Many people seem to think that front row center orchestra seats are the best in the house, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Generally, the best seats in the house are about five rows back in the center orchestra, given that you aren’t on the short side and have a taller person sitting in front of you. The first few rows of the mezzanine are also great too.
You may feel inclined to buy the front row center tickets. They cost the most, so they’re the best, right? Wrong. It really depends on the size and layout of the theatre, but most of the time you’re going to be missing a lot of the upstage action if you’re seated in the first couple of rows. That’s a lot of action to miss when you’re paying a pretty penny for these tickets (though there are ways to buy discounted tickets).
Not only that, but you might be craning your neck during the show, and theatre is meant to be a break from the real world. You want to sit back, relax and enjoy the show, and you’re not going to be too comfortable with a sore neck.
You’re also going to want to avoid the seats on the far left and right of the orchestra. In theatres like the Shubert, the box seating may obstruct your view or you may miss any action that takes place right up against the sides of the proscenium arch.
I experienced this when I saw Matilda in the Shubert a few years ago. We bought our tickets at the TKTS booth, and though we thought the seats were decent before the show started (white), we had trouble seeing the downstage right action (yellow).
Personally, I prefer the seats at the front of the mezzanine. From my experience, all sides of the front mezzanine are great. You’re typically not seated too far away, like you might be at the top of the mezzanine, and you can see everything that happens on stage. Also, the tickets are around the same price as orchestra seats, so you pay the same amount of money and see more of the show. When I saw A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Walter Kerr Theatre a few years ago, we were a bit disappointed when we saw that we got seats in the mezzanine (again, we bought them at the TKTS booth), but they ended up being fantastic seats!
That being said, the seats in a Broadway theatre are usually packed tightly together, so there isn’t going to be a huge difference in seating. Although I am strongly against sitting front row center, it can have its benefits. Hamilton lottery winners only pay $10 for front-of-house seats. For that price, you can’t complain about the seating, and you might even be acknowledged by a member of the cast. Lin-Manuel Miranda notoriously winked at and flirted with the people in the first couple of rows during the number “Helpless,” and even gave people shout outs on Twitter after the show.
I’m also of the philosophy that any seat can be a good seat, as long as you’re enjoying the show. Get in there and support live theatre, but you’ve been warned—mezzanine is still better than front row center.