Crack the codes
When you're buying tickets online, the major agencies — Telecharge and Ticketmaster — ask for a promotional code, which can shave between 25 and 50 percent off the face-value price. You can find one of these codes by visiting Playbill, TheaterMania, and BroadwayBox.com. These sites list promotional codes for many shows, including blockbuster productions like “Hairspray.” Playbill and TheaterMania are more comprehensive but require registration. BroadwayBox.com posts a more limited number of codes, but you won't have to cough up any personal information.
Insider's tip: If you buy directly from a theater box office, where you can also use a code for savings, you will avoid the fees that Telecharge and Ticketmaster slap on the tickets they sell online.
Try a ticket broker
If you're gunning for one of Broadway's most popular shows, such as “Grease” or “Spring Awakening,” you're going to struggle to find discounted tickets from any source. Your best hope is to look for tickets during Broadway's slow months: January, February, September, and October. You'll most likely find these tickets being resold by respected online ticket brokers, such as StubHub and TicketsNow — often, though not always, at a discount to their face values.
Buck the system at the 11th hour
General rush tickets and ticket lotteries are available to anyone looking to try his or her last-minute luck. Some productions, including “The Color Purple” and “Chicago,” sell a select number of discounted tickets, called rush tickets, at the box office on the day of the show. Others, such as “Wicked” and “Avenue Q,” hold lotteries in which people go to the theater a few hours before a show and enter their names in a drawing. Rush and lottery tickets usually cost between $20 and $30. Go to talkinbroadway.com or playbill.com for details on the rush and lottery practices of the top productions.
Two popular musicals offer onstage seating at a fraction of the standard prices. “Spring Awakening” sells 26 onstage seats at every performance for $31.50 a pop (which is far less than the typical $70 a seat); “Xanadu” sells 22 onstage seats for every performance at $41.50 apiece. These seats tend to have rear or side views that obscure some of the action, but they still sell out quickly because viewers get to sit so close. It's best to book “Spring Awakening” onstage seats about four months in advance; “Xanadu” onstage seats require a lead time of a week or two. Onstage seating is available at the box offices as well as through Telecharge.
Tote the tots
Kids have some clout when it comes to ticket discounts. The Roundabout Theatre Company sells tickets for children under the age of 17 at half the price it charges adults. For example, in February a child's ticket costs only $25 for “Sunday in the Park with George” — while an adult ticket is $50 (for a rear mezzanine seat in each case).
Every winter, The Broadway League holds Kids' Night on Broadway. In 2008, anyone between the ages of 6 and 18 can see a Broadway show for free, when accompanied by a full-paying adult, on February 5, 6, 12, and 13. See details at kidsnightonbroadway.com.
Take a stand
For theatergoers feeling light on their feet, sold-out shows can be a good thing. Many productions — even hot shows like “Jersey Boys” and “Spamalot” — offer standing room only (SRO) admission when no audience seats are left. Like rush tickets, most SRO tickets fall in the $20 to $30 range and can be purchased at the box office on the day of the show. Find out which productions offer SRO by visiting talkingbroadway.com or playbill.com.
Become a member
The nonprofit Theatre Development Fund — which also operates the red-and-white TKTS booths in Times Square and at the South Street Seaport that sell discounted, same-day tickets — has a TDF membership program that offers advance tickets for less than $35 for some Broadway shows (without the hassle of standing in a line). To join, you have to be a student, a teacher, a union member, a senior, a civil service employee, a nonprofit or performing arts organization employee, or a member of the armed forces or clergy. There's an annual membership fee of $27.50, but you can usually make up the difference in a single show, given that the average Broadway ticket goes for $76. Find membership details at tdf.org.
Act your age
Students should check out theater company Web sites to see if any discounts are available. For example, the Roundabout Theatre Company's HipTix program offers $20 tickets, generally available two to three weeks before performances, for students and working professionals ages 18 to 35. Sign up for the program at hiptix.com; membership is free.
Similarly, Lincoln Center Theater's StudenTix program offers $20 advance tickets for high school and college students. However, a limited number of people are accepted into the free program before membership closes every year; go to lct.org for more info.
On occasion, a specific production, instead of a theater, will offer students discount tickets. For instance, Tom Stoppard's “Rock 'n' Roll” has been selling $26.50 student tickets at the box office of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater.
Student rush is a final, tried-and-true method. Many theaters set aside a limited number of student tickets — typically running between $20 and $30 — to sell at the box office on the day of the performance. Check out your desired show's Web site for information, or visit tdf.org or playbill.com for a list of shows and policies.