When I purchased tickets to see Hamilton: An American Musical featuring the original New York cast, the show had not yet become the phenomenon it is today. I paid less than $150 for my third-row, mezzanine ticket. Eighteen months later, tickets on Broadway are going for five times that price. In Chicago, and in San Francisco where I live, I have friends who spent a full day waiting in the online queue. When they finally got the chance to buy tickets to see Hamilton, they had to make the tough decision to purchase them at astronomical prices or give up their chance to see the show everyone’s talking about. I’m not sure what my threshold would have been if the only way to experience Hamilton was to pay more than $500 per ticket.
I see a lot of live theater, attending plays and musicals on Broadway, at regional and community theaters in my area and also at local colleges and high schools. In 2016, I went to almost 100 shows and spent more than fifteen percent of my income going to performances and donating to theaters. The most I ever spent on a single ticket was $250. This was in 2011 for a fourth-row, center seat when How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying was re-released with Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette. Given that I was able to get “bargain” pricing for tickets to see Hamilton, it’s made me think about how much I would pay had I not been in the early-wave of ticket buyers. There are many, many articles out there asking, “Are tickets to see Hamilton worth the cost?” and for the most part, the summary of those articles is “Yes.” But, it’s made me wonder, “What would I pay for tickets to see Hamilton again?”
The Value of Experiences
Like many, I have my reasons to splurge. I have a passion for the entire theatrical experience. The sets, the acting, the music, the story and the social experiment of witnessing all of these things with family, friends and strangers has always appealed to me. I prefer to spend money on experiences rather than on material goods (except shoes). When considering if buying tickets to see Hamilton was (and is) worth the money, all of these factors hold up. I also like being an early-adopter and I love that I saw Hamilton before everyone was talking about it. Today, Hamilton is familiar to almost everyone; it’s known to those who have never heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda and who claim they don’t like musicals.
For those of us who freely admit to loving musicals, watching the development of this show, and the rise to fame of its creator, has been inspirational. The desire to talk about Hamilton is contagious. When I am with a group of musical-theater nerds, we live and breathe show data the way others track sports stats. We want to be in on the action so we can talk to our friends about every minute detail of the show. Twenty years from now we also want to be able to say we saw seasoned actors in their breakout roles in Hamilton. As an Oakland native, I was particularly thrilled to see Daveed Diggs, also from Oakland, in the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus/Broadway.com
Theater Lovers vs. Casual Fans
Along with all the blogs and articles sharing stories about audience members who paid a ton to purchase Hamilton tickets and didn’t regret it, there are also a handful of people who would never spend the same amount of money seeing a musical as they would on, say, a family vacation. There are stories of families who had certain members who were dying to see the show and others who could take it or leave it. The message to me when I read about those who would never pay crazy amounts for tickets to see Hamilton is that they were self-aware people who thought consciously about their budgets and their spending. This group didn’t want to put themselves in a place of being let down if the show wasn’t everything they hoped for. They also didn’t want to resent the expense a year later when they were still driving around in an old car in need of repairs they couldn’t afford.
Would I See Hamilton Again?
The short answer is yes—I loved the production and I look forward to seeing it again (and maybe again after that; as I said…theater nerd). With a new cast and different voices and interpretations, I am confident the music and lyrics will hold up. The life story of Alexander Hamilton is fascinating, but I found myself just as fascinated by the secondary and tertiary characters. I understand “Alexander Hamilton,” the book by Ron Chernow, is wonderful, but also a challenge to get through. The odds of it making it to my short list of things to read is low. Instead, I’d rather learn more about the people, events and times via the musical version.
How Much Is It Worth Paying to See Hamilton Twice?
To me, the cost of a single ticket is almost irrelevant compared to the richness of the experience. The first time I saw the show I was with my husband, daughter and sister-in-law. The four of us enjoyed the anticipation together, we glanced at each other during the show, we went to the stage door together at the end and we talked about the show during the rest of our visit to New York. That kind of joy is hard to put a price on.
That said, I’d probably top out at $500 per ticket if I was purchasing my first ticket to Hamilton. But since I’ve seen it, my honest answer is that I would only go if I had good seats (no nose-bleed section for me). Under those circumstances, the top amount I’d be willing to pay for tickets to see Hamilton (including fees) would be $200. And yes, I know that I may have to wait until 2019 when Hamilton comes to Tulsa, OK to get tickets at that price. But, no matter what, “I am not throwing away my shot!” to experience every part of the show again.