Wednesday, September 30, 2009
What Happened to the Old Days?
Picture this: I'm sitting in my office at work. I have telecharge.com on my computer and it is 4:59PM. In just one minute, the "Find Tickets" button on the A Little Night Music page will activate, and I'll be amongst the very first non-group, non-VIP people to get what is left of tickets which the page tells me are on sale through June 13, with two weeks listed as "non- Catherine Zeta-Jones" days amongst that time. June feels a long way off, but it isn't when you only have 8 shots a week at getting to see her and my personal heroine, Angela Lansbury. (Ever since Deuce, every time they announce her name with a show, I am excited and sad because I am sure each new show will be her last before she retires...).
Back to scene: Just as my screen clock turns to 5:00, the "Find Tickets" activates! I quickly click through the preliminaries, and click on nearly 20 dates for me to choose from. Knowing everyone will want to sit down stairs, I increase my chances even more by clicking on the "Center Front Mezzanine" button. Having been to the Walter Kerr Theatre several times, I know that front mezzanine, while very cramped, offers a very close view (I could see every wrinkle on Mary Louise Wilson's face as clear as a bell in Grey Gardens). Then my worst fear comes to pass... up comes the notice that there are NO TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR ANY DATE REQUESTED! ARGHHHHHH! So I frantically try again... same thing. This simply cannot be, right? So I nervously pound out the phone number to place my order with an actual person, all while cursing out every Sondheim/Lansbury/Zeta-Jones freak who managed to get ahead of me.
OK, so in "real life," I was on hold for maybe 4 minutes, but it felt longer than Angela's storied career. Ironically, "It Sucks to Be Me" from Avenue Q is playing while I wait, but is continually interrupted by a booming voice that advises that it would be faster to do this online, but I can hold if I want to.
Soon, I zone all of this out... drifting...drifting... back to the year I first attended a Broadway show... 1983, Gershwin Theatre, Angela Lansbury in Mame... I remember literally thinking two things as I looked at the strip of cardboard in my hand. 1) Wow... $27.50 sure is a lot of money for a show. Ahhh, but I am in the orchestra section... and 2) This is so cool! These tickets were printed on the same kind of card stock we used at my school when we did Man of La Mancha!
Drifting back in to be sure I didn't miss the operator that was standing by... drifting back out... The first time I saw a computerized ticket was that same year, only later...when I FINALLY got a seat for Cats. Seems that show was making soooo much money (those orchestra seats were a whopping $32.50!) that they could install a new machine that tracked tickets and printed them out. Of course, getting those tickets was a big deal for someone who lived in the sticks of New England and didn't have a credit card to take advantage of the new "Telecharge" system in place for all of Broadway's best shows. No, I had to MAIL ORDER them. A SASE + a list of dates and where I wanted to sit... sent of to the TIMES SQUARE POST OFFICE STATION (God, it sounded huge!) and the waiting began... 2 to 3 weeks later, you got your tickets and found out when you were going. Imagine all of the advanced planning THAT took, right?
Back in to scene as I try to do the sale by computer again...this time it worked! So I hung up the phone - never getting to a talk to a live person - and completed my sale. I don't know what the glitch was, but I had a panicky 5 or 6 minutes! January seems like an eternity....
Things are so much easier now...you can pick your dates, seats and know instantly when you are going. That was only something New Yorkers could do at the box office back in the day. But I'd trade my 5 minutes of Hell today for that rush of excitement when the mail came and there was my self-addressed, stamped envelope full of expectation and joy - I was going to finally see Cats! ...in 3 months... Still, that amazing feeling of un-immediate gratification just added to the whole experience. There is something to be said for the old days...
(A Little Night Music logos: London and Telecharge; Computer Tickets from The Producer's Perspective blog; Printed Tickets fro Getty Images)