It was the Spring of 1999. I was about 2 years into being really really REALLY into a little band called *NSYNC. I mean I was just about convinced that Justin Timberlake was going to be my lawfully wedded spouse one day and we’d live on a peaceful farm in the country, raising our 3 beautiful biracial babies. That was the year that *NSYNC announced their “Boys of the Summer” tour… don’t act like you forgot about that! And it was just an absolute must that I was going. I begged my mom for tickets, arguing it was just a matter of survival that I be in attendance when my boys came to the Camden Riverfront that July. This was to be my first concert ever and boy was I naive about the reality of getting tickets to a show like that. *NSYNC was probably the most popular group of that time and tickets for their first major US tour sold out in minutes. When my mom told me she couldn’t get tickets, I was heartbroken. I remember doing everything in my power to score a pair of seats. I spent hours in my room on the phone calling into radio stations to win seats, trying my luck at Ticketmaster day after day, hoping some seats would come available, and praying that tickets would fall into my lap every night. I even found myself wishing on stars.
And nothing. It was almost as if my boyfriends had read my mind when they added another show to the schedule with plenty of tickets to sell. My mom was one of the lucky ones that time around and surprised me with a pair of tickets that I had to go on a scavenger hunt to find. I even got to go with my best friend at the time (turns out our moms worked together to find seats for us). I still remember that July 9, 1999 as one of the best experiences I have had during my childhood, and one that served as the gateway to my addiction to live entertainment.
Best. night. EVER!!!
And yes, he’s looking at me!
Following that show, I took advantage of every opportunity to see live shows when I could. I was obsessed. I was a regular at any concert that *NSYNC had in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, until they stopped touring. I even went to NYC to see a charity basketball game they hosted every year and waited overnight at Rockafellar Center to see them perform live on the Today Show.
Literally… me at every *NSYNC show, appearance on TV, music video premiere, etc…
I also saw Christina Aguilera, Aerosmith, and No Doubt in concert and saw Martin Lawrence live. I’ve been a fixture at a variety of professional sporting events, including Sixers and Hawks games, and surprised my husband with Pro Bowl tickets during our first tour of duty in Hawaii. Furthermore, being a big fan of live theater, I’ve had the privilege to see several Broadway and off-Broadway productions of Beauty and the Beast, Rent, and the Lion King, just to name a few. I love the performing arts… I love the feeling I get seeing someone’s passion come to life in front of my very eyes. And I’ve longed to be able to experience that again.
But with the years that passed by, adulting came to be a part of everyday life and a necessity for my very survival. Because I just had to grow up, I inherited the joys of paying bills, going to work, taking care of a home, and nurturing a family. These things take a lot of time… and a lot of money. As such, I’ve had to budget and cut down on the fun spending, you know, the kind that buys concert and play tickets. And with all that adulting, the time isn’t readily available. It is simply not possible for me to go to work and then drive an hour to Denver to see a concert, and then drive an hour home and get up and go to work t he next day. I mean, it’s possible… but it’s not very responsible or practical when you have 3 children under the age of 8 who need to be at school the next day and have homework and extracurricular activities (I’m looking at you Scouts and speech!) And my responsibilities as a working wife and mother kept me plenty busy so that I never really thought about going to concerts or shows. Most of the fun things I plan for are family-oriented, cost-efficient activities, like fairs and local festivals. And because I have kiddos, Disney is constantly on the radar. It is a priority that my children experience all that is Disney World while they are young and that is where much of our savings is growing for (that and fixing up our little starter home). So as you can see, my plate is plenty full.
I was focused. I knew what my priorities were. And although I always yearned for fun times with just my husband, or with my girlfriends, I could put those desires to the side, knowing that the time would come when I could enjoy those things once again. Everything was fine… I was satisfied. And then I got the urge to create a “Musicals” playlist on my Spotify account one random weekend evening. I don’t know why I suddenly felt the need to belt out “Seasons of Love” while painting the fireplace, but my addiction to musical theater compelled me. And then I found it. After typing “musicals” in the search box, I saw this image:
And if you don’t know what this image is… you are probably living under a rock somewhere… or was like me 2 years ago when it premiered… living on an island in the middle of the Pacific and getting used to life with 3 children
And for some reason, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I downloaded the entire album! All 46 tracks… I wanted to hate it. I wanted to be like “this is silly… hip-hop and the founding fathers DO NOT go together”… but no! I listened a couple times… “hmm this is OK.” I listened a few more times… “This is pretty good.” I listened some more still…”This s**t is riding! I can’t even believe he did that! Oh no he didn’t pay that dude off!” I remember calling my best friend and lamenting about how bad I felt liking these songs… I confessed to her that I didn’t want to like it… that I wanted to desperately reject what had become so infectiously popular, even among those who might not even enjoy musicals. But I couldn’t… the music, the lyrics, and story… it was all just too good. And it worked! And as with *NSYNC almost 20 years earlier, I found myself getting a bit passionate (obsessed is such a horrible word and I’m a mother of , I don’t get obsessed… I prefer passionate) about this show. I ordered the biography of the gentleman at the center of the story (which I started after Christmas and just made to the halfway point a few weeks ago), and started looking for ways that I might possibly be able to see it live. I knew that living in Denver would provide a challenge for me to get back to New York…. not impossible, just challenging. So I looked to see if there would possibly be a traveling company coming my way. And as my lucky stars would have it, there was. I signed way to be notified when tickets would be available and suddenly found myself in the same mindset that I had at 14 years old. Going to this show was going to happen, it had to happen. It was not even a matter of how, just a matter of when. Boy, was I was gravely mistaken.
Turns out this show is the best-selling Broadway experience EVER and has won like a bazillion Tony Awards, among others. Its popularity has increased the demand for tickets and as such, it is very EXTREMELY difficult to find any. And if you do, they are at a ridiculous price that the average Joe could not afford or stomach buying. I figured that tickets for the Broadway performance would be costly. But I was sure that the traveling theater off-Broadway tours would somehow be a little more reasonable. After all, it’s Colorado… not the Big Apple!
I couldn’t have been more WRONG. And it appears that my current reality did not mesh with my expectations. 20 years ago, I was a kid, dependent on my parents who made a decent living and could afford to indulge their only daughter. I had no real responsibilities aside from doing my chores, studying hard, and practicing my jump shot. It is now 2017, and I’m a 31 year old working mother of 3 who has responsibilities galore. And although my husband and I make enough to be comfortable on paper, we also have to be frugal and spend our money wisely. And it’s not that I don’t have $800 to spend on Hamilton tickets, it’s that I REFUSE to spend that on an event that will only last about 3 hours, regardless of how amazing the soundtrack is.
I find it absolutely deplorable that it can cost the equivalent of one month’s rent or mortgage payment to see a show… to go to the theater and spend an evening or afternoon enjoying the performing arts. It cost my Mom roughly $50 for an *NSYNC ticket in 1999. And even though the price to see them in concert increased in the years that followed, she never paid over $100 per seat. Now, concert tickets can average about 100 to 200 smackeroos depending on who you are seeing. I recently saw a pair of Kendrick Lamar tickets for $150 for the nosebleed section… you mean I get to see an ant-size Kendrick Lamar for the equivalent of a car payment! That sounds like an awesome way to spend an evening… squinting for almost 2 hours! It doesn’t stop there! We have seen the prices to see a movie skyrocket in the last 20 years. It could possibly cost you and a date about 30 dollars or more to see a movie with concessions, up to 50 or more if you are treating a family of 4. Upon arriving in the Springs, I began looking at possibly surprising my husband with Broncos tickets because he loves football. Tickets were almost $150-$200 a piece! And without Peyton Manning?! I mean who even is the quarterback for the Broncos?! And with today’s revelation that a decent seat for the Denver edition Hamilton going for well over $600 a pop, I was too through.
It seems as though what used to be a common pleasurable pastime for most people, has become a luxury; something that only the more privileged of our society can comfortably enjoy without having to swipe a credit card and go into debt. It seems that you have to be in the haves to be able to simply enjoy a Sunday afternoon football game at Sports Authority Field. I understand that with time, all things become more expensive. Just look the cost of gasoline over the last 30 years. And of course, there is everyone’s favorite economic principle of supply and demand…. when things become more desired, the price skyrockets. When looking at concert and theater tickets, one can justify the cost of tickets by pointing to the fact that actors, singers, musicians, theater and venue personnel all need to be paid…. that it costs money to supply costumes and props, lighting and sound…. that the building itself needs to be paid for its use etc. etc. etc. But over a G for orchestra seats????!!!! Per seat????!!! Trick, please! For that price, I better see the real Alexander Hamilton come out (sans decomposition and in his prime) rapping like Drake, all the founding fathers who are portrayed in the show (also without the decay and overt racism… I’m looking at you, Thomas), the original cast joining him, a job offer to work on the show with a six-figure income, and possibly a marriage proposal from Daveed Diggs and Justin Timberlake (yes I know he’s not in the show, but for that price, he’d better be!). And speaking of which, I better get a permanent *NSYNC reunion out of it too! Something that should be available to be enjoyed by all who wish to see it has become somewhat of an elitist event only attended by those lucky enough or with pockets deep enough to score seats. I guess, however, I shouldn’t have expected any different in a time in which Donald Trump has become the leader of the free world.
I’m not here to complain… not even wanting to vent or gripe. I do realize that there have been ways that people have not had to pay ridiculous prices to see a live show or event, whether it’s through fundraising opportunities, lottery sales, or even winning tickets. And I know some might argue that I’m just mad because I won’t get what I want. They might be right… I might just be a hater who’s complaining about not getting what I want. After all, why can’t it be the late 90s and early 2000s when it was so so easy to see and even get crazy close to my boys! I mean I could go… the tickets are right there online just waiting to be bought. I could spend close to $1500 on tickets and have a wonderful evening on the town with my husband, or a friend seeing as to how my husband would have no parts of spending that kind of money on a show. However, it’s not about what I want or what I wish I could have… it’s about what is right and what is fair. There are people who could be blessed by seeing live theater, who might long to see their favorite artists in concert but who simply do not have the means. The line between the haves and have nots become even thicker. The opportunity has been taken from them and it may have never been intended for them to begin with. I have chosen not to buy these tickets. I cannot fathom or justify spending that kind of money when I have a Disney World trip on the radar and I also gotta plan for my 3 tiny humans to go to this little thing called “college” one day.
For now, listening to the soundtrack will have to suffice. I have accepted that it could possibly be some years until the hype dwindles and tickets are priced reasonably just as I have accepted that I will never again see a live *NSYNC show. For now, it’s gonna have to be Spotify and Amazon playlists, ESPN and NFL Network, and perhaps maybe some local shows and festivals for me. For now…