NEW YORK – The New York theater is always in crisis or exaltation mode. This summer it has been in a tizzy over a huge musical hit called “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who a few years ago made his Broadway debut with “In the Heights.”
Mr. Miranda wrote the show’s book, lyrics and music and stars in it. “Hamilton,” was inspired by the successful bio “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. Though no one can get a ticket to the show for months unless they pay premium prices like $275 or more, it has raised the question of the outrageously high prices of Broadway tickets again, and that’s probably a good thing.
Since every ticket for this new and unconventional show – which I will review next month – has long been taken and the demand continues to be great, it is obvious that the high cost has not deterred too many theatergoers. But there have been complaints and outcries, some of them from students, who think they should be given the chance to see “Hamilton” at a tariff they can afford.
The producers are addressing the issue.
The show’s main producer, Jeffrey Seller, was involved with “Rent” in 1996, and at every performance he allowed the first two rows of the orchestra seats to be sold for $20. “Rent” received the 1996 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Awards and ran for 12 years, chalking up 5,123 performances, and that marketing idea served it well.
Mr. Seller has another plan for “Hamilton.” According to Playbill.com, two and a half hours before curtain time at the Richard Rodgers Theatre at 226 W. 46th St., you can put your name on a lottery list and if your name is called, you can purchase one or two tickets for $10 each. If you don’t win the lottery, you can put your name on a $40 standing room list, which gets you into numbered places located behind the last row of the orchestra seats.
In the orchestra, patrons are paying formidable sums for their seats. There seems to be no resistance among those who want the best seats; they are apparently willing and able – though not necessarily eager – to pay what is demanded. This seems to be generally true. If playgoers decide that a stage attraction is likely to be entertaining, they seem not to be concerned about the cost. They find the money and give it to the box office without complaint.
On the other hand, they simply will not patronize productions that they consider unattractive no matter how inexpensive the tickets may be. It can be said as a matter of indisputable fact that if they didn’t want to see “Hamilton,” they couldn’t be enticed into Richard Rodgers Theatre by any kind of cut-rate ticket.
That some theatergoers are being priced out of the theater, kept away because they can’t afford to go, is a widely held thesis. I have argued it in this space and elsewhere. But it begins to seem doubtful that the number of such people is really large or significant. Of those who protest the excessive ticket costs, at least a few are genuinely put out, in all senses of the phrase; they are protesting what they consider an injustice. But it may well be that they just don’t know that now there are ways to get inexpensive tickets to productions like “Hamilton.”
In my opinion, the best venue for discounted tickets can be found on Playbill Online at www.playbill.com/celebritybuzz/article/broadway-rush-lottery-and-standing-room-only-policies. This includes all the Broadway and Off-Broadway show deals. It is a tremendous site for students and older graduates like you and me. But the lottery and standing room are a gamble; neither guarantees a seat. If you decide to try it, you probably should go to a show’s individual site and see if the Playbill information still holds. The theater is a business and things are always changing, but I have found that most of the deals on this Playbill site are real and had been thought out by each show’s producers.
When you get to town, you can always check out things at the show’s box office. There you should have your information in-hand. If you are a student, a school ID is necessary. If you are an adult patron, you have to show an ID too. Also, you will find that a lot of theaters only accept cash for these special deals. Always have an alternative if things don’t work out in your favor.
TKTS has mostly half-priced tickets; a few are 30 or 40 percent off. Booths are located in Times Square, South Street Seaport and downtown Brooklyn. You can check out times and prices at www.tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS.
The TodayTix mobile app, created by Broadway producers, provides customers with inside information about access to last-minute theater tickets and lotteries. It is available free at the App Store or the Google Play Store.
Bernard Carragher lives in New York and covers the arts and entertainment.