BY: ELYSE TREVERS
In 2017, Hamilton ticket prices reached up to $2,000. Yet Lori Miata has seen the Tony Award-winning musical more than 500 times and has been paid to do it. No, she’s not related to Lin Manuel Miranda or Bill Gates. An usher at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, she watches the show six times a week from her post at the front of the orchestra, a seat some would kill for.
Having worked for 12 years as an usher, Miata says that this show is different from any other she’s covered; Hamilton is a destination event and the audiences are thrilled to be at the theater. “Some people get so hysterical that they look like they are going to pass out,” she told Broadway Spin. There’s dancing and singing in the seats. It’s also become a bucket list item. “There are those who, believe it or not, come just so they can tell their friends that they saw the show,” she reveals. We know, we know.
Before the show starts, a prerecorded “King George” reminds the people, “This is your king. Please no use of cell phones, electronic devices and cameras.” Despite his command, one of the biggest issues for Miata is that people try to record the show or take pictures.
Other times people come to the show drunk. They get loud and bother other patrons or they even get sick, “upon occasion even throwing up on people in front of them,” Miata recalls. (So, umm, enter the Richard Rodgers Theatre at your own risk .)
Some people are so eager to get inside the room where it happens that they unknowingly purchase counterfeit tickets. Miata recalls one couple who she directed to their seats only to find others already in them. They’d paid $2000 for those tickets, but after telling Miata she “better doing something about it,” they offered to stand in the back (that’s some expensive standing room, but probably worth it).
Then there’s the matter of the Playbills. Yes, those paper booklets many people throw away or leave in the theater. At Hamilton, Miata has to “hide them because people try to take them by the handfuls. They want souvenirs and even think they can sell them.” You can, sometimes, but not for much. We checked.
When celebrities stop by, it’s up to them whether to interact with the audience or not. Some, like Bruce Springsteen, are really nice to the audience as well as the staff, according to Miata. Others, like Barry Manilow, keep to themselves. “He didn’t even make eye contact with me,” she recalls. Selena Gomez was as star struck as the rest of the audience. Jennifer Garner has attended several times, each time with a different child – as an added bonus, apparently Garner even helped Miata direct the ladies’ room line. And just because people are famous doesn’t mean they always get premium seats. Poor Sting had to sit in Row T.
Miata enjoys watching new actors interpret the roles differently. She does admit that after two years, however, she’s getting “Hamilton’d out.” Still, she’s grateful to be in the room where it happens night after night — at the very least, it’s job security. When people ask her if she can get them tickets, she responds, “Maybe in 10 years.”