The Hamilton Mystique

With its conquest of the Tony Awards last week and Chicago tickets hitting the market today, Hamilton fever is in overdrive. Tickets are more precious than gold, reportedly going for upwards of $8,000 on sites like StubHub, according to the latest reports. People are camping on the sidewalk like it was 1985 at the height of the Born in the USA tour.

Lin Manuel-Miranda’s universally acclaimed American history lesson as told through hip-hop, jazz, and pop by a multicultural cast is by all accounts a masterpiece and probably well deserving of the intense demand. But consider me an amused, detached observer. I just don’t get Broadway show hysteria. It’s not that I don’t enjoy theatrical entertainment. It’s not even that I’m cheap (which I pretty much am).

It’s because I’ve seen all this hype before. If I miss it this go-round, I know I will see Hamilton, if I see it in two years, five years, or ten years. And you will too. It will still be there. And it will still be every bit as magical. So relax. That’s the beauty of stage productions as opposed to, say, seeing the Beatles live—it’s not a once in a lifetime shot. They live forever.

Before Hamilton there was The Producers, the huge 2001 stage hit starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. I saw The Producers for the first time last year at the Porchlight Theater (sans Lane and Broderick of course, but I still laughed my butt off). I paid around thirty bucks and sat fifteen feet from the stage.

Before The Producers there was Rent, the hip 1995 AIDS-era updating of La Boheme, which was the Hamilton of its day. (“You’re going to New York? Are you going to see Rent?!”) I saw it in 1999 and didn’t like it. Going back even more, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera was the must-see of the late 1980s. I caught it at the Cadillac Palace in 2004. I saw Book of Mormon and other hot-ticket shows years after they had become yesterday’s news.

Okay, maybe the frenzy surrounding those shows wasn’t quite as over the top as this. I suspect a lot of the people promising their first-born for tickets to Hamilton also know they will have many more chances to see it. It’s not so much that they want to see Hamilton, it’s that they want to be able to tell other people they’ve seen it. There’s an obsession with being one of the first to ride the wave of a cultural phenomenon, it’s why people camp out overnight for the newest iPhone. It’s why people are preparing to part with staggering sums of money to see Hamilton because, well, because other people are too.

Me? I have yet to catch The Lion King. Like all good things, Hamilton can wait. But on the other hand, if I could somehow come by one of those $10 tickets they’re giving out…

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