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Wednesday,  June 12, 2024 11:38 AM 

On Location: So, your NYC-bound clients want to see a show? Here’s how agents can access Broadway’s best


On Location: So, your NYC-bound clients want to see a show? Here’s how agents can access Broadway’s best
PAX saw Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre with Broadway Inbound and The Broadway Collection, c/o Canada's Vox International. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

“The greatest thing, you'll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return.”

That potent line from Baz Luhrmann’s zany 2001 romance-musical movie Moulin Rouge! – lyrics originally sung in the 1948 song “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole – always has a way of pulling at my heartstrings.

But hearing the words recited by talented Broadway actors, live on stage in New York City, triggered next-level emotions.

Tears swelled, just for a brief moment, as I sat in Manhattan’s nearly sold-out Al Hirschfeld Theatre, where Moulin Rouge! The Musical has been bringing Luhrmann's eye-popping film to life, on stage, since its Broadway debut in 2019.

PAX, during a recent visit to The Big Apple, had an opportunity to see the high-energy show (which, for the record, is more dazzling than it is depressing), and can-can confirm the opulent high it brings.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. (Pax Global Media)

Like the movie, the musical is set in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France, during the Belle Epoque at the turn of the 20th century.

The show tells the story of Christian, a sensitive young composer, who falls in love with a sparkling cabaret actress, named Satine, who is the star at the Moulin Rouge (a real cabaret in Paris that opened in 1889 that still exists today).

And, like the movie, the musical is a jukebox format – most of the songs are mash-ups of iconic pop hits.

Moulin Rouge! tells the story of Christian, a young composer, who falls in love with a cabaret actress, named Satine. (The Broadway Collection)

Fans of the film will recognize previously-used songs like Elton John’s "Your Song," The Police's "Roxanne," and Madonna’s "Material Girl," but will hear many others that were added for the stage production, like Lorde's "Royals", Fun.'s "We Are Young” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

The show has also brushed with pop stardom – Karma Chameleon Boy George, up until May 12, played the role of Harold Zidler. (The bombastic owner of the Moulin Rouge).

Boy George, for a period, played the role of Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. (The Broadway Collection)

Then there’s the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, built in 1924, which was refurbished into an “opulent pleasure palace” for the show (as the New York Times put it).

A giant red windmill, a famous symbol of the Moulin Rouge, sits perched to the left of the theatre (“Moulin rouge,” by the way, means "red mill" in French), while an opulent elephant statue (Satine's dressing room in the film) overlooks the audience on the right.

Bursting with stockings, corsets, gender-bending dancers and sexy choreography, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is a wild romp, bursting with freedom, beauty, truth and love (as the story’s absinthe-drinking Bohemian artists would shout).

The Al Hirschfeld Theatre was transformed into a cabaret for Moulin Rouge! The Musical. (Pax Global Media)

And it’s a winner – the musical, at the 74th Tony Awards, received 14 nominations and won 10 awards (the most for that evening), including Best Musical. For theatre-loving travellers in New York City, the show is a fabulous way to spend a night on the town.

So, beyond a good show recommendation, what does this have to do with the travel trade?  

 Moulin Rouge! The Musical received 14 nominations and won 10 awards at the 74th Tony Awards. (The Broadway Collection)

While ticket sales on Broadway have yet to fully recover from the pandemic, the demand for shows – especially popular ones, like Moulin Rouge! – is steady. Depending on the day of the week, good seats might be hard to get.  

Assuming travel advisors would want to get their NYC-bound clients the best access on Broadway, and create an itinerary the maximizes the most time in destination, there's a resource in Canada that helps makes theatre bookings a reality: Broadway Inbound. 

The neon lights are bright on Broadway

A company that puts tickets in the hands of travel pros ahead of time, Broadway Inbound is a wholesaler for group buyers, tour operators and the travel industry.

In association with The Broadway Collection (a group of leading shows, events, and companies on Broadway and around NYC) the company – which secured PAX orchestra seat tickets to Moulin Rouge!, at the last minute – offers real-time availability to more than 25 Broadway shows for both individuals and groups. 

Travel advisors can book shows through either Viator, Get Your Guide, Travel Brands, Expedia TAAP or SimplyiTickets – and earn a commission, too.  

The Broadway Collection, which includes Moulin Rouge!, features both new and classic stage productions.

It’s an exciting list that would make any theatre-lover salivate. The spring line-up included The Notebook, Water for Elephants, The Who’s Tommy, The Outsiders, Lempicka, Suffs, Hell’s Kitchen (created by Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys), The Heart of Rock and Roll (featuring the hits of Huey Lewis and The News) and The Great Gatsby.

ell’s Kitchen. created by Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys, at the Shubert Theatre. (Pax Global Media)

Nine of this season's newest shows in the Collection, notably, have racked up a total of 45 nominations for this year’s 77th Tony Awards.

Other shows on the list are just blazing hot right now – like Aladdin, &Juliet, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Lion King, MJ, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Hadestown, Chicago, Back to the Future and more.

Off-Broadway productions are available, too. The Shubert Organization manages 17 of the top theatres in NYC, and while many shows in the Collection are Broadway, there are some exceptions, such as Little Shop of Horrors and Blue Man Group (both are offered).

Back to the Future - The Musical at the Winter Garden Theatre. (Pax Global Media)

Agents can also secure tickets for the New York City Ballet and Metropolitan Opera.

In Canada, Broadway Inbound & the Broadway Collection is represented by VoX International, and thanks to this partnership, the service has expanded its presence in the market, growing its client base, while boosting advanced ticket sales.

Great for student groups

To be clear, Broadway Inbound isn’t a ticket re-seller. Rather, it offers the trade access to FIT and group inventory direct from the box office—available online, or via API, to its partners.

It allows sales up to the day of the show, access to order history, online payment, and flexible policies. For travel pros in Canada, tickets can be purchased in Canadian dollars.

The Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre. (Pax Global Media)

What kind of booking does Broadway Inbound and The Broadway Collection work really well with?

Student groups. “We provide educators with a trusted resource for finding the right show, at the right price, and enhancing the trip with workshops, study guides, and so much more,” the company told PAX in a statement.

Some shows even offer special student pricing and complimentary tickets, with curtain times that work well for young audiences.

Canadians in New York City

It’s a service worth highlighting as New York City tourism regains ground with the Canadian market.  

According to New York City Tourism + Conventions, NYC welcomed roughly 995,000 Canadian visitors in 2023, closely matching pre-COVID levels. This year, arrivals are expected to exceed those of 2019, with 1,080,000 possible Canadian tourists.

Canadians are returning to New York City, according to New York City Tourism + Conventions. (Pax Global Media)

Of course, there’s lots to see and do in bustling New York City, from visiting museums, art galleries and landmarks, to shopping, to taking in sports games, to indulging in world-class restaurants and nightlife.

But the city’s vibrant theatre scene – Broadway especially – is one of the city’s most celebrated and influential sectors that has made New York City the cultural capital it is today.

What makes a Broadway show, “Broadway?”

New York City theatre dates back as early as the mid 1700s, but not until the late 1800s did theatres move uptown to the area they’re in today, the Theatre District, which, in olden times, consisted of family homes and farms.

What makes a Broadway show, “Broadway?” Basically, any venue with 500 seats or more, located along Broadway in the city’s Theatre District, is a designated Broadway theatre.

Broadway, the street, runs almost 21 kilometres through two of five boroughs in NYC – Manhattan and the Bronx. Currently, there are 41 Broadway theatres operating, with some of the oldest theatres, like the Hudson, Lyceum and New Amsterdam, dating back to the early 1900s.

Broadway’s post-COVID rebound

Broadway theatre is the fabric of NYC tourism, culture and society, so you can only imagine how lifeless things felt when all 41 theatres closed for 18 months – the longest shutdown in history – during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theatres reopened in September 2021, but it wasn’t without struggles as productions coped with low ticket sales.

Which led to some casualties. Amid the slump, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running mega-musical, the Phantom of the Opera, after 35 years (a Broadway record), ended its run at the Majestic Theatre in April 2023.

Other shows, like Mean Girls and Frozen – two screen-to-stage musical adaptations – also permanently closed.

The Phantom of the Opera, after 35 years, ended its Broadway run in spring of 2023. (Pax Global Media)

But the neon lights of Broadway are shining bright – even if sales for the just-ended 2023-24 season were 17 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, according to recent figures from the Broadway League, a national trade association for Broadway’s theatre industry in New York.

Audiences, of diverse backgrounds, are responding to all kinds of productions right now, said Jason Laks, Interim President of The Broadway League, in a recent statement.

Laks said Broadway “remains a place where everyone can find something they will love to see.”

And the numbers (for May) aren’t bad. Many productions – like Aladdin, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hell’s Kitchen (the new Alicia Keys musical), Wicked, The Great Gatsby, Merrily We Roll Along, The Lion King and Moulin Rouge – are currently grossing more than $1 million (USD) each week.

How to make a Broadway trip shine

So, how far in advance should travel advisors start securing theatre tickets for their NYC-bound clients?

As a rule of thumb, it’s wise to plan NYC theatre trips as far in advance as possible, says Broadway Inbound. The exact timeframe will depend on a show’s popularity and the time of year.

“Popular shows tend to sell out quickly, especially on weekends,” the company says. As one might expect, so do shows during peak holiday times, such as summer and U.S. Thanksgiving in late November.

The Notebook at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. (Pax Global Media)

If you want to give your clients the ultimate Broadway experience, consider sending them to the Museum of Broadway, a still-new, 26,000-square-foot attraction in Times Square that showcases the history of musicals in a fun and immersive way.  

With objects like Patti LuPone’s “Evita” wig, a Jets jacket from "West Side Story," props from “Phantom,” costumes from “Rent” and puppets from “The Lion King” on display, and with selfie-ready rooms that tell the stories of classic shows, the four-floor space on West 45th Street, which opened in November 2022, is the ultimate playspace for theatre lovers. 

Costumes from the Phantom of the Opera on display at the Musuem of Broadway. (Pax Global Media)

Puppets from The Lion King musical on display at the Museum of Broadway. (Pax Global Media)

Visitors also get a behind-the-scenes look at how productions are made. The staircase that connects each floor, for instance, is full of backstage theatre sounds, creating the ambience of a real-life production that’s about to start on a stage.

Happening now, the Museum of Broadway has an exhibit dedicated to Moulin Rouge! The Musical, called "Spectacular, Spectacular," which invites fans to take in costumes and set installations, and immersive experiences, such as sitting on Satine’s chaise lounge and engaging with an interactive heart-themed wall where fans can leave their personal mark on the love story.

Learning about jukebox musicals at the Museum of Broadway. (Pax Global Media)

Catch the Tonys on June 16!

Finally, to get a real sense of Broadway’s best, make sure to watch the Tony Awards on June 16, 2024. The annual televised ceremony in Manhattan recognizes excellence in live Broadway theatre.

Hell’s Kitchen has earned 13 nominations (the most of any show in The Broadway Collection this year). Other shows nominated include The Outsiders, The Notebook, Suffs, Water for Elephants, Lempicka, The Who’s Tommy, Back to the Future, and The Great Gatsby.

It’ll certainly be a night of solid entertainment that travel advisors, before and after the awards, can use as conversation starter for reviewing potential trips with their theatre-loving clients.  

You can get the ball rolling with two words: “It’s showtime!”

VoX's Denise Graham manages Broadway Inbound in Canada. She can be reached at denise@voxinternational.com. For more on Broadway Inbound, click here. 


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