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‘Hamilton’ opens in Pittsburgh to sold-out crowd |

‘Hamilton’ opens in Pittsburgh to sold-out crowd

Natasha Lindstrom
| Tuesday, January 1, 2019 8:49 p.m


Sarah Owen pounced on the chance to see “Hamilton” when a co-worker told her she had an extra pair of tickets a day before Tuesday’s opening night performance in Pittsburgh.

Never mind that Owen, a 27-year-old White Oak native, who lives in San Francisco and was preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Washington, D.C., has to be back at work on Wednesday or that she’s already seen “Hamilton” multiple times.

“I fly out at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning, so this is really irresponsible, but I couldn’t be happier,” said Owen, a Highmark actuary who saw the original cast of “Hamilton” on Broadway in New York and a tour stop in San Francisco. On Tuesday, she waited with excitement for her sister to join her outside the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts shortly before the 7:30 p.m. curtain.

The Tony Award-winning show stands out because it’s “not only a rap musical, which is really rare, like it’s not the typical, dramatic-like songs, it’s modern and hip in that sense,” Owen said. “But then the lyrics are incredibly intelligent and witty; it’s funny, it’s heart-wrenching.

“Every time I’ve seen it, I’ve just left the show weeping in tears of just joy, sadness, overwhelming talent. It’s just, like, the coolest show ever,” said Owen, whose other favorites include “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Lion King” and “In the Heights,” the previous show by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. “And I don’t know if we’ll ever see anything else like it.”

The sisters joined thousands of theatergoers from across Western Pennsylvania and neighboring states who flocked to Pittsburgh’s Cultural District for the sold-out premiere. Performances extend through a four-week run, longer than typical Broadway stints in the city.

“Happy New Year, and welcome to the opening night of Hamilton,” a security escort bellowed as dozens of ticket holders crowded into the line wrapped around the building about an hour before the show began.

Guests ranged from elderly longtime theatregoers to millennials and youths, such as a group of girls from Studio G in Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs. The dance studio won several awards and accolades for a tap performance rendition of a “Hamilton” song, said parent Renee Modra of Murrysville.

“We’re excited,” Sam Stewart, 15, of Plum and Lola Modra, 13, of Murrysville said in unison after taking a photo outside the Benedum.

Winner of 11 Tony Awards, “‘Hamilton” presents the “story of America then, as told by America now” through the lens of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury secretary. It’s based on the Ron Chernow biography.

Composer, lyricist, playwright, rapper and actor Miranda — who portrays a London lamplighter in Disney’s holiday blockbuster movie “Mary Poppins Returns” — wrote the musical score for “Hamilton,” which showcases a lively mix of hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway show tunes.

“The amazing thing about this show is that it takes American history and makes it utterly and totally accessible to everybody,” said Tamara Tunie, a New York actress who grew up in Homestead.

Tunie will perform in “The Tempest” at Pittsburgh Public Theater this month. She said “Hamilton” is “entertaining and thrilling and it’s a phenomenon. And if you could see it, you must.”

Many of the next few dozen performances already have sold out at the 2,800-seat Benedum, with two to 65 tickets available for shows on resale sites scheduled for Friday and Jan. 11. The few remaining seats advertised on StubHub were going for anywhere from about $150 for a non-premium seat, up to $2,836 for a pair of center orchestra seats.

There still may be another chance to snag a ticket.

For each of the more than 30 scheduled shows, 40 lottery winners will have a chance to score orchestra seats for $10 apiece.

Lotteries will be held two days before the show. Winners may buy up to two tickets. Visit to register.

“These tickets are expensive and that’s the coolest thing about the show is that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator, knows that normal people can’t pay those ticket prices, and he’s like, ‘I made this for everyone,’ ” Owen said. “So, do the lottery — $10. Sign up, you can do it.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a
Tribune-Review staff writer.
You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, or via Twitter .

Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
The line of ticket holders for the premiere of “Hamilton” winds around the block in front of the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.
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