Last month it was announced that The Phantom of the Opera will close on Broadway on February 18, 2023 after 35 years and 13,925 performances.
In January 1988, I was certain the show was going to be a huge hit before it opened on Broadway and bet a sizeable chunk of my department budget on this hunch.
At the time, I was living in New York City and was employed as the Associate Director of Student Activities at Barnard College (part of Columbia University). I ran a discount ticket booth for the campus, selling hundreds of tickets via a program through the Theatre Development Fund. As an avid theater-goer and procurer of theater news, I had read about the soon-to-open juggernaut. I also discovered that the Schubert Organization was selling half-price orchestra seats for students. The regular price – $50 (can you believe it?!), but I was able to purchase these seats – the last two rows of the orchestra – for only $25 a ticket. I bought 500 tickets out of my meager budget and resold them at the discount rate – to undergraduates only – with no mark-up. When Phantom did open and became the hottest ticket in town, I was soon everyone’s best friend. High level administrators and faculty, who never gave me the time of day, were suddenly at my office door making indiscreet inquiries about ticket availability (I will admit I did succumb to some of the pleadings).
Soon after the musical opened the Schubert’s realized their blunder by pricing the discounted tickets for last two rows of the orchestra instead of a less desirable location. Quickly, they moved these seats to the balcony. I, however, was still sitting on my stash.
Looking back, I like to think I was making a Broadway hit accessible and affordable to hundreds of college students.