Clarence Fanto: 'Hamilton' ticket costs, availability can leave you scratching your scalp

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LENOX — So, you want to score a ticket or two to see the hottest show in the nation, Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton," now that it's on tour while still playing forever on Broadway?

As a public service, I'm here to try to help.

You might assume that seeing this landmark musical is as impossible as seeing the Red Sox take on the Astros at Fenway Park. Not quite.

Tickets are on sale for "Hamilton" on Broadway through May 19 of next year, though that's far from the end of the run. On the official Richard Rodgers Theatre website at broadway.com, I found four pairs of tickets for that Sunday matinee at "only" $375 each. By the time you read this, they're most likely gone. There's no info yet on when the next block of tickets goes on sale — at least not that I can find.

Let's say you're the impatient type, like me. No sweat. Ticketmaster, which I've always considered a legitimate seller, has tickets for you whenever you want to go. I picked next Saturday (Oct. 20) at random, and found tickets available from $761 to $2,010 each. Ticketmaster labels these as "verified resale" tickets.

Forgive me for being downright skeptical and suspicious. Are these scalpers' ducats that are being resold by Ticketmaster?

Perish the thought!

On its website, the company anticipates the question: Are these tickets safe? "If you're talking Ticketmaster, they are. We verify and reissue every ticket sold by fans so you don't just get someone's old ticket — or even riskier, a photocopy of their ticket. The seat you buy is always the seat you get."

But why are they priced so far above face value?

"Ticket resale (also known as ticket scalping or ticket touting) is the act of reselling tickets for admission to events," according to online sources. "Tickets are bought from licensed sellers and are then sold for a price determined by the individual or company in possession of the tickets."

Now, we're getting somewhere! But Ticketmaster knows that there are plenty of doubters like me. So, the company states "Ticketmaster Resale is a safe and secure marketplace where individuals are able to buy and resell tickets, with all purchases backed by our industry-leading fan guarantee."

This is all part of the "secondary market" for tickets to hot shows, sports events — wherever demand far outstrips supply.

Back to "Hamilton," now playing at the Boston Opera House, on deck at Hartford's Bushnell Theatre from Dec. 11 to 30 and at Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y., next August.

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Forget Hartford. All sold out on Bushnell's website, which includes a warning about unofficial ticket sellers, specifically.

"Fraudulent Re-Sale of Tickets for Commercial Purposes": "Tickets may not be purchased with the intention of re-selling the tickets at a profit. Fraudulent, misleading or unlawful resale of tickets (or attempted resale) is grounds for seizure and cancellation without compensation."

How about the great Proctors, 65 minutes away in Schenectady, with 2,646 seats and 16 performances from Aug. 13-25? No dice. You can only get tickets for "Hamilton" if you buy season subscriptions, but those are sold out. Single tickets? Maybe next year, they say.

But I'm not giving up. Our old friend Ticketmaster has seats available in Boston. Up to $1,500 each. The show's booker, Broadway in Boston, announced in June that Ticketmaster would be the online seller because the "verified fan" procedure requires customers to preregister online, limits them to four tickets and would "make tickets available ... at regular prices'' by thwarting scalpers and bots.

The Boston Globe's ace theater critic, Don Aucoin, raised the question in a front-page article Wednesday: Why would so many people willingly surrender such a coveted ducat? He reports that Broadway in Boston's top exec for communications states that Ticketmaster "offers the safest platform for the buying and selling of tickets from venues and from third-party sellers, including other fans.''

But she did not directly respond to the question of whether scalpers might be among those "third-party sellers" conducting business on Ticketmaster's site. The "verified resale ticket" notice attached to the $1,500 tickets indicates that those seats are now being sold again, with a fee collected on each transaction.

Since all regular-priced tickets are sold out for the run through Nov. 18, many have been incarnated as high-priced resale tickets, Aucoin discovered. A check of the website shows that one ticket for the Oct. 28 matinee remains available for get ready $15,560. Of course, those pie-in-the-sky prices fall back to earth closer to showtime.

When I checked Thursday afternoon, StubHub, another reseller, was offering tickets from $208 to $1,212.

The Globe isn't the only paper investigating Ticketmaster. The Toronto Star and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. recently found that Ticketmaster is "facilitating the mass scalping of its tickets — in direct violation of its own terms of use'' through TradeDesk, a platform where "scalpers with multiple Ticketmaster accounts can upload and resell industrial-scale inventories of seats'' to major events.

In response, Ticketmaster President Jared Smith posted on his blog that TradeDesk is "an inventory management tool for professional ticket resellers [brokers]. As long as there is a massive disconnect between supply and demand in live event tickets, there is going to be a secondary market. Choosing not to participate would simply push resale back to those who care less than we do about artists and fans."

According to Smith, the "Verified Fan'' initiative has "cut resale by as much as 90 percent'' and the company has "invested more than anyone else in an arms race against the use of bots." He argued that Ticketmaster is "by far the leader in fighting for fans and against scalpers using tools that let them cheat.''

So, I'm still flummoxed. All I know is that my top price for a Broadway ticket is $200, which I recently paid for a late-December seat at "Dear Evan Hansen," another sizzling musical hit.

As for "Hamilton," maybe I could save money by buying tickets from London's Victoria Palace Theatre, where the show runs through March. Even after airfare, hotel and meals, I might spend less than on Broadway or in Boston.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com or on Twitter @BE_cfanto. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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