Do you want to see Hamilton? Do you want to get front row seats for ten dollars, because that would be amazing and also because you don’t have a couple hundred bucks to burn? Alas, so do tens of thousands of other fans of the Broadway smash to end all smashes: On Tuesday, over 50,000 people tried to enter the show’s first online ticket lottery. The volume “fully crashed” the site.
A little play-by-play: Tuesday was supposed to be the day that the immensely popular ticket lottery for Hamilton was moved to the internet, which would have both given people outside the city a chance to win and, as Jeffrey Seller, one of Hamilton‘s producers, told the New York Times, given the show time “to figure out how to safely accommodate our fans without blocking traffic on West 46th Street.”
The in-person lottery for Hamilton is a show unto itself. At 5:55 p.m. each day, members of the Hamilton cast — plus the occasional special guest from theaterland — burst out the theater door to do a one-time-only performance for the crowd. These #Ham4Ham sketches have a following all their own, featuring, as they are wont to do, the three actors who have played King George (Jonathan Groff, Andrew Rannells, and Brian d’Arcy James) lip-synching “The Schuyler Sisters” or actor Okieriete Onaodowan (James Madison/Hercules Mulligan) singing Wicked anthem “Defying Gravity” in a Mickey Mouse voice.
But even without that in-flight entertainment, the crowd angling to win the Hamilton lottery would likely still be massive. The show — have you maybe not heard? — is so unbelievably popular, it actually merits the hyperbolic vernacular of the internet. It’s a Twitter-trending, aisle-crossing, Billboard-record-shattering megahit. The celebrity it-Instagram of the moment is a backstage photo with the cast; Mindy Kaling considered a plotline in her series in which one character scavenged a thrown-out Playbill from the garbage and “suddenly he becomes very high status… because everyone thinks he’s this classy, tuned-in, rich art-loving guy.” At the Kennedy Center Honors last month, host Stephen Colbert addressed the room full of stars and influencers — Miranda among them — and asked, “Can anyone here get me tickets to Hamilton?”
One would think that Broadway Direct, which powered the lottery, would have anticipated the volume and prepared accordingly. Hamiton is not the first Broadway hit to break the internet. The Kennedy Center faced similar technical difficulties in 2013, when Book of Mormon made its Washington debut. An “unprecedented” demand for tickets crashed the Kennedy Center’s website twice in two weeks. Thousands of would-be audience members were trapped in a “waiting room” — even people who weren’t trying to buy Mormon tickets but made the ill-advised decision to, say, scope out the National Symphony Orchestra schedule that day.
But perhaps there is no preparing for such an onslaught of fandom? On Monday, show producers announced the tickets would be available online the following day, starting at 9:30 a.m. A drawing would take place at 4 p.m. But visitors got an error message for their trouble, which was later swapped out for a “We are undergoing maintenance” notification.
Yay. Here I gently remind you that while I have a lotta jobs at Hamilton, none are in the IT Dept. Just here like ???????? https://t.co/CpiKZkTCOW
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 5, 2016
The site went down completely at 2 p.m., so the tech powers-that-be could “increase capacity,” and fans were assured that the site would “be back up ASAP, well before 4 p.m. deadline.”
Tomorrow, while we work on remedying this problem, we will hold LIVE #Ham4Ham lotteries outside of the theater. Stay tuned for more details.
— Hamilton (@HamiltonMusical) January 5, 2016