November and December. Arrive at a performance 30 minutes before it begins to be able to find your seat, maybe grab a snack or use the restroom, and relax. Some theatres are very old and do not have elevators that reach the upper level of the theatre, so research and plan accordingly. Open any candy wrappers before the show begins, do not use your phone during any part of the performance, and enjoy! Let me know which show you wind up seeing and if you liked it!