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Arts Post
Posted at 04:47 PM ET, 03/07/2011

‘Wicked’ online wait for Kennedy Center tickets

A metaphorical house fell on the Kennedy Center’s online portal Monday when pre-sale tickets for the 10-week run of the musical “Wicked” became available at 10 a.m. Some members were unable to purchase tickets at the appointed time -- despite selecting seats, entering their credit card information and clicking “purchase.” They either encountered a JavaScript error or were kicked back into a virtual waiting room behind a fluctuating queue of potential buyers that was sometimes over 1,500 people long. Some gave up after 30 minutes; some spent hours pursuing.

“I’m so mad right now,” says Landsdowne resident Kim Austin, who took off work in order to buy tickets online for her two daughters and daughter-in-law. “Now I have to explain to my 8-year-old, ‘No, I’m sorry, I couldn’t get us tickets because of their Web site performance.’”

“Historic demand” was to blame for the site’s bottleneck, according to Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow, who urges ticket seekers to endure the swift-moving online queue and call 202-467-4600 if they encounter additional difficulty. About 16,000 tickets had been sold as of 5:45 p.m. Monday, which has broken the Center’s online single-day sales record, though no specific performance was sold out at that time.

“Wicked” -- a jouncy, pyrotechnical “Wizard of Oz” prequel that has been running on Broadway since 2003 -- is wildly beloved and continually shatters box office records both in New York and on tour. At the beginning of January, it made $5.6 million in the span of one week between its Broadway, Chicago and Indianapolis shows, according to Playbill.com. The Kennedy Center’s summer run (June 15 to August 21) goes on sale to the general public Sunday.

Alexandria resident Melissa Wilson bought a $60 year-long membership just to get an early crack at “Wicked” tickets for her daughters, but she was booted from the portal despite several tries. She then held for 30 minutes on the ticketing phone line and says the ticketing representative hung up on her when she asked for redress.

“I have done what their marketing wanted me to do,” Wilson says. “I bought my membership, I got there at 10 o’clock, and I’m just asking for it to be made right.”

Unable to penetrate phone lines, some patrons took to the Kennedy Center’s Facebook page like a flock of flying monkeys. The ticket situation was a “debacle,” they said. A “mess.” There was hysterical punctuation and AGGRIEVED CAPITALIZATION. One woman typed that her credit card had been charged $1,000 without confirmation that she’d secured tickets. Others whined about tickets being available on StubHub, an online ticket marketplace, even though they’d paid for the privilege of pre-sale access. In actuality, “Wicked” tickets have been available on StubHub since September -- likely snatched up by individual scalpers and ticket brokerage businesses when seats became available for Kennedy Center subscribers months ago, according to Glenn Lehrman, head of communications for StubHub.

Regardless, will this snafu prompt the Kennedy Center to beef up or alter its ticketing portal in the future?

“I can’t speak to that,” Dow says. “But we do learn our lessons.”

By  |  04:47 PM ET, 03/07/2011

Categories:  Kennedy Center

 
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