Are Broadway student rush tickets worth the wait?

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Lylia Li, Staff Writer

If you’ve ever wanted to see The Book of Mormon, you probably checked out the tickets on Telecharge, nearly had a heart attack when you saw the prices (or the dates) and gave up.  After a 40-minute train ride to Penn Station, an uncanny obsession with Andrew Rannells, and a burning passion to do whatever it took to see that Broadway musical, I was ready to try the standing room line.

February 25, 2012, 10:00 a.m.—Are we really doing this? Yes.  Of course we are doing this.  There is absolutely no way we are not doing this.  Today is the day.  Today is the day my life will change forever.

10:40 a.m.—I arrive at Penn Station with $60, a round trip ticket, and a dream.  I spot the two companions who will accompany me on this mission and we join each other in the first car.  Becca, Harry, and I all have an uneasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs, while a literal and figurative gray cloud looms over us.  “You might not get tickets,” it says.  “Shut up,” we say.  The gray cloud, terrified, retreats to the back of our brains, universally felt but not acknowledged.  We ride the rest of the way to the city in an uneasy peace.

12:00 p.m.—The shadow of uncertainty dissipates as soon as we make the long trek from 34th street and arrive at the Eugene O’Neill Theater.  We did it! As the second group on line, our status as future ticketholders is assured.  Of course, that would be seven long hours from now, but for the moment, we allow ourselves to celebrate.

12:03 p.m.—Although the metaphorical weather has cleared up, it begins to drizzle, cutting our celebration short.  We stand there for a good minute with no idea what to do.  We don’t have blankets or anything to sit on and decide against sitting on the New York City pavement bare bottomed, for obvious reasons.  Fortunately, the couple in front of us offers us garbage bags to sit on.  Since none of us are willing to spend $100 on I heart NYC towels, we gratefully accept and thus begin our long wait.

2:17 p.m.—The initial tide of euphoria we felt at our arrival has long since vanished and left behind a bitter aftertaste.  Broadway for poor people indeed! Is this some kind of capitalist scheme? Oh yes, says some mysterious Broadway ticketing entity, yes, we will provide tickets at an affordable price, but first you must feel like you are actually living below the poverty line by sitting on a cold, hard, wet pavement for seven hours straight.  It hasn’t stopped raining since we arrived.  I cannot cry, but only because my tears have frozen before they can leave my eyes.

2:58 p.m.—With all the Starbucks coffee we have been drinking to keep ourselves warm, it’s time for a bathroom break.  Becca and I leave Harry to man the fort as we search for a respite, some place with heating and indoor plumbing.  We settle for the bathrooms at M&M World.  They are disgusting.

4:20 p.m.—I have contracted frostbite.  I can’t move my toes and I am beginning to think I may have to get some of my minor limbs amputated by the time this is over.  I contemplate running into traffic just to feel something again.

6:31 p.m.—It is now lottery time two hours and thirty minutes before the show, one hour before we can buy standing room tickets, a limited number of seats in the front row are sold to a couple of lucky winners.  Becca, Harry, and I, being very altruistic people, decide not to enter, seeing as each person who wins the lottery can buy a maximum of only two tickets.  For us, though, it’s a comforting reminder that we’re in the home stretch.  A mere half-hour remains before we can get our tickets, taste delicious freedom, and return in time for the 8:00 show.

7:14 p.m.—To our relief, the thirty minutes feels more like ten and the ticket window opens promptly after the winners for the lottery have been drawn.  Upon receiving my ticket, I get a little starry eyed and breathless.  It’s like a ticket into Charlie’s Chocolate Factory.  Our precious prizes in hand, we head down to Sbarro’s for a quick dinner before returning to the sidewalk that has been our home for the past day.

8:00 p.m.—We are inside the theatre, our adventure near completion.  The hard past, the torturous seven hours spent waiting out in the rain with nothing to do to pass the time but blast Kanye West’s “Stronger” hoping we would get through this, is behind us.  Right now, all we can think about is the anticipation of the show starting (for me, seeing Andrew Rannells in the flesh).  As we lean on the banister behind the last row of seats in the orchestra, as the lights dim down and the pre-show announcement booms over the loudspeaker, there is nothing but joy and triumph in our hearts.

The next six times my friends and I returned to the Eugene O’Neill, we were wiser.  We brought our own towels, and learned that the hotel next to Serafina’s would always graciously let us use their (clean) bathrooms.

Standing room tickets are available for many Broadway productions and are sold a couple hours before show time at the theater for a much cheaper price.  Standing-room tickets generally cost around $30 and the waiting time required varies depending on the popularity of the show.  Theaters have a designated area, usually behind the orchestra seats, for the standers.  Many shows also give out lottery tickets for front row and box tickets, allowing people to win a raffle prior to showtime. For more information, visit the individual  show websites.

Indeed, although it was hard that February, it would only get better.  Each time we went, we met new people and made new friends, all with the same enthusiasm for theatre as we had.  And that pavement out under the rain, or sun, or snow, did in fact become something of a second home.  To anyone considering attempting standing room: Don’t worry! It’s not that bad, and for The Book of Mormon, it’s worth it.