Producers of the smash hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” soon to sweep the Tonys in historic fashion, have raised the top premium seat price to a record-obliterating $849.
The previous high for Broadway show’s ticket prices was $477 for the best seats to “The Book of Mormon.” The producers are taking advantage of the fact that the show has reached mania status, something like the Dutch tulip craze. Waiting lists for tickets are months long. The show is a cultural phenomenon, but it is still a show.
This musical, reinventing the genre with a hip-hop score and an intelligent, challenging book, could be that rarity, a popular musical that matters, and one that draw young…even straight!…young people back to a genre that has been rapidly declining and increasingly irrelevant to modern popular culture. So given that opportunity,and already making money hand over fist, what does the production do?
Raise tickets to an obscene level. Ensure that the tickets to other shows will rise too. Make live theater, which is already too expensive for any family to attend not named Pritzger or the equivalent, even more elite and even more inaccessible to normal, working Americans.
A base canard, says the Hamilton Corp! Producer Jeffrey Seller protests that he has opened access for people unable to spend hundreds by increasing the number of last-minute digital lottery seats for ten dollars from 21 to 46 people. “It’s not a token amount. Forty-six tickets a night is a lot of tickets,” said Seller , the same day he announced that a single ticket in a prime location could cost more than a flight from Philly to Miami. “On an annual basis, 19,000 people will receive an opportunity to see ‘Hamilton’ in the first two rows for $10.”
What generosity! What compassion!
What deceit. This is a public relations move to distract from the naked greed of a show that makes over two million dollars a week trying to squeeze out even more, at the cost of making live theater seem even more like an elite amusement for the rich than it already is.
Here’s the real spin job, though: we are supposed to believe that “Hamilton” just raised theater tickets to unprecedented levels to foil scalpers. Listen:
“We know that scalpers have been buying our tickets — often in illegal ways — and reselling them for four or five or six times their face value. And we know that all of those dollars are going to those usurious brokers and they’re not going to the very people that create the play, perform the play or work on the play every single day,” said Seller.
So “Hamilton” is raising prices to $849 to “take the air out of those very brokers who are using our tickets to make a killing” and put that money back in the show, “which is where it belongs and which is where it is deserved.”
Seller’s next musical should be “Brooklyn Bridge.”
Amusingly, New York Times critics Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood wrote a column he titled, “Hamilton’ Costs Too Much? Here Are Some (Cheaper) Alternatives.” Some of their suggestions:
- $16.99 for the MP3 cast recording.
- $12.37 for paperback of the Ron Chernow biography.
- “The Color Purple,” $145 (full-price orchestra, totally worth it)
- Ivo van Hove’s “genuinely scary, genuinely brilliant” reinvention of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” for which an orchestra seat costs $150 or less.
Not that those ticket prices aren’t too expensive for most people too.
Theater artists bemoan the fact that attending live theater has become a forgotten cultural activity, but this betrayal by the “Hamilton” crew–it’s a musical about poor people succeeding in a democracy, remember, shows that as long as they keep making money, these artists who espouse contempt for the nation’s “income inequality” don’t care where their own lucre comes from , who is buying the tickets, or the fate of theater in America.