Everything I’m about to write reeks of middle class privilege. Apologies in advance.
This story starts with Nicole. Nicole is a former writing student of mine with whom I’ve kept in touch. She’s a fearless female who’s done ballsy things I wholeheartedly admire. She’s also a theater geek in the best possible sense. About a year and a half ago she posted on Facebook that she’d seen an Off-Broadway musical that made her ugly cry. “This show is everything,” she wrote.
That fall, Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway. (If you’re unfamiliar, check out Playbill’s three-minute recap.) A couple of months after that, I started to listen to the soundtrack. A lot. My best friend Wendy discovered some tracks through the Broadway channel on Sirius XM. We talked about how much we liked the music.
Okay, let me pause here to say that is a complete understatement. I loved the music. The songs spoke to me on a deeply personal level. That’s another post for another day, but suffice it to say I felt connected.
And I wanted to see this show. Badly. My husband and I talked about getting tickets for February. Last year we’d eschewed Valentine’s Day in favor of a day trip to NYC to see Hamilton (tickets purchased at face value the previous June). Maybe we could do it again?
I found two face value tickets. I hemmed and hawed on whether or not to buy them. The timing was perfect. The cost was close to my comfort zone. But a quick Google search told me that Ben Platt, who played the titular lead, would likely be leaving the show in November. I could get tickets for the fall, but they would cost a whole lot more.
So I bought the February tickets…and immediately regretted it. If you’ve ever watched a video of Ben singing “Waving Through a Window,” you’d understand why. Here, see for yourself:
I talked about it a lot. How much I regretted not spending the extra money to ensure I’d see Ben in the role he originated.
Here’s something you should know about me. I can be really, really
cheap frugal. I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t buy designer purses. I color my roots with dye from a box.
I save money so I can invest in experiences. I take annual birthday trips with my best friend. I go on a beach vacation with my family for a few days each summer. I send my stepdaughter to camp. These things are important to me.
The Saturday before the Tonys, my husband and I were driving to Trader Joes. I told him that Ben Platt was a lock for Best Actor and that after he won there’d be no way to get tickets to see him perform. I told him (again) how much I regretted not springing for fall tickets. I told him how every time I watched video of this man performing this part, I got chills and cried.
“Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” my husband said. “You should go for it.”
This set off a flurry of texts to Nicole. Should I do this? I should do this, right? Is there any way to get cheaper tickets? What are my options? What if I spend the extra cash to buy tickets specifically to see him and he ends up not performing? What then?
Nicole told me that when that happened, theaters typically allow you to switch your tickets or get a refund. This was common and normal.
In between texts, I kept saying to my husband, “This is crazy. I can’t do this. We already bought tickets for February.”
We’ll sell them, he told me. You have to do this. It means a lot to you.
That night, I searched for tickets. They weren’t plentiful, but they were available. I found several in the first few rows of right or left orchestra. They were definitely outside of my comfort zone, price-wise. My husband and I talked about how we could cut back the next few months to make up the difference in price. I waffled. I was a nervous wreck.
Do it, he said again and again. You deserve this.
He wanted me to take my best friend. That going to plays was really our thing and that Dear Evan Hansen meant more to her than it did to him. Have I mentioned that my husband can be a total saint?
More texts, this time to make sure Wendy was free. I found incredible seats, third row right orchestra. I checked the Jewish high holidays. I figured if Ben took off for Rosh Hashana, then surely he’d be back for the Saturday immediately following. The price tag was steep enough to make me suck in my breath. But like my husband said: once in a lifetime.
In the end, he had to push the purchase button for me.
Afterward I was giddy. Like, seriously giddy. Wendy and I exchanged excited GIFs the whole night. I talked about it with everyone. I introduced the music to my stepdaughter, who still asks if we can listen to it whenever she gets in my car. My almost-two year old decided he liked the soundtrack, too. For a while, it played on constant loop.
And then earlier this week my aunt texted to me to see if we were available to celebrate Rosh Hashana with her and my uncle on the 22nd or 23rd. I told her it would be tough because we had tickets for the 23rd and were planning on taking an early train into the city. And then immediately I panicked because hadn’t I checked the dates before buying the tickets?
That’s when I saw the e-mail. The one Telecharge had sent on September 1st, the one with the subject line “DEAR EVAN HANSEN: Ben Platt Out Wednesday and Saturday Matinees.”
I started to cry even before I called Telecharge to see if I could exchange my tickets. I could not. The show was sold out. It had been sold out for weeks before the announcement. There were literally no tickets available for any shows between now and November 19th, the Telecharge rep told me. The best I could do, he said, was e-mail requesting a refund.
“I don’t understand,” I said more than once. “I did everything right. I bought the tickets before the Tonys. I checked the holidays. I did everything right.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t help you.”
I felt gutted. That’s really the only word I can use to describe it. Gutted.
This all happened when my husband was putting our son down for a nap. When he came in the office, I told him what happened. I cried on his shoulder. I felt stupid crying over this. There was a hurricane ripping up people’s homes. It was the eve of the anniversary of 9/11. And I’m crying over theater tickets?
But it meant so much to me. I can’t even put it into words. My teenage self wept. My middle-aged self cried along with her.
There wasn’t much I could do, but I reached out to a few people to see if they might be able to help. Most said no. One said maybe. I searched in vain for tickets. Comparable seats to non-matinee shows were running $1,200 or more for a single ticket. Even I am not that crazy.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to see Ben Platt perform this role because he won the Tony. I don’t want to see him perform the role so I could say I saw the original cast.
I want to see him perform this role because he IS this role. Because the pain he projects when he sings is visceral and wrenching and because watching someone do something they so obviously love and do it so well has always felt transformative to me.
Like my husband said: it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Now it’s an experience I’ll never have.
I’m tearing up as I type this. I can’t go back in time and pick a different set of tickets. It kills me because I could have. I looked at a bunch. But I chose a matinee because it gave us time to take a train into the city and also for me to get home in time to put my kid to bed.
So here is my plea: If you know someone who has tickets to a non-matinee show before November 19 who just wants to see an incredible show – who doesn’t really know who Ben Platt is or care who the part of Evan Hansen is played by – can you send them my way? I am happy to do a trade or pay for them with my refund.
I know that writing this post isn’t likely to get me anywhere. I know I should be in bed. My alarm is going to go off in about five hours and I will be zonked tomorrow. But I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about this missed opportunity. So I’m putting my words out into the universe, crossing my fingers, blowing dandelion clocks, and wishing on heads-up pennies.