I didn’t realize how large of a phenomenon Hamilton was until July of last summer. My husband was invited to be a special guest at a music camp in western Pennsylvania, and I was invited to accompany him. We were at the camp for a week, and toward the end of our time, the camp had a “soloist night” for the kids to participate in. The director of music decided he would do the closing number for the night and sing “My Shot” from the Hamilton soundtrack.
Before that summer, I hadn’t listened to the soundtrack, and it wasn’t until a few months later that I caved. I really wanted to experience Hamilton live on stage before I could recite all of the lyrics from memory. I wanted to go into the musical without any preconceived notions about what it would look like.
The director ended with his song, brown cape, and 1800’s getup, and the kids went crazy! Here was this group of 6-14 year-olds, more than 8 hours away from New York City, singing along to the Hamilton lyrics! Of course I knew that Hamilton was a big deal, but I lived 20 minutes outside of Manhattan. It’s not uncommon for me to attend a conference or event where a “night out” means free Broadway tickets and a ride into Times Square. But for us to be in a rural area of Pennsylvania where the kids knew every word to “My Shot”…that’s when I realized it.
Fast forward to this past weekend. On Friday, the chorus of moans sounded off from my co-workers at 1pm, when we all found out that, once again, we didn’t win the Hamilton lottery. There are a group of ladies that I work with that all dream of it: two tickets, $10 each. The ultimate show at the ultimate price. Later, as I was about to leave, my friend Justina stopped by and said she was going into the city the next day. We had already planned to meet for Zumba in the morning, so we could leave after our workout. After a bit of thought (I don’t like to make decisions on the spot, should I regret not putting thought into it later), I told her I’d love to go, and we planned to see each other the next day.
That morning on my drive to the gym, Justina texted me and asked if I wanted to skip Zumba and go straight into the city. There was a 2pm matinee of Hamilton scheduled on Saturdays, and we could stand in the cancellation line and try to get tickets. At first I was bummed about missing a workout, but decided it wouldn’t hurt. The chances were slim, but I thought it would be fun to say we had tried.
At 12:30PM, we got in line at Hamilton. As we’d driven into the city, the snow was coming down fast and fluffy, but as we stood in line, we only felt frequent water drops on our heads from the building behind us. We both had croissants and coffees to hold us over until we got out of the line for lunch, or got out of the show. There were about 15-20 people in front of us. Justina had stood in the line a few times before, and told me not to get too excited. Even then, I honestly didn’t think we would get in.
I am not a natural talker: in fact, I am a natural RBF (Resting Bi*** Face, FYI), and people don’t naturally start talking to me. Justina is the opposite: she’s friendly and talkative and makes small talk at a level where I’m just like, HOW?! She became instant friends with the young woman in front of us, and the woman behind us. The first was from Tokyo, enjoying her last day in NYC, and hoping to get into the famed musical before she went back to Newark for her flight. The second was a mother from PA, who’s children already had tickets, but she was trying to get something for her and her husband so they could see it as well.
There are two types of tickets that can be purchased from the cancellation line: cancellation tickets and standing room. Cancellation tickets are tickets sold back to the box office and then offered to the cancellation line at face-value. Considering the mark-up on Hamilton tickets, they are a great deal, but could still run you a few hundred dollars per ticket. Standing room is only $40 a ticket and instead of having a seat, you have a place to stand at the back of the main level. The places are marked behind a banister, and actually have a pretty good view of the stage, if not blocked a bit by the balcony. But standing room tickets are reserved for family and friends of the cast and crew, so the chances of being offered one are even slimmer than cancellation tickets.
For an hour and a half, we stood there, being rained on and chilled, but I have to say that time was fun. We were chatting with the ladies around us, enjoying our coffees, and debating what our cut off would be should we be offered tickets. As we got closer and closer to the front of the line, my cut off went higher and higher. I may have even wondered how mad my husband was going to be at me by the end of the day (I wouldn’t never spent more than $100 without talking to him first, and vise versa).
I should mention that having given up on my previous ideals, I had the entire Hamilton soundtrack memorized. I listen to it while I’m working, while I’m cleaning at home, on my way to the gym, on my way to volunteering, everywhere. I’ve had a few acquaintances that had the opportunity to see the musical, and I was jealous. It was a bucket list item near the top of my list, and I honestly thought that I would have to wait a few more years for the prices to drop to a reasonable amount–or wait for the inevitable movie.
So at 1:55PM when there were only two girls and our friend from Tokyo in front of us, Justina and I were freaking out. The cancellation line manager came out and raised his hands to speak to the line, and I knew we were done.
“From here on we only have standing room tickets. I’ll take the next 7 people in line.”
That’s when Justina and I turned to each other and started screaming. I screamed politely, so as to not let the cancellation line man think I was crazy, but we turned to each other and started jumping. We instantly were chastised:
“Settle down, settle down! I need an orderly line of the next seven people. Straight line please! Stay where you are and I’ll walk you into the box office.”
So our friend in front of us, and the couple behind us all got tickets. I was called into the box office, handed over my ID and my credit card, and teared up. Justina hugged the cancellation line man as we walked into the theater. At 2:05PM we were standing at the banister when the lights went down, and the spotlight went on.
So, what did I learn from this experience? First and foremost, Hamilton is amazing and worth every award it has won. But you don’t need to pay exorbitant amounts to see it!
As we had stood in the cancellation line, a couple had come into the line and asked if anyone was interested in their extra tickets. Two tickets and, they paid $850 for them. Justina offered them $200 a ticket, the woman behind us offered $300 per ticket (then apologized for ruining our offer, that sweet woman). It was then they told us they spent $850 PER TICKET and didn’t want to sell them for less than $700 per. Unless you have $1700 that you want to blow on 3 hours of your life, I have a better solution for you.
- Enter the Online Lottery
I recently read that the Hamilton lottery is entered more than 10K times per performance. I also read that you have a better chance of being born with 11 fingers than winning 2 tickets to Hamilton, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. The only way to truly make it count is to enter every single day. If you seriously want to go for a good price, entering everyday for $10 tickets is the way to go.
2. Pick a terrible Saturday to go into NYC
What do I mean by that? Simply, if you wake up and it’s grey, get ready to go stand in the Hamilton line. We went for a Saturday matinee when it had been snowing/sleeting/raining. I think that contributed to our success because 1) no one likes to go out when the weather is crappy and 2) for those who are allowed to buy standing room tickets, they don’t want to go out when it’s crappy.
3. Get to the line early
We got to the performance an hour and a half beforehand, but honestly we were only two tickets away from not getting in. If we had gotten there 2 hours beforehand, or 2 1/2, our chances would have dramatically increased. If you have the time and you really want to see it, be willing to wait.
4. Be ready to spend money
Justina and I lucked out with standing room tickets, but at that point, I was prepared to spend a couple hundred dollars. It’s still vastly cheaper than buying tickets resale, so save up your pennies beforehand and treat yourself to a great performance.
5. Bring a friend or be prepared to make friends!
I have to say, one of the best parts of Hamilton was waiting in line with my friend beforehand and chatting with the strangers around us. We were together, so one of us could leave the line to get coffee, or to count to see how far back we still were. The hour and a half that we stood few by, and I knew that even if we hadn’t gotten tickets, we still would have gone off and had a fun day in Manhattan together.
So my friend, I wish you luck. If you really want something to happen, you just got to keep trying at it. For me, Hamilton was definitely something I dreamed about. I’m still shocked that we got in, but I’m thrilled to say I got see it. I still continue to enter the lottery everyday, just to see if I can make it for another performance, but I know this is something I can take off my bucket list.
My next item is to lose weight and practice my scales so I can send in an audition tape. I am not broadway material, but wouldn’t it be amazing to say I tried?!
Comment if you want to talk Hamilton!