I entered the Hamilton "Ham4Ham" lottery every day over the course of one week. During that time I watched performances, made friends and bought myself way too many consolation prizes.
The "Ham4Ham" lottery at Hamilton is a new breed of Broadway ticket lottery. The premise behind it is simple: Hopefuls arrive at the Richard Rodgers Theatre to enter their names into a bucket for a chance to win $10 front-row seats to Hamilton — but, with this lottery, even if theatregoers walk off empty handed, they are still treated to a show.
During Hamilton's preview run, creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda enlisted his cast and creative team to perform three-minute segments, which became known as the "Ham4Ham Lottery Show." Now that the show has officially opened on Broadway, the pre-show performances are only before the second show on two-show days and on special occasions. The drawing brings in anywhere from 200-700 hopefuls (704 for its first show!). These people are students, accountants, lawyers, bloggers and, in my case, interns at Playbill.com.
I was excited to begin my journey — as it was also my first week at Playbill.com — and set a few too many goals for myself. My list of musts included taking a selfie with Lin-Manuel Miranda, recording good-quality videos of every pre-show performance and, of course, winning a front-row seat to Hamilton. Was I successful in any of my efforts? Without further ado, I present to you my Hamilton rush story (in tweets and video!).
Day One (Aug. 3):
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 4, 2015
My first day at the "Ham4Ham" lottery was arguably the longest of all. I was eager to find out what everyone was so excited about, so I arrived at the theatre at 4:45 PM, the exact minute they would allow people to start entering their names. After entering my name, I joined the mass of people waiting to see if they had won. Among the crowd was a woman who was celebrating her birthday at Hamilton. She did not enter the lottery because she had purchased tickets in advance, but she wanted to make sure she caught the pre-show performance (and even cried when Miranda came out to speak).
The pre-show featured Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler performing some of the dances he choreographed for the show while Miranda rapped to accompany him. Check out the video below:
When it came time for winners to be announced at 6 PM, I eagerly waited as the "Ham4Ham" team called name after name until all 21 front-row and six standing-room tickets had been claimed. My name was not called, but it was only my first try, so I wasn't expecting to win. I don't have that kind of luck. I got myself a cup of coffee and got on the subway to head home.
Day Two (Aug. 4):
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 4, 2015
My second day was much easier than my first. I knew the rules of the game already (so, I was basically a seasoned pro, right?). I arrived at the theatre at 5:15 PM, when I was joined by two of my friends from college, Amir and Mary Kate. They had seen my tweet about rushing and wanted to get in on the action. A few minutes later, my cousin Nick joined us.
It was also on this day that I made a friend, AnLi, who joined me at almost every "Ham4Ham" lottery I have attended since we met. She has become my official "Ham4Ham" partner-in-crime. "It's crazy that this many people are showing up for a show like this," she told me, "and I think the theatre community is able to reach such a wide audience with this show. They're making it accessible for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to see it, and that's amazing."
The pre-show performance featured Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who play the Schuyler sisters, performing Alicia Keys' "Fallin'." The crowd went absolutely wild for them. Check out the video below:
Again, I wasn't a winner, but I was still okay with that because I wanted a cookie and knew I could treat myself to one under the ruse of needing to cheer myself up. I got on the subway, with a cookie (or five), and headed home.
Day Three (Aug. 5):
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 5, 2015
By my third day of the week, I had started referring to my lotto experience as "Go Ham or Go Home," since the evening performance would be the final preview before Hamilton officially opened on Broadway. I was unable to attend the matinee lottery, as I was at work, but I ran to the Richard Rodgers Theatre as soon as I got out. I arrived at the theatre at 5 PM. I entered my name, found AnLi and waited.
The pre-show performance featured Daveed Diggs, who plays Thomas Jefferson, rapping. He was introduced by Renee Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler. Check out the video below:
Again, I wasn't a winner, but that was okay since I had plans with my friend Katie to see It Shoulda Been You. All in all, it was a good night.
Day Four (Aug. 6):
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 6, 2015
I would like to preface this day with a tweet:
Lin is crying. People are crying. There's a lot of crying. #Ham4Ham
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 6, 2015
Day Four happened to be Hamilton's opening night, and for some reason I was convinced that if I was ever going to win the lottery, it would be right then and there. The lottery was at 2 PM that day, and (with my boss' permission) I hightailed it to the Rodgers right after I got in.
When I arrived at the theatre there were approximately 500 people already waiting. I'm not exaggerating when I say that almost everyone I have ever met in my entire life was there (maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but there were a lot of people). We were barricaded by security personnel, but I refused to lose my spot in the front of the crowd. No one was coming between me and getting a video of Lin's best pre-show performance.
When Lin came out to speak, people started sobbing. It felt amazing to be among so many people who loved theatre so much, but I also don't know what to do when people cry, so I applauded him and his cast, crew and creative team.
The pre-show performance featured Lin-Manuel Miranda reading the first five paragraphs of the book that inspired Hamilton, and the crowd on 46th Street fell silent; we were all transfixed by his words. Check out the video below:
When it came time for winners to be announced, I was actually shaking. Would I be one of the lucky people to be "In The Room Where It Happens"? Long story short: no. Once again, I was a loser. I was upset that I still wouldn't get to see Hamilton, but thrilled that I wouldn't be killed by a mob of jealous fans. I went back to work.
Day Five (Aug. 7):
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 7, 2015
The day after Hamilton opened, the theatre world was buzzing with pictures, tweets, articles and memes about the show. I foolishly hoped that the lottery crowds would get smaller. Of course, they only increased in size.
On Day Five, I was joined by my friends Will and AnLi as well as AnLi's friend, Troy. I spoke to a woman who had no idea what was going on (she didn't even know what Hamilton was!), but after I filled her in, she entered the lottery.
There was no performance at this lottery as the cast needed to rest up after their big night. They announced the names and, again, I didn't win. I ended up seeing An American In Paris with Will, and we really enjoyed it. Ballet is cool, y'all.
Day Six (Aug. 10):
Day 6 (someone come take selfies with me) pic.twitter.com/x3RBD9r8hS
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 10, 2015
Day Six was arguably my least eventful. I arrived at the theatre at 5:30 PM, entered my name, took a selfie and spoke to a woman holding a very cute puppy. I think I was more excited about petting the puppy than I was about potentially winning the "Ham4Ham" lottery this time around! There was no pre-show performance at this lottery.
When the winners were announced, my name was not called. I realized that I was very good at losing and that maybe I should take Something Rotten!'s approach to losing and celebrate myself for being a great loser. I got myself a dozen mini-cupcakes and had a great train ride home.
Day Seven (Aug. 11):
My final Hamilselfie pic.twitter.com/p9PIYN3rLu
— Joe Gambino (@_JoeGambino_) August 11, 2015
On the last day of my Hamilton journey, I was completely exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to win a ticket and text my boss about it. I arrived at the theatre at 5:45 PM, entered my name and stood in the back of the crowd. I was joined, again, by my friend Will. We looked around for any familiar faces. There were none.
There was no pre-show performance at this lottery drawing.
When the winners were announced, something in the back of my head told me that I would be one of them. "You've been here so many times, and you're writing an article about it. How could you not win?" it said. It was wrong. I did not win.
While walking to the subway, I heard a loud banging on the door of a Chipotle. "Joey! Joey Gambino!" the voice shouted. I turned around, and there he was: Playbill's graphic designer, Robbie Rozelle. He looked at me dead in the eyes and said, "Guess what? I'm seeing Hamilton tonight!" He had won the lottery!
Although I wasn't the Playbill staffer who took home the tickets, I still had a great time. Had I not embarked on this journey, I wouldn't have made new friends or allowed myself to eat so many cookies and mini-cupcakes. While I didn't get a selfie with Lin, I did record pretty good videos of the pre-show performances. I made friends, and I got to be there for the last full week of "Ham4Ham" performances. If that isn't lucky, then I don't know what is.
I'll probably end up buying a regular-priced ticket to Hamilton because I'm still dying to see it. However, I may have to wait until October, when tickets become available!