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Broadway shows often steal the attention of Off-Broadway shows. However, do not be quick to underestimate this sector of the theater arts. Off-Broadway describes theaters—and the shows they house—that seat between 100 and 499 people. Like Broadway theaters, these places are located in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Many large cities have Off-Broadway and Broadway theaters and shows, so this term may be applied in places like Chicago and San Francisco, too. Although Off-Broadway productions often have less reach in audience size and publicity compared to their Broadway counterparts, there is a lot to be appreciated about Off-Broadway theater.
Due to the smaller venue capacity of Off-Broadway theaters, plenty of products start Off-Broadway and eventually work their way into full-on Broadway affairs. In other words, Off-Broadway is a stepping stone into bigger, more popular waters. If Off-Broadway venues consistently sell out of a show and have high demand, they get pushed into Broadway. Hamilton, Hair, and A Chorus Line are some of the more recent shows to make that jump. This change is often cumbersome, calling for new, larger sets and occasional recasts. So, Off-Broadway is really where a show begins its relationship with the public.
In practice, this means that the slightly smaller scale of Off-Broadway theater has its benefits. The prices are slightly lower in production, which translates to lower ticket costs for audiences. Early planners and lucky shoppers may be able to snag two or even three Off-Broadway tickets for what would be the price of one highly-coveted Broadway ticket. In addition, Off-Broadway productions have a special allure in terms of popularity. Although they are not exactly undiscovered, these productions are certainly less known than Broadway shows. They are sometimes a little less developed with less experienced performers and smaller sets. However, people who want to see up-and-comers will want to keep their eyes on what is offered Off-Broadway. Another edge that Off-Broadway has is that the slightly smaller venue sizes mean that productions are a little more intimate. Audiences are closer to performers. Instead of being lost in a crowd, audiences can find reprieve in a more closely-knit cohort of art lovers.
Both Broadway and Off-Broadway have their advantages and disadvantages. Luckily, there is no reason to choose one over the other. Fair ticket prices mean that you can experience both Off-Broadway and On-Broadway shows at a reasonable rate. One you go to one Broadway or Off-Broadway show, you will be hooked. It is a perfect date night, a cherished family-friendly outing, or a treat to yourself.