Golden Ticket

2 min
at 11:43 PM

Have you seen that show everyone's talking about, the one that takes place in Colonial America with a rapping hip-hop Founding Father, the guy on the $10 bill? Word is it's fantastic - and it better be since you'll need about 70 of those bills to see it. Some tickets for the San Francisco production are going for more than $700 dollars.

Broadway shows have never been cheap. But with New York "Hamilton" tickets selling for up to $1,000, musical theatre has become the entertainment of the one percent.

I was a theatre nerd kid. My family went to most Broadway shows that toured San Francisco. I remember cringing at Nazis in "Sound of Music," singing along to "Pippin" and snapping my fingers like those Jets in "West Side Story." When you're a jet, you're a jet all the way, and I relished every musical I saw, from the homespun hokieness of "Oklahoma" to the morbid murderers of "Sweeney Todd." I practically danced down Geary Street after catching "A Chorus Line."

In an era of endless entertainment options, live theatre remains breathtaking, different from movies and video. I learned a lot from those musicals - lessons that still resonate. "Sound of Music"s war refugees are as current today as 1963, "Hair"'s political fury seems right from the headlines, and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" is as relevant for an internet start-up as it was in 1961.

As a kid, musical theatre first introduced me to the power of the arts to move and inspire. How ironic expensive "Hamilton," a multi-racial message of American opportunity, is playing to a mostly white and wealthy grown-up crowd.

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But like Unsinkable Molly Brown, I ain't down yet. Productions like "Hamilton" deserve a standing ovation for their $10 ticket lottery and free programs for school kids to attend. So, as Nellie sang in "South Pacific", I'm stuck like a dope with a thing called hope. Despite everything, I hope these unaffordable ticket prices won't bring the curtain down for kids and the magic of live theater.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

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Richard Swerdlow works for the San Francisco Unified School District.

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