If you don’t get tickets to the greatest show on Earth — I’m talking “Hamilton” — please know you have my deepest sympathies.
My beau, Patrick, and I flew to Chicago to see the hot hip-hop musical last year and still didn’t get to enjoy it.
And we were seated in the audience.
Turns out there’s a thing now: People who love the show’s masterful music so much that they sing along.
For the entire show.
At first, I wondered what it was, that slightly audible hum emanating from the row behind us into my right ear. As it got louder, I realized we, unwittingly, had paid for stereo. Our ebullient fellow theatergoer must have been studying the “Hamilton” soundtrack for months. I mean, she had it down.
She didn’t miss a beat — getting to key notes often before the performers did. Wait for it! (She didn’t).
Tune her out, I told myself. The more I told myself that, the less I could tune her out.
At intermission, I decided to gently say something to her. I saw her, standing there, positively glowing with the excitement of being in that historic theater to witness that historic show. The words that came into my mind at that moment were:
First World problems.
I didn’t say anything.
Apparently, though, there’s another thing now: People who have had it with the chorus at performances of “Hamilton.” They think I’m nuts to have clammed up.
“I would have had no trouble telling her to shut up,” said my colleague, theater critic Chris Hewitt, who made me laugh by coining the phrase “Hamil-tone deaf.”
“You should have told an usher!” suggested another friend.
In case you’ve been living in a cave, “Hamilton” is a wildly popular musical, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, about Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. treasury secretary. It premiered in February 2015 and won 11 Tony Awards, and will have a six-week run at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, beginning Aug. 29.
Hennepin Theatre Trust season-ticket holders quickly scooped up their seats this month, but not before crashing the system in a feeding frenzy. Individual tickets will be available at a later date.
If you get one, please start practicing your clamped-jaw exercises.
After my Chi-town letdown, I decided to join a support group for other people who almost saw “Hamilton.” I found one quickly, thanks to a community thread on Reddit.
“A Broadway show isn’t a concert,” posted one theater aficionado. “Never sing or clap along.”
“Anyone who does this is extremely selfish,” agreed another. “I don’t want to pay all that money to hear some random person sing along. I came to hear the very talented actors.”
And this: “Perhaps with this show bringing so many new people into the theater, there should be some sort of sign saying, ‘Do not sing along,’ so young theatergoers who’ve learned the soundtrack by heart won’t find out by being escorted out of the theater.”
(I’m going to clarify here that my backup singer was not a young theatergoer.)
Even Miranda seems perplexed about the phenom. Reddit shared one of his tweets regarding two young women seated in the front row of one of his performances, singing every song:
“You and your fellow in front row were SO GREAT today,” Miranda tweeted, sounding what many of us read as a clear note of sarcasm.
Singing aloud is just one of many theatergoing challenges, said Jim Sheeley, president of the Historic Theatre Group, which manages the Orpheum, State and Pantages theaters.
Talking. Cellphones. Coming in late. The list is long, and certainly not limited to “Hamilton,” he said.
But let’s talk singing. “It’s sort of a phenomenon for people that are excited to be at whatever show they love,” he said. “Think back to ‘Mamma Mia,’ ‘Jersey Boys.’ There are always going to be people who, maybe, don’t go to the theater that often. Maybe they really don’t know what theater etiquette might be and that they might be disturbing people around them.”
That doesn’t mean you have to take this sitting down, he said. But humor is better than punitive shushing.
“When I go to the theater, including in New York, if people are talking around me, I actually laugh, turn around and say, ‘These people are getting paid for talking.’ That usually works.”
If it doesn’t, he suggests you seek out a member of the house staff, all of whom have been trained to deal with such issues.
“People around you would be just as happy that you did that,” Sheeley said. “You don’t want to shut down anyone’s exuberance, but it would be nice if they were aware that there are 2,000 other people in the room.”
And while you’re at it, consider brushing up on a few more theater skills. A Broadway etiquette website (nytix.com/Links/Broadway/Articles/etiquette.html) addresses all sorts of things you should and should not do when you have the opportunity to witness a show.
• Do turn off your cellphone.
• Don’t send texts.
• Do unwrap cough drops in advance.
• Don’t talk during the show.
• Go easy on standing ovations, which have become almost obligatory, making them meaningless.
• Do stay awake.
• And please don’t sing along.
“If you want to sing on Broadway,” the site suggested, “you’re going to have to audition like those people onstage did. Save your sweet singing for post-show karaoke.”
firstname.lastname@example.org 612-673-7350 • Twitter: @grosenblum