With average ticket prices topping over $110 and premium seats for in-demand shows going for as much as $649, you’re going to want to get the biggest bang for your buck when attending a Broadway show. And much of the success in that effort comes down to where you end up sitting in the theater. Are orchestra seats always the best in the house? Is the mezzanine too far away? How about boxes? Should you even bother with balcony seats?

There are a lot of variables to consider when it comes to choosing seats, and every Broadway house is different. We’ll do our best to offer some guidelines on how to pick the best seats for you. And we’ll give you a few hard and fast rules for seats to avoid.


The Orchestra

The largest section in the theater, the orchestra takes up the most real estate in the house. But not every seat in the orchestra is ideal for every show. Ideally, you’ll want to sit between five and 12 rows from the stage closer to the center. This will get you close enough to see subtle facial expressions–something especially good if the show you’re seeing has one of your favorite stars in it.


The Mezzanine

Upstairs from the orchestra, the mezzanine is separated into two areas; front and rear. Being upstairs and a little further away from the stage, mezzanine seats give greater perspective for larger shows. For big musicals, seats in the front mezzanine are often considered the best in the house, since they give views of patterns in the choreography or the lighting design that you can’t see when you’re downstairs in the orchestra. A major plus to sitting in the mezzanine is that it usually has stadium seating, which means each row is about 10 or 12 inches higher than the one in front of it. This is ideal for shorter people.


The Balcony

Older theaters like the Lyceum, Belasco, James Earl Jones, Shubert, New Amerstam, Longacre, St. James, Lyric, Palace, Walter Kerr, and Hudson, have a balcony level a floor above the mezzanine. Seats here are pretty high up, and are usually the most affordable in the house. These seats aren’t the best. But if you’re a bargain hunter who owns a pair of binoculars, you may not mind sitting in the balcony.


Where to avoid sitting

While many seats in the theater get lumped in at the same price, not all seats in that price range are equal. In fact, some areas should be avoided altogether.

  • The front row: Row A sounds like a good idea on paper, but bear in mind that most stages are over 40 inches high. In that first row seat you’ll be looking at a lot of shoes when you’re not craning your neck looking up. 
  • By the walls: The far sides of the orchestra–especially closer to the stage in wider theaters–usually have an obstructed view for at least part of the show. 
  • Under the mezzanine: If you’re in the very far back of the orchestra, the overhang from the mezzanine may block your view of any action happening on a show that has a set with multiple levels.
  • In front of a rail: In the mezzanine and balcony, you’ll want to steer clear of seats in the front row. This is because in many theaters there is a rail on the edge of the balcony that ends up obstructing the view of anyone shorter than 5 foot ten.
  • Boxes: Because of their location on the far sides of the theater, box seats almost always come with a “partial view” caveat and should be avoided altogether.