The “what” is pretty straightforward, and it’s huge news: More than two years after Charlotte got official word that “Hamilton” was coming to town, Blumenthal Performing Arts has announced that tickets for the mega-hit Broadway musical will finally go on sale next Wednesday.
But exactly “when,” “where” and “how” to get those tickets (most of which will cost $74.50 or $174.50, but some of which will cost as much as $434.50 or as little as $10)? That’s where things start to get complicated.
Remember, it was bound to be complicated. After all, this is “Hamilton” we’re talking about. With 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize tucked into its cap, the hip-hop musical about the life and death of U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton continues to be a juggernaut on Broadway (where it premiered in 2015), having topped the box office there this past season with $161 million in gross receipts.
It’s been touring the country now for 16 months, and everywhere it goes, it’s preceded by a meticulously detailed plan for selling tickets — and a very quick sell-out. Charlotte, which will host 32 performances at uptown’s Belk Theater between Wednesday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Nov. 4, is naturally following the former trend, and almost certainly will continue the latter as well.
“Nothing compares to it,” said Blumenthal President and CEO Tom Gabbard.
“We have had other blockbuster shows in the past that we’ve been blessed to have. Probably ‘Lion King’ would be at the top of that list. And in its heyday, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ was a big deal. ... But there’s no question that ‘Hamilton’ ranks as something really exceptional.”
Here are the key things you need to know about what’s expected to be a very, very mad dash for “Hamilton” tickets next Wednesday morning.
1. There are two places to get in line to purchase tickets (though the lines will be drawn in ways you might not expect).
Method 1: You can stay in your pajamas and simply log on to tix.carolinatix.org/hamilton to enter the “virtual waiting room” beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday. But it is not first-come, first-served. Whether you log on at 5 a.m. or 7:55 a.m. makes no difference — everyone in the virtual waiting room will be placed in a line in a random order when tickets officially go on sale at 8. Those signing on after 8 will be served after everyone who queued up between 5 and 8 is taken care of.
Method 2: You can show up at Belk Theater (130 N. Tryon St.) beginning at 5:30 a.m. to wait for the box office to open. Camping out overnight is prohibited, but it would be silly to do that anyway because — similar to the way the online “line” is being handled — it actually doesn’t matter whether you arrive at 5:30 a.m. or at 6:59 a.m.: As long as you arrive by 7, you’ll receive a numbered wristband that will enter you into a random drawing to determine placement in the actual ticket-buying line. (Though sales start at 8, no more wristbands will be handed out after 7.) Since there’s no guarantee that receiving a wristband will get you to the front of the line before tickets sell out, it is theoretically possible that you could show up at 5:30 a.m. and still walk away empty-handed.
(FYI, Gabbard said a block of tickets have been earmarked specifically for in-person box-office sales on Wednesday, so don’t worry — people buying online won’t be dipping into that pot. As for phone orders, sorry, they’re not happening, because other cities reportedly experienced problems with a high volume of calls crashing the phone system. Gabbard does not anticipate website glitches; he indicated there are fail-safe measures that should prevent the system from getting overloaded.)
Again, once you’ve got your place in one of these lines, it then is first-come, first-served — so be flexible with your dates, because when your number comes up, the performance you want may be sold out.
Finally (though you can probably figure this out on your own), here’s a tip: If you can swing it, your best bet is to head uptown early Wednesday morning, snag a wristband, then log on with your phone to get in the virtual waiting room while you’re waiting for the box office to open. However — and this is important to note — if you are lucky enough to score tickets on both the website and at the box office, and you’ve used the same CarolinaTix.org account and/or the same credit card for both orders, one of them will be canceled.
2. Both “Hamilton” and the Blumenthal are serious about getting tickets into the hands of as many fans as possible while discouraging inflated ticket prices on the second-hand market.
Though the Blumenthal wouldn’t say how many total single tickets will be available, our best guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000. (That’s based on 32 shows times 1,800 seats at Belk, minus Broadway Lights subscribers who got IOUs for “Hamilton” tickets as part of their package deal.)
Anyone who is lucky enough to buy on Wednesday will be limited to four tickets. However, no one will actually have physical tickets in their hands on Wednesday; the Blumenthal won’t distribute them for “a couple of weeks,” Gabbard said, until they’ve combed through the list of buyers to cancel purchases made by people who may have circumvented the four-ticket-per-person limit or — more importantly, he said — by scalpers or brokers.
So here’s a good tip: If you miss out on the official sale and see someone on eBay or Craigslist selling “Hamilton” tickets, say on Thursday, with a promise to put them in your hands as fast as you can pay, don’t fall for it. They’re fake.
Here’s another tip: If you score tickets and are hoping to make a quick buck off of them, by all means, feel free to make one. Or even 10. But don’t try to sell them for more than $10 over face value. That would violate Blumenthal’s resale policy, which has been in place for more than half a dozen years. It’s pretty simple: By buying tickets, purchasers enter into an agreement that they cannot resell a seat for more than $10 above the face value, plus the taxes and fees.
(The absolute most you should pay, then, is $444.50 plus whatever the taxes and fees are, since a select number of “premium” seats — located in the prime orchestra section — will be sold for each performance at a face value of $434.50 each. That’s still a relative bargain: In New York, for context, the top price for a “premium” ticket to “Hamilton” can be upwards of $1,000.)
Blumenthal reserves the right to void tickets that violate its resale policy, and routinely has exercised that right. Since you won’t find out the tickets have been voided until you show up for the performance and have them scanned, this makes paying for marked-up tickets — whether through private individuals or online brokers — an awfully big risk.
But there’s another reason why you should hesitate to fork over gobs of money for tickets:
3. A sellout Wednesday doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to miss out. You’ll just have to be persistent. And/or lucky.
First: It’s not a particularly elegant strategy, but seriously, just bookmark blumenthalarts.org/hamilton and monitor it periodically through August and September. As the show cancels purchases made by suspicious buyers, those tickets will be released back into the fold.
On top of that, as has happened in every city on the tour, there will be a free lottery held before each performance, putting 40 $10 tickets up for grabs. Though specific details weren’t available at press time, Gabbard said the Blumenthal plans to follow the model used by other cities: Enter two days before the show date, via a special app, one entry per person, and if your name is drawn, you can buy as many as two tickets for $10 each.
“So at the very least, there are the 40 seats at every performance that are on the lottery — that’s a significant number of seats,” Gabbard said. “And keep checking (the website). Really, up until the last couple of hours, there will be some seats that become available. ... I just want to encourage people to not give up hope.”
If you still have questions: The Blumenthal has posted an incredibly detailed FAQ at www.blumenthalarts.org/hamonsale.
Other than that? Best of luck.