Hamilton: the endless quest for Broadway’s golden ticket

It may soon be easier to fly to London and see the West End transfer than see the show in New York but that doesnt stop the diehards camping out for tickets

The Broadway musical sensation Hamilton is heading to the West End and is set to open at the Victoria Palace Theatre in October 2017. Such is the demand for the show on Broadway, with tickets for the best seats now priced at an astronomical $849 each, that it may soon be more economical for New Yorkers to fly to London and see the show there especially if the pound plunges post-Brexit.

Blending genres ranging from hip-hop and indie to operetta, Hamilton, which tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of Americas founding fathers, has been a runaway hit since opening off-Broadway in February 2015. The show has earned its creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, accolades including the Pulitzer prize for drama; has been performed at the White House; and is poised to sweep the board at the Tony awards ceremony on Sunday, where it has received a record-breaking 16 nominations. It is said to earn $500,000 profit on Broadway a week, $105,000 of which goes to Miranda.

As the show is sold out until January, it has proved almost impossible for New Yorkers to procure tickets. For months, the desperate quest of theatre fans to see the show has received nearly as much attention as the musical itself. Inevitably, tickets are available for eye-watering prices on the secondary market, but the majority of fans who cant afford them have been tantalised by the few tickets the producers have made available for the more impecunious.

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The show is said to earn $500,000 in profit per week. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The easiest and cheapest way to snare tickets is the online digital lottery, offered for all performances bar the Wednesday matinee, which has its own live Ham4Ham lottery. Alexander Hamilton appears on the $10 note, so the tickets cost $10, ergo a Hamilton for Hamilton.

You are required to enter your details online, and then at 4pm almost inevitably receive an email telling you to try again. This is because there are 10,000 daily entries for just 21 front-row tickets. The website Mashable crunched the odds recently, revealing that there is a just over 900-1 chance of winning tickets if every winner chooses to buy two (entrants can apply for either one or two tickets). These odds fall to less than 500-1 if only one ticket is purchased.

To assist in this some would say near hopeless quest, Ham, a free app created by developer and keen Hamilton fan Lukas Thoms, prefills your lottery info and sends you a snappy little alert with Hamilton quotes each day so you dont forget to enter.

Thoms, 26, had seen the show in February and was immediately hooked. The initial reaction of anyone that has ever seen it is Oh my God, I have to see it again, he says. But entering his information in every day annoyed him and as an app developer and entrepreneur, knew he could quickly write some code that would save time. I did it because it was something I wanted and figured other people would want it too, Thoms said. The app took him about a week to build, and while he hasnt won tickets, he knows other users have. But Thoms questions whether the odds of getting tickets are even longer than supposed, since he says Ham has about 25,000 users and about 8,000 use it every day to enter the lottery.

Others opt for the weekly live lottery. Every Wednesday, a Ham4Ham live performance and lottery occurs outside the Richard Rogers Theater on 46th St. It had been a daily event until January, when the police started fearing for public safety due to the crowds.

At Wednesdays performance, several hundred drenched locals and tourists lined up around two city blocks to get their names in the weekly theatre lottery. After lining up, they gathered in the pouring rain to hear cast member Daniel J Watts alongside Miranda rap an original tribute to the late Muhammad Ali just outside the theatre doors.

After the five-minute performance, the cast members disappeared and theatre staffers pulled names out of a hat to give away the 21 front-row cost price tickets. The odds are better than the online lottery but theres still hundreds left ticketless.

We live sort of locally so were going to keep trying, said Jayde Xu, 19 from Westchester, who had spent 40 minutes on a train to reach the theatre, the second time shes made the trip to visit the live lottery and the second time shes missed out. I know people in Florida who would die to see this show, so comparatively Im close, said Xu.

There is also the cancellations line. Every day, there are a few tickets available from people who dont turn up, whether that be lottery ticket winners or celebrities who didnt bother to use their freebies. Tickets are offered as available, ranging from a $40 standing room only ticket to the $477 premium (it was announced this week that premium tickets would rise in the next release to $849, the most expensive on Broadway).

The cancellation line requires a considerable time commitment. The first in line for the Wednesday matinee performance was a woman who had arrived on Monday afternoon and had slept outside for two nights running. She declined to give her name and said she wasnt familiar with the play or had listened to the soundtrack, but had just heard great reviews of the show and was waiting for one of the $177 tickets to become available. I want to go home so that I can change my clothes and brush my teeth, she said.

About 20 people deep in the line was Katie Mcguire, 18, from Dartmouth, describing herself as obsessed were theatre kids. She had driven four hours from Massachusetts at 2am with her friend Patrick Kitchen, 18, to get into the cancellations line. Despite arriving in the line just after 7am and waiting until 8:30pm that night, neither got tickets to either the matinee or evening Hamilton performances although they plan to return next week to try again.

Professional line sitter Adonis Porch, 30, from Same Ole Line Dudes he gets paid about $500 by Hamilton fans to sleep overnight and wait in the line, plus the cost of the ticket has slept outside the theatre for 86 nights since November. Its always a mini party, he said, explaining how those in line mind each others bags and take it in turns to do food or bathroom runs. Once someone gave him a ticket to the show as a tip. I wouldnt do it as a job if I didnt think this show was worth it, he said.

Jocelyn Hassenfelg, 50, a TV producer from New Jersey got about three hours sleep lying on her yoga mat, wrapped up in a sleeping bag and wearing an American Apparel hoodie shed purchased for 50% off while freezing the day before. She had arrived on Tuesday morning for tickets and was hoping to get either the Wednesday matinee or Wednesday evening.

Ive lived here for 20-odd years. I never thought in a million years I would do this. But, for my daughter said Hassenfelg. Theatre-obsessed Ella Fine, 12, has listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat for over six months and begged her parents to try their luck in the line with her. The Tonys are coming up and Lin-Manuel Miranda is leaving soon and the new cast is coming in seize the day! said Hassenfelg.

With Miranda due to leave the show next month, there is now little to no chance of seeing the show led by its originator. For most people, the best chance of getting a taste of the show along with the spinoff book and soundtrack album is at the Tony awards, where the cast will perform. Nevertheless, theres always London (or a Chicago production starting in September), while in New York a new round of tickets with prices starting at $179 is about to be released.

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