“I’m jealous of your ticket and I’ll f*** you for one!” screams one very enthusiastic Hamilton fan while running past the Richard Rodgers Theatre. It is 7 PM and the line of theatregoers waiting to see Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo in their final performances as Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Eliza Hamilton, respectively, has already extended all the way down West 46th Street and around the corner in one direction, and through the Marriott Marquis alley in the other. Hordes of “Faniltons,” or “Hamilfans” (take your pick) surround the stage door, some sobbing and clutching vinyl copies of the cast recording, others bonding over their affinity for Peggy Schuyler. “I just want to see his ponytail!” exclaims one young fan with tears running down her cheeks.
Gretchen Vosburgh and her mother, Cyndi, were two of the lucky audience members who purchased tickets for the performance as soon as they found out it would be the last for three of the show’s original stars. Vosburgh, an aspiring actress, says the show was one of her main sources of inspiration during her auditions for college theatre programs. “The show really helped get me through my auditions because it reminds me of what I’m working for. It was definitely motivational for me to see the next generation of Broadway stars,” she says. Cyndi Vosburgh adds that the historical aspect is what draws her to the show. “Bringing the historical value to so many people who didn’t know Alexander Hamilton’s story is remarkable,” she explains.
Megan Geers, a TodayTix concierge agent, was waiting outside of the Marriott Marquis Theatre distributing tickets to On Your Feet! when she noticed flashing camera lights. To her surprise, those lights were for Jennifer Lopez, who recently collaborated with Miranda on “Love Make the World Go Round,” a song benefiting the Hispanic Federation for the Somos Orlando Fund. “I really haven’t ever seen [anything this crazy],” she says. “I was at Megan Hilty’s final performance in Wicked, but it was nowhere close to this big. This is insane.”
Enthusiasts continued to wait outside of the theatre long after the performance began. A few hung from scaffolding, smartphones in hand, hoping to catch a picture of a celebrity who was running late. Those who were not lucky enough to snag tickets were disappointed to hear that their favorite stars would not be signing autographs at the stage door. “I’m going to kick myself for the rest of my life,” sighed one particularly upset man to his friend as he walked away, completely dejected.
At 9:30 PM a new wave of soaking wet fans began to huddle together underneath any and every awning on West 46th Street. Hannah Ferkol, who was dressed in a gown of her own design based on the costume Jasmine Cephas-Jones wears as Maria Reynolds, stood guard with her mother in front of an 72-inch-tall oil pastel portrait of Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton. The masterpiece was created by teenage artist Avalon Hester. Hester, who is from Seattle, WA, arrived at the Rogers at 3 PM in order to begin working on the portrait and was inside the theatre seeing the show. Hester, Ferkol, and their mothers later delivered the artwork the stage door, and were able to see it displayed onstage.
“[This was] my first big piece,” says Hester. “I’ve been obsessed with the musical for so long and coming out here…it’s my 16th birthday present. I was really excited, and it was great.”
Ferkol, who was unable to be in “The Room Where It Happens” says that she loves the sense of community created by Hamilton and its fans. “Everyone is so friendly,” she explains. “It’s been super great to just talk to people.” She and Hester plan to keep in touch.
Once the performance had ended, mobs of audience members who were crying, hugging each other and thanking friends for bringing them along for the once-in-a-lifetime event, hurried past the barricades, which held back other theatregoers who had seen everything from Matilda to The Lion King. “I don’t even know who we’re waiting for,” expresses one confused passerby. “It seems like it’s someone important though.”
New York-based performer Ben Marcus was lucky enough to purchase his ticket from the cancellation line the morning of the performance. He explains that purchasing his ticket on a whim was one of the best decisions he could have made. “I don’t know if there’s a great way to describe [this feeling] other than being able to witness history, especially as a theatre fan,” he says. “To be able to experience something like this in such a critical moment for not only the show, but its creators and its stars is a memory that I’ll cherish for a long time.”
Audience members stood outside of the Rodgers long after the performance, discussing the shows, snapping pictures and relaying information to family members over the phone. Many simply stared at the marquee, in awe of what they had just witnessed.
Joe Gambino is a New York City-based writer, illustrator and performer who still hasn’t won the Hamilton lottery. Follow him on Twitter @_joegambino_.