In the Arts and Culture section of any newspaper or magazine, one can find an article about Hamilton, Broadway’s hottest ticket. Along with being a top Broadway show, Hamilton brings another element to the Great White Way every Wednesday and Saturday evening; the phenomenon known as #Ham4Ham.
When Hamilton had its initial run off-Broadway at The Public Theater in early 2015, many people tried and failed to win the online lottery conducted every day. While lotteries for other Broadway/Off-Broadway shows cost a minimum of $30 a ticket, this lottery ran with the concept of #Ham4Ham in mind — see the show Hamilton for only a Hamilton ($10). The best part about this lottery? All the seats on offer are front row orchestra seats, something that would normally go for an insane price.
The concept was brilliant. Fans flocked to the theater in an attempt to win the tickets. When the show transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre, just in time for the summer rush, writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda continued the #Ham4Ham tradition. This time though, he decided to add a new element: live shows to accompany the lottery.
During the #Ham4Ham show, Miranda comes out and addresses the immensely large crowd in front of the theater. He either performs a song or has guests assist him in the singing. These people can be members of the cast of Hamilton or famed singers recognized for their work in the Broadway industry. The songs performed at the shows are sometimes songs from the show itself, or songs that the guest singers request, like Le Misérables. No matter the song, the audience goes insane and leaves satisfied, regardless of a ticket victory. By the end of the night, you can usually find a video of that night’s #Ham4Ham show on YouTube, continuing and growing the cult following
The most insane part of going to the #Ham4Ham show is seeing how many people come out to see the spectacle. Starting three hours before the drawing, kids, teenagers and adults start to line up in front of the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 46th Street for the slim chance that they might win a coveted seat and see the show. By the time the lottery starts, the line has probably wrapped around the Marriott Marquis (the hotel right next to the theater) and gone around 45th Street.
Everywhere, there are members of the NYPD around, making sure that everyone is safe, and there are employees running between the theater and the people lined up to make sure that each person fills out the individual slips of paper for the drawing.
Half an hour before the show, the line starts to move and there is a basket where you drop the slip of paper. From there, you make your way into the crowd that takes up THE ENTIRE WIDTH OF THE STREET. In the middle of the crowd, there is a sea of people flowing through the street. Time Square, at the end of the block, is practically impossible to see. There is a feeling in the air of excitement and anxiety.
Then, the show starts. Lin-Manuel Miranda comes out with his guest, and the noise is deafening. The minute Miranda starts to talk, the audience goes silent. He describes what song he and his guest are going to sing, and the audience gets pumped up. Once it starts, the audience gets into it, singing along with Miranda. When the performance is over, there is more deafening applause, and Miranda goes back into the theater to prepare for the evening performance.
Then, the actual lottery. One of the employees from the production company comes out with a megaphone and for the next ten minutes, all you hear is screams of excitement from the winners. Some winners are crying, some jumping up and down; the winners know they are lucky that they won tickets to the hottest show on Broadway.
In January 2016, the show attempted to go digital with the lottery. Starting in the morning, people would have the chance to enter the lottery for the performance that night, with winners being notified three hours before the show began. The result? So many people entered the lottery on the first day that the website crashed! (According to the New York Times, fifty thousand people entered the online lottery.) Due to the incident, Lin-Manuel Miranda decided that he would do the #Ham4Ham show for the rest of the week, but until the beginning of March, he would conduct the shows online.
As someone who experienced the #Ham4Ham show “live in living color,” I will tell you that when the shows come back, you should definitely check it out. And if you have the chance to see Hamilton, know that you are very lucky—and do not give away your shot.