As more and more people get vaccinated and we gradually crawl out of our hiding places, group social events are timidly returning as well. Among these—hallelujah—is the opportunity to once again attend live theatre. Since it’s been a while since most of us have gotten to enjoy this truly glorious cultural experience, I thought I’d offer some helpful advice on choosing the best performances to attend. After all, with the high price of a theatre ticket these days (especially for Broadway, where it’s currently around $7,200), one wants to get the most for one’s entertainment dollar by avoiding days of the week when performers are traditionally not at their best.
What follows is some field-tested guidance, based on the Curmudgeon’s own experience.
When selecting a date to see a show (assuming you’ve got a bit of flexibility), a Wednesday is never the best choice. There are usually two performances on Wednesdays, a matinee and an evening. During the first, the actors pace themselves, conserving energy for the long day ahead. Pace though they might, however, by the evening, they’re worn out and spend the show thinking about the hot bath and stiff cocktail that await them after the curtain call. Either way, you’re not quite getting the fullest experience. Despair not, there are plenty more performances from which to choose.
Mind you, you’ll surely want to steer clear of Fridays as well. That’s the night when the company braces for a long weekend which will include another two-show day on Saturday and another on Sunday. It’s a haul. Honestly, the whole weekend is to be avoided if at all possible. One can hardly expect to see a show at its best when the performance is butted up against another that looms just a few hours away. And by Sunday night, well, they may be physically present, but their minds are at the bar. Office workers often exclaim “TGIF!” but for stage actors, it’s TGIS.
Of course, Tuesdays are even worse. This may seem counterintuitive, given that Monday is the traditional day off for those who work in theatre. One would assume the cast might return to work well rested and ready to give their very best performance of the week. Such is not the case. With only one day away from the theatre, most of them seize the opportunity to indulge in the least restful behaviors imaginable from Monday morning through early the next morning, which arrives much too soon. Suddenly it’s Tuesday and they find themselves reluctantly dragging their hungover carcasses back to work with no small degree of bitterness. And when the curtain rises, one can feel that bitterness oozing across the footlights, with the blame for this abrupt return to work falling squarely on the ticketholders, without whom the performers would have had an evening to recover from their day off. No indeed, Tuesday isn’t the night to go to the theatre.
You will have noticed, no doubt, that just one of the weekly performances remains: Thursday evening. That’s your target. On Thursdays, the company is warmed up, in the flow, and sometimes even happy to be at work. And having had the daytime free, they’re fresh as daisies and at their very best.
Unfortunately, on Thursdays, the audience is not.
Thursday audiences are filled with people who find it a reasonable idea to go to the theatre on a Thursday night. Thursday—what is it? It’s neither here nor there, neither midweek nor weekend. This vague, unremarkable day is not one that inspires the making of exciting plans in most normal people. Therefore, seeing theatre on a Thursday night means your fellow patrons are likely to be some strange assembly of the dull, the confused, and the unemployed.
In New York, however, Thursday audiences may also include savvy theatre afficionados who, knowing that Thursday performances are the best, have planned accordingly. These frequent attendees will most likely spend the time before the play begins complaining about the location of their seats, offering retrospectives on each member of the cast, and critiquing all the other shows they’ve recently seen, all loudly enough for you to overhear. These folks aren’t easily impressed and may therefore spend the evening huffing and puffing in frustration before leaving at intermission. And who wants to see a play surrounded by that kind of attitude?
Well, that about covers it. Avoiding these less-than-ideal performance times will help ensure that you have the best experience possible…by staying home.