What To See In New York (When You Can’t Get Tickets To ‘Hamilton’)
This month marks Hamilton’s fourth year on Broadway. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical about one of America’s founding fathers is starring its fourth Alexander Hamilton. None of the original soundtrack cast remain in the show, but the soundtrack remains stuck in your head. And tickets remain near-impossible to get.
But never fear: buzzy shows that teach a thing or two about US politics and history are plentiful on Broadway. In fact, when I asked Twitter for recommendations, a bunch of shows revolving around America’s past, present, and future came up again and again.
Before we get into the best I saw, as well as info on how to get tickets, a few words of advice: lottery wins are rare, stay away from dodgy resale, and early birds get the rush.
To Kill A Mockingbird
Where: Shubert Theatre, 225 W 44th Street, New York
When: Until November, 2019
How much: $89 for balcony to $199 for orchestra centre
Cheaper please: General rush is $29-$49, available when box office opens. Or, if you’re between 21 and 35, you can try for a $32 Linctix discount
“To Kill A Mockingbird isn’t a revival,” writes Aaron Sorkin. “It’s not an homage or an exercise in nostalgia.” It is as it’s billed: “A new play”. But, as Sorkin attests, it had to be.
Until November 3, The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels stars as as Atticus Finch: an unshakeable, noble giant of a lawyer and a father, committed to treating everyone with kindness. But, by 2019, we’re well aware that there aren’t always “very fine people on both sides” – and in Sorkin’s version, when Atticus tells his children to empathise with a racist, violent man, we see his well-intentioned but blinkered false equivalences for what they are: fatal.
This time, the story isn’t all told through Scout’s rose-tinted glasses. Played by LaTanya Richardson, Culpernia – the Finch family’s black maid – becomes a central character, a sister-type to the widower Atticus, who calls him on his crap.
The story will hit those who grew up loving the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and the 1962 film as it always has. Atticus is still Atticus. Scout – played by 41-year-old Celia Keenan-Bolger, a self-described “grown-ass lady in the overalls of an 8-year-old”– is very much the same Scout. And this story continues to teach us more about ourselves than a textbook ever could.
Where: Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W 48th Street, New York
When: Until February, 2020
How much: From $99 (mezzanine) to $349 (front and centre)
Cheaper please: The $42.50 digital lottery opens two days before a performance, or try for a $39 standing-room ticket, available when box office opens on the day of a sold-out show
I was stunned to learn that the closing number of Hadestown’s first act was written a decade before Trump entered that arena. “Why do we build the wall?” asks Hades, king of the underworld. “Because they want what we have got; the enemy is poverty; and the wall keeps out the enemy.” Sound familiar?
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world of sweltering summers and freezing winters. Hermes, our guide, introduces us to Orpheus: an earnest, hapless poet writing a song so beautiful it can ~allegedly~ bring back Spring. He falls in love with young runaway Eurydice and promises her food and shelter – until he gets so obsessed with his noodling that he basically leaves her for dead (never date a musician). Starving and freezing, she gives in to Hades, becoming his slave until Orpheus sets off to rescue her.
Based on the 2010 concept album by Anaïs Mitchell, which was based on ancient Greek mythology, Hadestown did a Hamilton and swept the Tonys shortly after opening this year. It’s the hottest ticket on Broadway right now and, with its Prohibition-era soundtrack, it has easily the best music, too.
Where: Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 West 50th Street, New York
When: Until January, 2020
How much: From USD$99.50 (right at the back, but it’s a small theatre) to $249.50 (literally on the stage)
Cheaper please: Enter the digital lottery on day of the performance (before 9am for matinees and 2pm for evenings) to try for a $40 ticket
Rogers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! has somehow retained its legacy as a sweet and harmless show – but if you go back and read it, it is and has always been BLEAK. Daniel Fish’s Tony-winning adaptation, which opened on Broadway in March, underlines that darkness.
The story is set on farmland in 1906 and springs from the excessively low-stakes dilemma of farmgirl Laurey Williams: should she go to the party with a nice handsome cowboy (Curly), or the creepy, terrifying farm-hand (Jud). Tough choice! In Fish’s version, though, Jud is less of a villain and more a victim of societal division and toxic masculinity, and the overall mood is as ominous as the guns that line the walls around us.
This production is performed in-the-round, with premium ticket holders seated at tables on the actual stage – with a little surprise for them at intermission.
Come From Away
Where: Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W 45th Street, New York
When: Until March, 2020
How much: From $49 (mezzanine) to $167 (orchestra)
Cheaper please: The $49 digital lottery opens on the day of the performance. You can also line up at box office early for $38 rush tickets or, if it’s sold-out, $32 standing-room ones
When New York was attacked on September 11, 2001, 38 planes – containing 6700 passengers – were diverted to the airport at Gander, Newfoundland: a small town on a Canadian island. What followed was an extraordinary show of solidarity, generosity and community spirit – the perfect fodder for a “feel-good 9/11 musical”.
Based on interviews with passengers, pilots, and Newfoundlanders, and featuring wonderful Irish-tinged songs that bring to life the province’s heritage, Come from Away pieces together what happened after the terrified “plane people” filed off their flights. Locals donated housing, clothes, medicine and toiletries; the local ice rink became an enormous refrigerator; and the townspeople cooked, for five days and nights, without asking for a cent.
Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s musical is, yes, relentlessly earnest – but it is also deliciously funny, wonderfully inventive, and utterly heart-warming. It focuses on real stories and characters, like pilot Beverley Bass, who was American Airline’s first female captain and whose gorgeous and devastating solo, ‘Me and the Sky’, is based almost verbatim on her account. The show has won over audiences on the West End and in Melbourne, but seeing it in New York packs an emotional heft. Even among those who didn’t live through 9/11, there wasn’t a dry eye.
(Lead image: Hadestown / Matthew Murphy)