“Hamilton” tickets went on sale Saturday morning, with the line forming outside the Durham Performing Arts Center at 7 a.m. And even though there was no advantage to showing up earlier than that, people did.
“We got here at 5:15,” said Tammy Evans, who had come from Youngsville and was first in line. “Early start.”
Brian and Jennifer Trenor of Durham arrived a half-hour later and secured number 12. The “Hamilton” fans and history buffs (Brian Trenor earned a history degree from N.C. State) saw it in Chicago and liked it enough to try for tickets for the run at the 2,700-seat Durham Performing Arts Center.
Meanwhile, people who had registered in advance for the Ticketmaster Verified Fan program tried — some successfully, some not so much — to get tickets online while in-person sales were occurring.
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Everyone’s goal: Get a ticket to one of the 32 shows that will be presented Nov. 6 through Dec. 2.
“We are very excited to see this,” said Brian Trenor. “I’ve probably listened to the cast album on Spotify 15 or 20 times, and we still get teary at the end. It’s really well-written and emotional.”
It appeared that about 1,000 people turned out for the box-office on-sale, which went live at 10 a.m. People arriving between 7 and 8:30 a.m. were given wristbands, with the order of sale determined by random drawings of 50-person lots.
“Hamilton” was a phenomenon on Broadway, setting box-office records and winning numerous awards. That has continued with the touring version, which has been a quick sellout everywhere.
DPAC season ticketholders already got first crack at tickets, many of which are now changing hands for thousands of dollars on broker sites. The sale for non-season ticketholders, online as well as in person, was for everyone else. There were no phone sales.
Once “Hamilton” begins its Durham run, DPAC will hold a free lottery for each show, making 40 tickets available at just $10 each. Details haven’t been provided yet, but in other cities, the process involved a special app.
As the morning wore on, people with wristbands sat around reading while waiting for the line drawing. Many of them were working the online angle with their phones, too.
“We got lucky with online codes, too,” said Matt Kummerer, who had wristband number 44. “The first window at 10 a.m. — system crashing at 10 a.m. We tried for Charlotte tickets and wound up number 50,000 in line there, so our luck was better here.”
Drawings and announcements began at 10 a.m., with cheers going up as different numbers were called — starting with numbers 501 through 550.
“Everybody’s happy for everyone when they get lucky and called early,” said Richard Hornaday, with wristband number 262. His group was taking a while to get inside, which had him hoping for Plan B — his son-in-law, who had online duty.
“James better get tickets because we’re falling farther and farther behind,” he said.
It was a pretty celebratory scene, starting with ticket buyer No. 1 at the main box office. That was Janet Mahoney from Raleigh, wristband No. 508, who beamed while posing for pictures holding an “I SCORED TICKETS” sign.
Was she excited?
“Oh my gosh, yes,” she said. “My girls are in Iowa with their dad, and they’re gonna be pumped.”
Inevitably, there were some issues, especially with online sales. Some people trying to work their phones for online sales while waiting on the box office were coming up blank.
A visually impaired woman with a cane was also told to come back later when she showed up trying to buy tickets for a different DPAC event, an upcoming Sarah McLachlan concert.
“Sorry, just ‘Hamilton’ today,” said an usher.
Other people vented online about the process to buy tickets. Some who were given assigned ticket times mid-morning struggled to find available tickets on any day or were told that Ticketmaster was “Searching ... sit tight.” Some said on Twitter that their access code no longer worked.
But the atmosphere was mostly festive at DPAC, especially after someone from local brewery Fullsteam showed up to hand out free beer.
Plenty of people just came for the scene. Deidre James, a political consultant from Greensboro who saw “Hamilton” on Broadway and had an online code, came to Durham anyway.
“This is such a moment,” James said. “I drove over just to be around the energy. There’s nothing like ‘Hamilton’ fans. I could’ve stayed with my laptop hitting ‘refresh,’ but I decided to come be around my people. I’ve met so many cool people this morning. Whether I get tickets or not, it’s been a great day already.”