Film & Television · Theater

PBS Great Performances Salutes the Great White Way

There’s no business like show business. But a trip to New York may not be in your immediate plans. Or, even if you find yourself in the Big Apple, you may be stunned (or even staggered) by ticket prices. You’re not alone.

In 1975, I took my best friend, Alison Rosenfield, to see Pippin for her birthday. Our tickets were $7.50. (This was an ungodly amount of money for a seventh grader.) In 2014, the average price for a Broadway ticket reached $100 for the first time; in 2016, it reached $280. And this past season, the top box office price to see Bette Midler in Hello Dolly! was $748, while the best seat for Hamilton was $849. And, that’s assuming you were lucky enough to pay face value for either of those notoriously sold out shows. Ticket agencies and hotel concierges charged 100% markup.

Of course, there are many other options for enjoying live theatre in New York without declaring bankruptcy. The TKTS booth in Times Square, run by the Theatre Development Fund, offers same-day tickets for roughly half-off. The trick is to stand on line (and enjoy world-premiere people-watching) with several shows in mind. Chances are, you won’t get bargain seats for the latest or most popular shows, but there will be plenty of excellent options to choose from. Off-Broadway also offers a wonderful selection of generally smaller productions that can be just as excellent.

And this fall, thanks to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), you can enjoy acclaimed recent productions from the best seat in the house — the best seat in your house, that is. Beginning this Friday, October 20th, Great Performances will present a salute to Broadway, including entire shows from Broadway and Lincoln Center, and two backstage documentaries.


She Loves Me

PBS Great Performances
Friday, October 20, 9:00 p.m. EST

Rival clerks in a 1930s Budapest parfumerie accidentally fall in love when they become anonymous “lonely hearts” pen pals. If this plot sounds vaguely familiar, it’s adapted from the same Hungarian original that inspired Nora Ephron’s delightful 1998 rom-com You’ve Got Mail. The celebrated Broadway revival includes a classic score and Tony-nominated performances by Broadway luminaries Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel.



PBS Live from Lincoln Center
Friday, October 27, 9:00 p.m. EST

Originally combining three short pieces (In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, and Falsettoland), Falsettos was a game-changing work when it was first produced in 1992. This 2017 production stars two-time Tony-winner Christian Borle as not-so-happily married Marvin who leaves his wife for a man, only to discover that his new lover has AIDS. The shattering news forces Marvin and his ex (plus her lover and their neighbors) to redefine family.


Noël Coward’s Present Laughter

PBS Great Performances
Friday, November 3, 9:00 p.m. EST

Another star-studded cast brings this effervescent Noël Coward comedy to life. The story revolves around a self-absorbed actor (Kevin Kline) and a constellation of characters who rotate around him, including an amorous young fan, a suspicious ex-wife (Kate Burton), a would-be adulteress, producers, managers, an aspiring playwright, and a grand dame impresario (would that be an impresaria?) with ambitious plans for her niece who happens to be the amorous young fan.


In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams

PBS Great Performances
Friday, November 10, 9:00 p.m. EST

In 2008, before he became synonymous with Broadway’s “founding father without a father,” Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Tony for Best Musical with his multicultural study of urban life In the Heights. This documentary includes fine performances from original cast members, as well as a unique behind-the-scenery look at how an iconic piece of modern theatre is conceived and produced, from initial idea to development, from opening number to standing ovation.



PBS Great Performances
Friday, November 17, 9:00 p.m. EST

Described as “A play with music,” Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel’s Indecent examines a controversial moment in theatrical history, when the 1923 God of Vengeance by Polish playwright Sholem Asch featured a lesbian romance and on-stage kiss, landing members of the Broadway cast in jail. Years later the play was secretly performed in an attic in the Lodz ghetto. Drawing on Yiddish theatre traditions, director Rebecca Taichman earned a Tony Award for this production.


Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn

PBS Great Performances
Friday, November 24, 9:00 p.m. EST

A perfect way to begin the holiday season. This stage adaptation of the 1942 holiday classic with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire was produced by the renowned Roundabout Theatre Company. The score includes memorable Irving Berlin tunes, such as “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” Cheek to Cheek,” “Easter Parade,” and “White Christmas.” The delightful cast is led by Bryce Pinkham (Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) and Laura Lee Geyer.


Hamilton’s America: The Room Where it Happened

PBS Great Performances
Friday, December 1, 9:00 p.m. EST

With casts in New York, Chicago, and London, as well as multiple national touring companies, it may finally be easier to secure a ticket to Broadway’s most coveted sensation. But, even if you’re among the fortunate few (hundred thousand) who have seen Hamilton, you’ll find this documentary fascinating. Combining performance footage with interviews and visits to historic sites, the show continues the national conversation Tony-, Grammy- and Emmy-winner Miranda started about the role of immigrants in our nation’s past, present and future.


Regional PBS stations may have different schedules, and often have additional showings. Be sure to check your local listings.


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