Letter to the Editor: The Price of Success on Broadway

letter to the editor footlightsI’ve been enjoying all the great things in the media about the show “Hamilton” on Broadway (and love the soundtrack). It seems to be a pretty special show. But I’d also like to tell you why “Hamilton” is special in a bad way.

It is such a phenomenon that ticket sales went through the roof. That’s a great thing. I’ve got no problem with that. Now I work with an amazing bunch of fine arts students and arts lovers at Illinois State University and the surrounding area. As part of my job, I host student and community New York Theatre trips. These are trips that have been going on for over 30 years. I bring large groups of people (the upcoming June trip will be 98 people) from Illinois to New York every year to see shows – we spend a lot of money and see some great theatre. For my June group, I usually order tickets 4 months ahead. But with “Hamilton,” I went ahead and ordered tickets 9 months in advance (well before they released tickets for that time period). I was told there would be no group discount, and the tickets would be $178 each, but I understood and was ready to bite the bullet. But then, “Hamilton” decided to release tickets first to AmEx customers only… all the way through August of 2016!

They apparently filled no group orders at all. All the tickets were bought up by brokers, so while there are now, as I understand it, 200-300 tickets available for many performances, they’re all controlled by brokers who are selling them for $1,000 a pop in many cases. Groups like mine can’t buy from brokers. Plus, the markup money doesn’t even go to the show.

So I urge my former theatre management students, and anyone else out there in the field… if you ever have the opportunity to be involved with an honest-to-goodness phenomenon, enjoy it, but also think through those ticket alliances, and consider the audiences you wish to serve when you have that kind of opportunity.

Pete Guither
Normal, Illinois

About Peter Finlayson

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Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and footlight.click. While working on a prelaw program at the University of Michigan, he happily got involved with the theatre program. Much to his mother’s chagrin, law school never happened, but in a career spanning more than 4 decades, Peter has performed, directed or designed more than 150 productions. In his spare time, he is working on a new play. You can follow him on Twitter @Thtrdog .

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One comment

  1. Hi Peter. This is quite discouraging.

    I urge you to try to contact someone involved in the Production, or in the sales office at the very least. They have recently announced a program that will be funded by the Rockefeller organization to purchase tickets to the show for school kids. Lin, the author, is very focused on supporting students and young theatre-goers. I’m sure if he knew of your massive student trip, he’d try to help out.

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