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Hundreds pack Fisher for chance at 'Hamilton' tickets

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Terrence Shulman of Southfield, center, checks his phone while waiting and hoping his wristband number is called at the lobby of the Fisher Building in Detroit.

Hundreds of fans on Friday did not allow cold weather and long lines to make them miss their shot at the hottest ticket in town.

Denise Gray and her boyfriend, Lee Chatman, were third in line to buy "Hamilton" tickets when they went on sale Friday at the Fisher Theater. More than four hours later, they still hadn't been able to purchase any.  

The 65-year-old Southfield resident said a chance to see the smash Broadway musical in Detroit was worth the early morning trek to wait it out. 

"It's one of those musicals that you just put on the bucket list," Gray said. "I tried in Chicago to get tickets. I've tried in Pittsburgh, Orlando, New York, Washington."

Her boyfriend, Lee Chatman, 69, said he wasn't wowed by the Hamilton hype and  wouldn't take one of the two tickets she planned to buy. When asked if he wanted to see the play, he laughed and said, "No, I don't."

Broadway in Detroit marketing director Scott Myers, right, draws wristband numbers in the lobby of the Fisher Building in Detroit on Jan. 25, 2019.

The musical is about American's founding father, Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's close confidant during the Revolutionary War and was the nation's first treasury secretary. It has been the rave all across the country.

Some fans were able to land the coveted tickets without leaving home, thanks to an online lottery system.

Kristie Carnevale scored three tickets to the March 22 showing for herself, her mom — who “absolutely loves” Broadway — and her best friend. The show is just a few days after her 29th birthday, so she’s seeing it as a birthday present to herself.

“It was not easy,” said Carnevale, who is originally from Canton, but lives north in Canadian Lakes. “I got my (verified fan) code last night and got on about 10 minutes 'till 10 am. I picked five different nights and had each of them queued ready to go. Each of the five nights had a 'line' of people in front of me.

The most she had waiting ahead of her was 600 people and the lowest was 230. But within two minutes, one of those nights came through and she was able to purchase the seats. 

“I cannot wait,” she said “This is a dream come true.”

For more than 500 hopefuls, packing the hallway outside the Fisher Theatre was the best option. Most donned wristbands while waiting patiently for their numbers to be called. Every few minutes, an occasional excited cry would ring out when certain people were selected randomly to get in line to buy tickets.

When asked to describe the ticket craze for the show, Scott Myers, the director of guest services and marketing for Broadway Detroit, said "Well, it's Hamilton."

People at the box office in the lobby of the Fisher Building in Detroit on Jan. 25, 2019 are hoping they are chosen in the lottery to be able to get tickets for Hamilton which will be at the Fisher Theatre in March 2019.

"Hamilton's has been the hottest show on Broadway and off Broadway and touring the country now since before they won the Tony Awards," he said. "So it's that show, it has such a huge draw. Since it was announced that the show was coming here, the buzz has been huge."

The lottery system, Myers said, was the fairest way to help get people tickets given the popularity of the show.

And the tickets aren't cheap. Prices ranged from $80 for upper balcony seats to $485 for the most expensive option.

Some like Lemerle Gunn, 70, of Detroit, settled on four seats in balcony 1 for $135 apiece.

"I am really excited because I wanted to go to New York to see the show, but couldn't afford to," Gunn said. "When I heard it was coming to Detroit, I said, 'Oh yes, I'm going to get myself up early and get out there.' "

Ron Samul, 72, of Detroit, came early to get tickets for his family.

"If we can score them, I'm excited," he said. "I know the history a little bit and it's a great spin on the history, plus the music's fabulous. It sounds like a fascinating show."


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Reporter Melody Baetens contributed.