Although my three-day vacation in New York was initially decided on so I could spare myself three of the 9 work days during which part of the metro route I take to work was shut down due to track work, I then decided my full day in New York would be Wednesday, so I could see a #Ham4Ham show, especially after I realized I’d be there for the final week before Lin-Manuel Miranda would leave the show. By the time I was there, Leslie Odom, Jr and Phillipa Soo were also confirmed as off to hopefully reap some benefits from their newfound fame, although I also became aware of how early I’d need to get there, and started to wonder if it was worth it to stand in the heat for hours for a five-minute show. But it was what I came to the city for, so Wednesday morning after breakfast off I went to the Richard Rogers.
I got there around 9:30 and initially sat down in a shaded area which I then learned was the camping spot for people trying to nab seats from cancellations, and I was directed to the railing by the theater, and told I needed to start holding a position if I wanted to hope for a good view. I ended up spending an hour by that railing, getting sunburnt, listening to fans conducting a singalong of the entire soundtrack in another section, and buying ice cold water by a guy who showed up with a cooler and an offer to sell at a dollar a bottle(practically a steal in NYC!), and had his wares sold out pretty quickly. While standing there I was told by someone, who I now think was misleading us out of anger for tourists who hadn’t stood in a thousand lottery lines like she had, that the police were probably going to show up and direct us across the street, but we should still stay where we were instead of getting in the actual lottery line, just in case they didn’t.
She mysteriously vanished when the police did indeed show up and did as she had said, except it was then that those of us by the railing learned that to enter the lottery, we had to get in the line that had been on the other side of the railing and wound its way around the block, and it looked like if we did that, we wouldn’t get to the front in time to see the #Ham4Ham show. A number of the people with me who had thought they were in position to enter the lottery were pretty pissed, especially since some of them had been there since much earlier in the morning, but there wasn’t anything to do; forced to choose between a minuscule chance to see a proper two-hour show and a certainty of seeing a five-minute one, most of us stayed where we were. Meanwhile the police had set up barriers so there was now a closed-off section by the original railing obviously meant for those in the lottery line that would get through it in time, and a section of the road vehicles were driving through, and the positions were such that we’d actually have a decent view of the performers, if only from the waist up, except when larger cars and buses drove past.
By the time this had been established, and I had already entered the online lottery for the evening show via my phone, it was 10:30 and we had two more hours to wait in the heat. Someone had an umbrella, and a tall guy took hold of it and held it high to give as many people as possible sheltered from the sun. I ended up turning and tilting to get the umbrella between myself and the sunlight, and chatting with some of the people next to me, and we were quite friendly with each other, especially out of solidarity for our current situation. One girl from LA spoke about the city’s heat and lack of public transportation; I told them about being in New York to flee the DC metro repairs. Another person advised us to flex our knees on occasion to better deal with standing around for hours. Elsewhere in our crowd, another singalong started up. Eventually the sun went behind the large Marriott next to the theater, much to everyone’s relief.
The lottery started around 12. We all got excited when people came out and started testing the sound equipment, and then a woman came to direct the flow of the line. With thousands of people present, I’m actually quite impressed they got everyone’s names into the box after about half an hour. “Don’t write on the building, don’t keep moving,” the woman told people, confusing those of us on the other side of the street, until it became clear the slips were being handed down the line, and she wanted people to come to the front and to the table and fill them out there, instead of stopping to do so and holding up the line. “If you have a slip and you’re not moving, you’re doing it wrong,” she informed everyone. I was amused enough I made my only attempt that morning to take a picture, although it didn’t come out too well:
We had another thing to watch that last half hour; Javier Munoz, who has now taken over the lead, came out onto the balcony above the entrance, got lots of cheers, and posed in front of a photographer. We watched him until finally the doors opened, and Lin-Manuel Miranda walked out and all our hearts went boom just from his One Last Time shirt.
He didn’t do a musical number. Instead he had a different treat for us: the reading of letter written by Hamilton to Eliza Schuyler before their marriage. He talked about what it said about Hamilton; he was an ambitious and arrogant charmer, but also a man who wanted to make sure the woman he cared about wouldn’t come to regret marrying him. It was a letter that was very sweet in its way. Unfortunately, traffic had no stopped, but when a bus came through he paused with a, “Hi, bus,” and waited until those of us on the other side of the street could see him again; we cheered our appreciation for that.
Then he brought Leslie and Phillipa out, but they were not to sing. Instead he held up on cardboard the lyrics to “Happy Trails,” and for this #Ham4Ham show, the singing was instead done by the audience, to them. We sang the trio their sendoff, it felt very communal and warmed the heart, and then the show was over and it was time to draw the lottery winners. Since most of those of us on the far side of the street hadn’t been able to enter it, we began the process of making our way away, but we were packed in so thick it took a good deal of time to get out of the crowd, and we were mostly still around to be amused when it turned out the line had included two people with the same name, and one of them won(didn’t quite catch how they sorted that one out, unfortunately).
By the time I got free, my legs felt like rubber, and I was hungry and tired and headachey, and I think it took me a good hour and a half to recover enough to resume my day. I think the aftereffects lingered even after that; when at 4:30 I read the email regretfully telling me I hadn’t won tickets to the evening show either, I was thinking that was just as well, and while I’d originally thought of buying tickets for something else, I simply wasn’t up to it.
Nonetheless, I do think it was worth it, for those few minutes. Although I don’t think I’ll ever so such a thing again.