I had just moved out of my Brooklyn apartment and into Crowne Plaza near Times Square. “Perfect location,” I told myself. I had less than a week left in New York and was starting to show symptoms of a flu. Upping my vitamin C and cough drops intake, I formulated a master plan—to watch as many Broadway shows as I could in the next four days, and, not to mention, stretch my depleting travel budget.
“Let’s watch a musical today!” I told my friend Myron who was visiting from New Jersey. I was certain that this season’s hits such as Idina Menzel’s If/Then and Neil Patrick Harris’ Hedwig and The Angry Itch were sold out that Sunday. And because I couldn’t afford the full price, I warned Myron that I could only get us promo tickets such as the standing room and lottery prices.
“Wanna try TKTS?” he suggested. We headed to Times Square to check out TKTS’ Discount Booths that offered as much as 50% off select shows of the day. Unfortunately, the prices were still above my budget.
I told Myron I wanted to skip shows that I’d already seen in the past, such as Phantom of the Opera and Wicked, so we walked around Broadway Ave. and came across Chicago in Ambassador Theatre. Neither of us had seen the live musical version and there was no long queue outside the venue, so it was a good choice.
“Do you still have general rush tickets?” I asked the ticket booth guy. It was 1 p.m., an hour and a half before the matinee show. He looked at me and I flashed my most innocent and charming smile. “I’ll give you the student rush tickets,” he said and handed me two Orchestra tickets for only $37 each. I thanked God for my mother’s youthful genes.
After the show (we gave it a standing ovation), I motioned for Myron to rush outside. “Hurry! I have to catch the cast at the stage door,” I said. The icy rain started pouring. As Myron and I waited for the rain subside, an older man went up to me and said, “Is this the stage door?”
“Yes,” I replied, “but I’m not sure if they will come out today.” Turns out he was a friend of a cast member. Brent Barrett, who plays Billy Flynn, soon stepped out to meet the man. I waited for the two to finish their conversation and took the opportunity to get my first Broadway autograph and photo of the year. Brent was the only Chicago cast member I caught that afternoon.
Monday. Most shows were marked “dark”—a theater term, which means that a show does not have any performance that day.
My cough was getting worse, but I was determined to make “mind over matter” work. I was at Renaissance Hotel in Times Square at 3:45 p.m. to meet my high school friend, May, for a quick coffee.
When I said quick, it meant that we were able to catch up on each other’s lives since we graduated from high school more than 10 years ago and eat a plate of desserts as I explained to May that I had to leave at exactly 4:10 to make it to Book of Mormon’s lottery draw.
4:15. I was running towards Eugene O’Neill Theater. A line of lottery hopefuls was gathered outside. I took a slip of paper from one of the officials, wrote my name and contact details, and dropped my raffle entry in the hat. I thought I had a good chance of winning since there were only a handful of people there that Tuesday afternoon.
At exactly 5 p.m., the girl in charge began calling out names of the winners—10 people who would be given 1-2 Orchestra tickets for only $32 each. I didn’t hear my name. Drat!
“You could still try the standing room,” the girl announced. I rushed to that ticket line. I counted about eight people ahead of me. If each of them bought the maximum allowable tickets, which is two, and there are only 20 standing room tickets available, then I still had a chance.
As soon as I reached the ticket booth, the man asked me, “How many tickets?”
“Just one,” I replied and paid him $27 for my standing room ticket. “How many do you have left?” He said there were only three left. I felt bad for the other people lined up behind me.
5:45. I ran to Hell’s Kitchen for a quick dinner with friends Pia and Ron. My immune system was getting worse, and I was starting to feel more feverish. I ordered a large Pad Thai in hopes of getting a surge of energy.
7:00 p.m. I was standing at an assigned spot at the back of Eugene O’Neill Theatre’s orchestra section. Mid-show, my legs were feeling tired and strained from standing for over an hour, but the hilarious musical antics and unapologetically vulgar script of Book of Mormon were certainly worth my physical suffering.
At stage door, I filled my playbill with the cast’s autographs, snapped a few selfies with the leads, and headed home smiling through my flu.
“How often does my idol Daniel Radcliffe come to New York City the same month I’m there?” I asked myself, justifying why I chose his play, The Cripple of Inishman, over more popular musicals such as Aladdin and Jersey Boys that day.
After traveling back and forth from SoHo for some errands, I was having a late lunch with another friend, Greco, at Bryant Park when I told him I had to cut our date short because I needed to catch the star of Harry Potter live—by hook or by crook.
1:30 p.m. I ran from Bryant Park to Cort Theatre and was catching my breath as I purchased a general rush ticket for $37. Starstruck, I watched Daniel Radcliffe portray the challenging and dramatic role of Billy, a frail crippled boy from a remote Irish island. He didn’t need to cast a spell to win the audience over.
I skipped the standing ovation and ran outside to be at the front line of stage door. My heart broke when the security announced, “Daniel Radcliffe will not be coming out this afternoon, but he will meet fans after the 8 p.m. show.”
I decided to wait for the rest of the cast, such as the charming Sarah Greene and Conor MacNeill, who played Billy’s friends, and the rambunctious duo, Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie, who played Billy’s aunts.
4:30 p.m. I ran to Belasco Theater to join the lottery of Hedwig and The Angry Itch. I did not want to miss Neil Patrick Harris’ hit musical for the world! As I slipped my raffle entry into the hat, I believed my chances of winning were pretty good, seeing that only a handful of people were there at the moment.
At 5 p.m., over a hundred people were at lottery, and 10 names—not mine—were called. I looked at the standing room line and admitted defeat when I counted over 30 people vying to get one of the 20 tickets available.
I ran to Longacre Theatre a few blocks away to catch Of Mice and Men. “Do you still have student rush tickets?” I asked the ticket booth guy. My charm didn’t seem to work. “I need to see a student ID,” he said firmly. “Uh, I left mine at the hotel, sorry! Is there any ticket I could buy?” He offered a limited-view balcony ticket for $35, originally priced at $64. I took it, and then later on realized that my ticket read, “student rush.”
6:30 p.m. I headed back to my hotel, conveniently located next door to Longacre. I had an early dinner with my roommate Myk, who called me crazy as I recounted the last four days of my Broadway adventure and my mission to meet one of my Hollywood idols, James Franco.
8 p.m. With a heavy dose of cough and cold medicines in my system, I groggily watched Anna D. Shapiro’s revival of John Steinback’s classic, Of Mice and Men. I skipped the curtain call and ran to stage door, but I wasn’t the only one with that brilliant idea. Dozens of fangirls aged 18-40 had already gathered outside, all determined to get that selfie with heartthrob James Franco.
Minutes later, bigwigs Chris O’Dawd, Leighton Meester, and the rest of the ensemble signed autographs and took photos with fans. But we all knew whom everyone was really waiting for.
The security guards began informing us of the proper way of taking a selfie with “Mr. Franco”—that we should turn our backs from him, position the camera towards us as Mr. Franco smiles from behind us and the safety railings. “Don’t ask him if he can do a selfie with you,” the bodyguard said. “Just turn your back and take it.” So this is the difference between greeting Broadway actors and A-List Hollywood stars!
Half an hour later, a tired-looking James Franco came out in sunglasses to greet a sea of screaming and adoring fans. As the people behind me shoved my feverish body against the security railings, I could not move my legs and torso, let alone take a decent selfie following the tips of Mr. Franco’s security. The mosh pit was in full force.
But I managed to fulfill my mission: Photo of Mr. Franco, check. His autograph, check. Collapse in my hotel room after four days of chasing Broadway, check. Fly back to Manila the next day in one piece, check.