Few experiences set the stage for an exciting afternoon or evening the way a live performance does. Whether it’s comedy, drama, music or dance, electricity fills the air as the audience anticipates a show by real, live performers.

'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,' New York, N.Y.
[/media-credit] ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ New York, N.Y.

For travelers, a theater trip is a counterpoint to tours of museums and historical sites, said Stephanie Lee, president of Broadway.com.

Those sites can provide an effective way of learning, and they’re inspirational, she said.

“I think attending a live, theatrical performance can also provide similar experiences,” Lee said. “There’s nothing like being immersed in a living, breathing journey of storytelling that really awakens all your senses.”

Watching together

Seeing a live performance with a group heightens the experience, Lee said.

“For a few hours, you share this extraordinary experience which brings people together,” she said. “It’s unlike books and movies. The theater feels more real since we’re sharing it with other people.”

Lee offers valuable advice for tour planners: arrive early and don’t bring a big bag.

'The Sound of Music,' Mirvish Productions, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
[/media-credit] ‘The Sound of Music,’ Mirvish Productions, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“With the state of the world today, there are bag checks at every theatre,” she said.

With doors opening 45 minutes before showtime, “there’s plenty of time to get into the theater and not have to panic and rush,” Lee said. “Sometimes groups, if their itinerary doesn’t stay on track or their lunch runs late, it’s a rushed experience to get through the doors.”

Considered the best source for Broadway information, broadway.com sells tickets for Broadway shows, most off-Broadway shows and shows in London’s West End. Tickets are sold online and through 1-800-BROADWAY.

Callers get personalized service from a multilingual sales team so planners can make “the best and the most informed purchasing decisions,” Lee said.

“We always make sure our clients are aware of special discounts,” she said.

New shows can offer early-bird discounts of up to 35 percent.

'Anastasia,' New York, N.Y.
[/media-credit] ‘Anastasia,’ New York, N.Y.

John Karastamatis of Toronto’s Mirvish Productions agrees attending a live performance is best done with others.

“Theater began as a communal experience, and it still is a communal experience,” he said. “It is dependent on a group of people coming together to watch another group of people perform. The magic happens with the exchange of energy from these two groups — the performers and the spectators.”

Mirvish Productions, owner/operator of four downtown Toronto theaters, scours the world for shows with broad appeal, Karastamatis said. 

“We look for that show that is a ‘wow,’ that show that just leaves us in such an emotional state that we want to share it with other people.”

League of Chicago Theatres’ website, chicagoplays.com, offers information on 247 of Chicago’s live theaters. Executive director Deb Clapp can help tour organizers find live performance shows; the website links to theater websites for ticket purchases.

“Theater in Chicago is world renowned,” Clapp said. “You shouldn’t come to Chicago and not see some of the really spectacular theater here. We have five Tony Award-winning regional theaters — more than any other city in the country outside New York.

Theaters are “very, very welcoming” to groups, Clapp said. Theaters are “more than willing to have their artists sit down and talk with groups. All kinds of things can be arranged for groups.”

A few laughs

Comedy provides respite from an increasingly serious world. Boston visitors can see “the top, ever-evolving, improvised show that features lots of audience interaction” at ImprovBoston, said Mac Gostow, lead producer.

On stage, ImproBoston, Boston, Mass.
[/media-credit] On stage, ImproBoston, Boston, Mass.

“Basically they make up everything on the fly including the actual show structure,” he said.

He suggests Thursday night Mainstage shows for groups because of ticket availability.

“This is a cool glimpse into Boston nightlife,” he said. “It’s a great way to spend the night on the town and see live comedy as opposed to something like going to a movie.”

Saturday night’s “Face Off,” is a mock, competitive, fast-paced hosted improvised show.

“They’re making up jokes on the spot while competing for a big trophy and the audience’s laughter,” Gostow said. “It’s very funny.”

Chicago’s The Second City, founded in 1959, is considered the birthplace of sketch comedy. 

Kerry Sheehan, chief people officer there, called it “Chicago-centric theater” adding: “There’s a lot of themes within our shows that are very relevant to Chicago. It’s particularly interesting for tourists who want to learn about the city.”

Most sketch reviews finish with an improv set that’s very interactive. “With it being improv, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s very fun,” she said.

“We do definitely welcome groups,” she added. “That is something we’re very excited about. The environment here at the theatre is really warm and welcoming. Aside from great entertainment, we now have great food and great service. It’s just a really nice night out.”

Article by Kathie Sutin