UPDATE: This story has been updated with changes to the online lottery made in early June.
Like the Founding Father whose life inspired it, “Hamilton” wasn’t about to give up on a good idea no matter how rocky the initial start. Hey, the United States wasn’t built in a day, either.
The perpetually sold-out Broadway musical tried to take its pre-show lottery for $10 front-row tickets online back when the cold weather really started biting on Jan. 5. That experiment lasted less than 24 hours as demand overwhelmed the system for most of the day, then more people got confirmation emails than there were seats available.
It took almost a month, but the digital lottery has resumed as of Feb. 2, now working as intended. This is both good and bad news — here’s why.
The barrier to entering the lottery in person was fairly steep: Get to the Richard Rodgers Theatre two-and-a-half hours before showtime to fill out an entry form, toss it in a bucket and hope. That’s a lot of increasingly suspicious-sounding excuses to duck out of work early.
Sign-ups for the digital lottery, meanwhile, open at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. on evening-only show days. For two-show days (Wednesday and Saturday), the matinee lottery runs from 9-11 a.m., then switches to the evening show from noon-4 p.m.So if getting to the theater in person wasn’t an option for you before, then congratulations, your chances have actually gone from zero to mayyyyybe.
When lottery entries were counted at “Hamilton” back in October 2015, over 900 people came to try their luck on a Wednesday drawing. The show has only gotten more popular since then. On Saturday evenings, barely a single lane of 46th Street remained open behind all of the hopefuls spilling onto the road.
But even the busiest night is nothing compared to the over 50,000 entries that crashed the first online lottery, though a June 2016 story in the New York Times puts average daily entries at 10,000. The lottery has also expanded from 21 front-row seats being offered through the lottery to 46 seats in the first two rows.
So your chances of winning, assuming a +1 who also enters the online drawing, are about 0.0092%. In other words, don’t cancel your dinner reservation.
In addition to the seats sold through the lottery, there are up to 10 standing room-only tickets ($40) available for each performance (though they’re often reserved for friends and family of the production). At the in-person drawings, any leftover standing room tickets would also be sold to lottery winners. While the lottery is online, however, they will be sold to the stalwart crew in the cancellation line.
• Winners of the online lottery are notified by email just after the close of the drawing, instead of trying to hear their names called out with a bullhorn in a noisy, crowded street. No more confusion when a common name is called, either. (That kind of disappointment can’t be unseen, believe me.)
• Winners have an hour after the notification email goes out to claim their tickets by paying for them either online or in person.
• The lottery will remain online indefinitely.
Good luck, “Hamilton” fans. And remember that even if you can’t be in the room where it happens, there’s always the free (and constantly growing) archive of #Ham4Ham performances to give you a taste of it: