Thirty-six years ago (1987), I was the Associate Director of Student Activities at Barnard College in New York City. I ran a ticket booth, purchasing discount tickets from the Theater Development Fund and reselling them to students, faculty, and staff at a slight mark-up. As a certified musical theater geek (I currently operate the 24/7 online Broadway radio station, SoundsofBroadway.com), I was always keeping up with the latest shows currently on Broadway, playing out-of-town engagements and residing on the London stage.
In Fall 1986 I had read about (remember, there was no Internet back then, just good old-fashioned newspapers) a new show called The Phantom of the Opera that was receiving rave reviews. Soon, there was a matter-of-fact article about the musical coming to Broadway. I sensed this was going to be big so I contacted the Schubert Organization, which was handling group sales, about possible student discount tickets. “Yes,” they said. The normal $50 orchestra seats were being sold for $25 and would be located in the last two rows of the orchestra area. “Great,” I replied. Put me down for 500 tickets. I dutifully filled out a purchase order to process a check and sent the tidy sum of $12,500 to the Schubert’s. Fast forward to just before the Broadway opening. My tickets arrived. Phantom opened to thunderous applause. I put the tickets on sale to students, and all-of-a-sudden I was everyone’s best friend from the upper echelons of the administration on down. “But these are student tickets.” I would explain to nonplussed VPs and such. Nonetheless, a few pairs did make their way to non-undergraduate hands.
A short time after Phantom opened, the Schubert’s realized their extreme error. The student tickets were in the orchestra, where they could easily have been sold for full price. Whoosh! Student discounted tickets were now relegated to the last two rows of the Mezzanine. Fine with me because I was still sitting on my hundreds and hundreds of prime orchestra seats.
All these years later, I like to think my good fortune with snagging so many deeply discounted Phantom tickets gave undergraduates their first foray to Broadway and maybe, just maybe, ignited a passion for musical theater that has continued to this day.