Well, the Christmas (shopping) season is upon us, and even though Shoppers Drug Mart is postponing the start of its holiday music (yay!), I figure it’s a good time to post this long-planned article on MONEY-SAVING OPTIONS FOR MUSICAL THEATRE-LOVING MISERS (or how to save money so you can go to more shows!)
Musicals are expensive. They are expensive to produce. They are expensive to attend (although generally a bargain relative to straight plays if you consider the cost of production). If you’re a live musical theatre junkie like me, but don’t want to spend your life savings seeing shows, you might want to know about ways you can save money, other than just buying the cheapest available seats, or, god forbid, staying home and renting a video instead (even a musical one).
I outline below just some of the ways you can stretch your theatre-going budget and which Calgary companies that “Major in Musicals” (i.e. companies that do only or at least a lot of musicals) offer them. Most of these offerings also apply to other theatre companies, but I’ll leave you to do that homework yourself for the time being. If you know about discounts I don’t have listed here, please add a comment.
SUMMARY OF SELECTED DISCOUNTS
WAYS TO SAVE MONEY
Other than dinner theatres, most theatre companies depend on volunteers to work the box office, usher, hand out programmes and work the coat-check. Usually you’ll get to see the show for which you volunteer for free, although in some cases you may have to come back another time. Just contact your favourite theatre company and ask.
Most theatre companies that have at least 2 shows a year will have a subscription option. If you find a company you like and can plan ahead, you will always save money this way and be able to reserve good seats in advance. Tickets can always be exchanged for a different show if you can’t go to the show you pre-select.
MID-WEEK AND MATINEE TICKETS
Tuesday-Wednesday shows and matinees (Saturday or Sunday, and occasionally Wednesday) are usually cheaper than more popular weekend/evening shows. Sometimes there are special rates for particular mid-week shows (e.g. Front Row Centre’s “Tightwad Tuesday” (formerly “Tightwad Wednesday”)).
LIMITED VISIBILITY SEATS
A few theatre companies (e.g. Front Row Centre) offer discounts for seats with somewhat obstructed views. I generally avoid these, but they could be worth it.
SENIORS AND STUDENT DISCOUNTS
Many theatre companies offer these, but they may be restricted to specific mid-week days or matinees. Age restrictions may vary. See also RUSH tickets.
Most theatre companies offer these (or will do so if asked). Usually you need at least 10 people to qualify, sometimes more.
RUSH TICKETS (REGULAR AND STUDENT)
Theatre companies often don’t advertise this, but many will sell discounted tickets at the box office ½ hour to 1 hour prior to the performance if they have unsold seats. You do risk not getting a seat for popular shows, however. Odds are better for mid-week, matinees or single seats. Often these are only available to high school, college and university students with a LiveRush card, which provides discounts to many cultural events in Calgary, including some theatres. Best to inquire in advance. On Broadway and in some other cities, some of the big shows run lotteries of unsold tickets prior to the show, rather than offering discounted rush tickets. I am not aware of that being done by any Calgary companies, but I’d love it if they did!
Many companies offer a chance for the public to see the show before opening night in order for them to get practice with a live audience. Usually they offer a discount rate. Occasionally these are pay-what-you-can performances (e.g. Forte Musical Theatre). This can be very economical if you don’t mind seeing a show may not have all the bugs worked out. You can almost always get your tickets at the door. Some companies are not explicit about whether a show is a preview or not, and you may only be able to tell by the price. Shows typically open on Thursday or Friday, which is another clue.
SPECIAL MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS
Many Community theatre companies offer limited free or discounted tickets for previews and early shows to CALGARY-ACTS members when show sales are a little slow. BROADWAY ACROSS CANADA and DANCAP PRODUCTIONS often offer early-bird discounts to people who subscribe to their mailing list. Discounts and free tickets for all shows are occasionally available through the CALGARY MUSICALS MEETUP GROUP and other MeetUp Groups. You can join most groups like this for free or for a nominal fee.
DISCOUNT COUPON BOOKLETS
Those coupon booklets your kid, or your neighbour’s kid made you buy as a fundraiser often have theatre deals that may more than pay for the cost of the book. Restrictions usually apply. These books can also be ordered online. Entertainment’s 2012/2013 offerings include JUBILATIONS DINNER THEATRE, STAGE WEST, Lunchbox Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects and Theatre Junction. The SUTP Coupon Book typically includes Jubilations Dinner Theatre and Stage West only.
ON-LINE DISCOUNT TICKETS
Generally only available for the big shows. Just search for “cheap tickets” for whatever show you are interested in and you’ll find several of these vendors. Word to the wise: Always check the actual box office price/availability first, as I’ve seen ticket prices on some of these sites that were way more than what you could get through the theatre company or their approved ticket outlet. Probably best used for sold-out shows, where you have no other option – unless you’re looking for Broadway shows in New York, in which case there are several great on-line discount ticket sellers where you can get great tickets in advance and skip the line-up at the ticket outlet at Times Square.
Every once in a while someone buys tickets they have to unload because they can’t make the show, and posts it on Kijiji or Craigslist, often at a discount rate. Again, check regular pricing/availability first to ensure you’re not being ripped off. Always a chance unscrupulous people will forge tickets, especially for popular shows. Buyer beware!
Anything I missed or got wrong?