Before February 2015, there were only a couple of things you knew about Alexander Hamilton. He was a Founding Father. His face is on the $10 bill.
Now you know that he was an immigrant. He raps. He’s that Founding Father who Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired by, wrote the musical about and stars as in “Hamilton” on Broadway. You know the correct order for Manuel and Miranda.
You know all this not because you suddenly remembered a way-back-when social studies class, but because your friend who grew up in New York saw the show in July and hasn’t stopped talking about that “Cabinet scene.” Because your co-worker splurged on a ticket for her birthday for a September Broadway performance before the show even opened there. Because you stood in line for (and lost) the daily “Hamilton” ticket lottery in October to feel like a real New Yorker. Because in November you listened to the soundtrack at the top of the charts on Spotify to see what all the hype was about. Because you went online in December just to see how much tickets cost and learned that the show is sold out until August.
And because not a single person you know who has seen it has said, “Eh, it was okay,” and you have finally broken down.
This is what led me to sit in front of my computer on the last Monday of 2015, toggling between Ticketmaster.com, StubHub.com and BroadwayTickets.org in search of resale tickets (once less delicately known as scalpers’ tickets). After comparing service fees while suffering flashbacks of my mom saying, “Don’t buy that ticket!” on my Christmas visit home to the Midwest, I finally held my breath and clicked “purchase.” As I obsessively checked my email for the confirmation code, I messaged friends that I had just bought a ticket to “Hamilton.” Please don’t suggest any happy-hour outings during January and February. I’ll be drinking wine strictly at home, thank you.
The ticket I bought isn’t for a great seat, or even a good one. It’s the best one I found for the ridiculously high price of $500, the most I would allow myself to spend. Yet as I looked at tickets in the orchestra at more than $600, $800 and $1,000, I found myself thinking, for a split second, “Should I spend another $100?”
Yes, I know it’s crazy, but I’m not the only one who has caught “Hamilton” fever.
“I still can’t justify it,” says Kody Keplinger, 24, author of the young-adult novel “The Duff,” of the thought of shelling out that much for a ticket. “You have to pay rent.”
Keplinger has seen “Hamilton.” She and her mom won the ticket lottery on a Sunday — “the day Lin-Manuel Miranda is off.” So now she’s trying to see the show again. Two days in a row, she tried to get cancellation tickets, which are made available for purchase a half-hour before the 7 or 8 p.m. curtain.
“My best friend and I showed up at 1 p.m.,” she remembers, but they ended up being “the next people in line when they ran out of tickets.” It was the same exact story for the next evening’s performances.
She still hopes she can score a $10 #Ham4Ham ticket in the daily lottery, just like the more than 50,000 people who entered the online lottery Jan. 5 — and who crashed the show’s website. That was the only day of the winter online lottery.
Sarah Gaines, a 25-year-old restaurant cashier who is pursuing a career in theater, has seen “Hamilton” twice, mainly because she’s “a huge fan” of actor Andrew Rannells (of “Girls” and “Book of Mormon” fame) who played King George in the show for one month.
Gaines paid $800 for her first ticket, in the front mezzanine, during the premiere week of what she dubbed “Rannellton.” The second cost her $400 for a seat in very last row of the Richard Rodgers Theatre for Rannells’s last performance.
“I basically didn’t spend money on anything else. That includes hiding downstairs during my breaks at work instead of going to get food,” Gaines says. “This is first time I’ve spent this much on anything.”
A flight to Europe. An Apple Watch. A dog. These are all things I could have purchased instead of a “Hamilton” ticket. I could eat dinners out instead of suggesting potluck dinners in. I could order the Starbucks Oprah Chai Latte ($3.75) instead of black tea ($2.25).
I could buy lunch instead of packing a random assortment of stale crackers and peanut butter, order that Uber instead of trekking to the bus stop in the cold, drink something other than water on a Saturday night, not second-guess that $5 cover charge for a ’90s dance party, or accept a last-minute invite to Sunday brunch.
I could have calmly rescheduled my trip to New York upon news of this weekend’s impending snowstorm instead of panicking and paying the $39 fee (yes, more money for “Hamilton”) to change the train ticket that I bought more than two weeks in advance to get a $137 round-trip deal.
But it’s okay. I know that these sacrifices will be worth it.
After all, I get to be part of the zeitgeist. I will get to see the man who created the musical perform it as he envisioned with the original cast. My photos will live as a Facebook brag in between everyone else’s wedding, baby and new-home photos. And I will tell the story of the time I saw “Hamilton” for years to come. Isn’t this a perk of living just a three-hour train ride from Broadway?
When “Hamilton” makes its first tour stop in Chicago this September, no one who bought tickets earlier this month knows whether Miranda will perform the role he wrote. But no one expects him to, either.
This is a moment. At a time when presidential hopefuls are talking immigration and everyone else is talking #OscarsSoWhite for a second year in a row, the hottest ticket in the country is a musical about an immigrant written by a minority artist in which people are break dancing onstage.
And I am not missing my one shot. Not after what I paid for that ticket.