To help you make the most of your theater experience in the capital, or you're planning a visit to Sacramento and would like to see a play or musical performance, we've compiled this insider's guide to venues in the area:

From Broadway to Cabaret
Broadway Sacramento — established nearly 25 years ago at downtown's Community Center Theater on the Sacramento Convention Center campus, and now the region's largest live performing arts event — is home to big, splashy musicals. Prices range from $16 a person midweek or matinees to $85 for orchestra seats on "premium" weekend nights. More than 200,000 tickets are sold annually to theatre-lovers from the California-Oregon border to western Nevada and the Central Valley. Remaining productions in the current season includes Mamma Mia, Million Dollar Quartet and Wicked.

Don't miss its summer series, Music Circus. JUST ANNOUNCED: the 2012 season of musicals in the round: Grease, The Little Mermaid, The Music Man, and Fiddler on the Roof, and Crazy for You. Prices are slightly less than the Broadway series, making this an affordable tradition for families as well as groups.  

If you prefer cabaret, to drink or eat as you enjoy the musical production, The Cosmopolitan Cabaret offers a more relaxed and spacious experience. Tickets range from $33 to $48 a seat. Forbidden Broadway will have you laughing out loud and falling out of your seat.

Off-Broadway or Fringe Theater
Midtown Sacramento, where indie boutiques and locally owned restaurants flourish, is no exception to gutsy, thought-provoking, and intense productions.

Established by Timothy Busfield and his brother Buck Busfield, B Street Theatre has become recognized as one of Northern California’s top professional theaters. It has produced more than 100 new plays, 60 of which are world, national, West Coast, or regional premieres. The current season includes The Giver, based on the award-winning and widely-read novel by Lois Lowry. Prices range from $10-30 per person.

Since 1942, Sacramento Theatre Company has been professionally producing contemporary and traditional theatrical works, providing rigorous and comprehensive training to young professionals, and advocating theatre as a tool for educational engagement. From September through June, its theaters, including its own cabaret, feature eight performances each week for a total of more than 300 each year. Prices range from $15-$46 per seat. STC even offers senior and rush discounts. The current season includes Dial 'M' for Murder and Little Shop of Horrors. 

Now in its (lucky) 13th year, Capital Stage continues to bring bold, intimate and live plays from contemporary playwrights to audiences of no more than 125. Explore the human condition with your mind and soul -- at slightly less expensive prices. Highlights include periodic post-production discussions with the director and cast. Prices range from $16-38 per seat. Cap Stage also is expanding its high school, youth summer drama instruction programs.    

Off-Off-Broadway have even smaller (and perhaps scruffier) spaces with fewer than 100 seats. They can be found throughout the capital. Our pick is Big Idea Theatre, near uptown's Enotria restaurant and wine bar, a laboratory for new actors and the theatrical vanguard -- and tickets for as low as $10.

.... A dizzying number of options, and we haven't even talked about the community and school productions! Book a hotel room, pack your bags, and stay a while ...

The League of Sacramento Theatres lists dozens of curtains going up every week all over town. Don't believe me? Check out the list of current productions for yourself. Sacramento presents audiences with a surprising array of theater-going experiences, from blockbuster musicals to intimate monologues. Navigating all the choices to arrange a night (or matinee afternoon) at the theater is easier with a little help from your friends, here, at the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Ticket Timing and Specials
For Broadway (and Music Circus) shows that regularly or nearly sell out, get tickets weeks or months in advance. Midweek shows are less crowded (and often cheaper) than Friday, Saturday or Sunday shows. Saturday nights require booking the furthest ahead. Student tickets may be available, and some venues offer a limited number of cheap same-day rush tickets. Check each company box office for discounts and details.

Fueling Up
Several restaurants serve traditional pre-theater meals at reasonable prices; peek at the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau site list of eateries where you'll be in good hands. Book a reservation 90 minutes before curtain, and as soon as you're seated at the table, tell your server you're going to a show.