Meeting Julia Roberts And John Lloyd Young Up Close (OR How To Watch Broadway Shows The Smarter Way)
SO I WAS IN NEW YORK with a friend in June 2006. We got tickets to see the Mel Brooks hit musical “The Producers”. We arrived in NYC pretty early on Saturday after a three and a half hour car ride from Boston. We figured we’d check out other theaters and see if we can get good enough rates to watch more shows. Summer has officially started and NY has more visitors those days than any other season. Tickets were hard to come by unless you’re willing to pay premier seats that could go as high as $400.00 per person for a show (or scalped tickets at even ridiculously higher price for good shows). Since the shows we were interested in were all blocks away from each other, we decided to split and just call if there are seats left on the theaters we were at.
First stop for me was “Three Days of Rain,” which was only playing until Sunday, June 18. As expected tickets we’re sold out (except for premier seats!!). But I kept pressing for cheaper seats, until the ticket guy said- “here’s the deal, we’re selling ‘Standing Only’ tickets two hours before the show on a first come first serve basis. If you want it, you have to be in line way before two hours.” Those words sounded music to my ears and I was excited. “How much?” I asked. I was calculating, if orchestra tickets were at $112.00. Standing tickets must cost half of that! Shoot, $60 bucks! But what the hey, I’d take my chance. I wanted to see Julia Roberts in the flesh! And then the guy answered, “$26.25!”
Holy Molly!! For a fraction of the seated seat, I get to watch the show! You bet I’ll wait in line!! I don’t care if it was standing or lying down on the floor! I called my friend. It was 10am. I waited in line until they open the sale at noon time for the matinée. And so after 2 hours of waiting I got our tickets to watch Julia Roberts! That’s only the icing on the cake as I later find out. We had lunch and then it was time to see the play.
To my surprise, most theaters do ‘Standing Only’ tickets and we’ve never heard of it. All the time we’ve been going to New York to watch a show! They don’t advertise it of course and tickets we’re very limited to only about 20 people or less! Our tickets were numbered so each ticket had a specific area where you stand, it’s not the “you’re on your own because you’re standing type of ticket.” It was well organized.
The usher was very friendly with us when we were in our place at the back. More than friendly that I was going to tape her mouth to keep her from talking! She kept telling me what “Three Days of Rain” was all about! In my mind, I was like “look lady, I’ve read all the reviews and I know the boring story by heart by now. I’m only here to see Julia Roberts!” I just sweetly smiled and asked, “does Julia sign autographs after the show?”
Oh boy, was I glad I kept my temper with her- otherwise, I would have never known! She said “yes, Julia is very kind and accommodating, just today she came out to talk with us and have our pictures taken with her and blah, blah…” (“Lady. Tell me what to do!!”) Finally after a long talk, she tells me what I wanted to hear.I stood there for the whole first act. A 15-minute Intermission came. That same usher came to us and directed us to 2 empty seats at the near center!! She says, “these seats are available, you can seat here for the remaining act.” That lady was surely an angel! It pays to be nice sometimes! We endured the next hour pinching ourselves from sleeping (there were parts in the play that even the three characters looked like they were falling asleep themselves!) As soon as the curtain fell, I was dashing out of the theater to head for the backstage door for autographs!!
Outside, there was a barricade near the street and a few people, I showed my ticket and I was in! Security was very tight. It was a rather long wait but nobody seemed to mind! This was the cake! I would have never known where to go for autographs had we been sitting. I would have never talked to the usher at all and by the time we got out of the filled theater, Julia would have left or the guards wouldn’t have let me in!
Meanwhile, Julia’s bodyguards were making sure everyone were behaved. Only the ones inside the barricade were allowed to hang around the area. They were practically shoving and driving bystanders away. The guy made some funny ground rules like, “Julia has her own pen, do not give her a pen. Don’t ask Julia to smile for you- she’s tired, Don’t ask her any questions- she won’t answer. Don’t ask her to pose for you, she doesn’t have time. Take as much pictures as you want but don’t push, if this barricade even moves, Julia is out of here!”
So when Julia came out, the whole crowd just went silent. I’m not sure if it was because of what the bodyguard said. I think it was more of a shock, mouth agape in a state of amazement that THE Julia Roberts is in fact in our midst! I was star-struck!! To quote Hugh Grant in Notting Hill, “it was surreal but nice!” She looked almost ‘mortal’ in gray shirt and striped gray pants and flipflops! She signed about 5 playbill (the play’s souvenir program) on my side and she was gone! Just like that, she stayed about a minute on each side to sign autographs! And not even her own signature!!
Apparently, she never signs her own name in autographs, she just scribbles- so we all got different scribbles of Julia but we were happy!! Damn, this stupid phone cameras!! I was fumbling with it and panicking that I won’t get good shots of her. See my friend had to get our digital cameras because we were asked to deposit them before the show. By the time he got it, Julia was gone!! We were only able to get Paul Rudd’s pics in good quality. Bradley Cooper didn’t even show up!!! Paul Rudd actually stopped and smiled for me in my phone camera! He was so nice, stayed and signed (in his own name!) and chatted with the group.
Satisfied with our first day, my friend and I took an early start Sunday morning to conquer the unconquerable, the most popular show in broadway in 2006- The Jersey Boys! We went to the theater 3 times on Saturday to see if there were available seats for the Sunday show or if somebody cancelled out. The line was always long and the same answer, “we’re sold out, try tomorrow!” So we did. Crazy as we were, we went to check the theater at 9am! Wow, three people were already in the seemingly abandoned street- sitting by the theater. It is going to be a looong day for us. We talked ourselves in for a quick breakfast near the theater. At 9:30 I asked my friend to go and fall in line while I finished breakfast. I didn’t want to take any chances, slow eater as I am, that by the time I finish- ten people are already in line! We were 7th and 8th in the line!
As the time progressed, more and more people were showing up! Around 11am, the ticket guy separated the “Student Rush” and “Standing Only” group. The ticket center was about to open. They accommodated 12 students, no more and seven, SEVEN “standing only” tickets!! We were 2 and 3. We bought our tickets at 1pm!!
It was fun, insane and ludicrous waiting for four hours!! But we got in! We had a fabulous time standing! And did the same thing head for the door as soon as it was over and got myself an autograph and a picture of the BIGGEST MAN IN BROADWAY in 2006! If you’re a theatre buff like I’m becoming to be, be smart- go for the standing only or student rush tickets. You can stretch your one orchestra ticket easy to watching 3 broadway shows in the end! I can’t wait for my next Broadway experience and you bet, I’ll be waiting in line!©