Monday, March 7, 2016

Paying for the Fiddler

This morning, as I was perusing the New York Times online, I stumbled upon a mention of the current Broadway revival of the musical "Fiddler on the Roof". The mention was in the headline of an article about the lifestyle of one of the show's performers. As I checked to see if I was interested in the article, I noticed a link to the show's review, from which I surmised that the revival started its run a few months ago. That review contained a link to the original production's review from 1964, which I also read.

from the 1964 review
I must mention that I subscribe to the New York Times online. Personally, I still I prefer the old fashioned experience of holding a newspaper, folding and turning the pages (and the sound that made), and getting my fingers smudged with rubbed off ink. I liked seeing the ads for products in which I had no interest; graphic concoctions of art and commerce that helped pay the paper's operating expenses. I liked seeing articles that piqued my curiosity, I liked reading opinions that differed from my own. I do not wish to be party to the slow and painful death of newspapers and objective reporting, but the fact of the matter is that the Times is unaffordable for me to purchase on a daily basis. My online fee, acquired during a special promotion, runs $15.00 a month and includes the paper's historical files. I would not be able to afford one month of the paper's Sunday edition for that price. These promotional deals are often set for a number of months, and bear constant watching, as the monthly fee is deducted automatically from my bank account. When the deal expires, one will find one's account charged at a much higher rate without warning. A month isn't really a month - the date on which my subscription fee is deducted from my bank account is a moving target, forever edging forward. At the beginning of this past autumn, the deduction was made during the third week of the month. It is now made within the first few days of the month. This maneuver, of course, is not unique to the Times. My cable/phone/internet bill does the same thing. As that one is a much larger amount, I can't let it be set to automatically deduct lest I be caught short. But the date for that bill still changes, a month is not a month, and the 'due by' date seems to move forward as well. But I digress. 

When I lived in New York City, or within a hour or two of it, I greatly enjoyed going to shows. Reading the original review of 'Fiddler', I started to wonder how much it cost back in 1964 when it debuted. As the review was in a .pdf scan of the paper, I went to the next page to check the theatre listings for the price. In 1964, an orchestra seat for that brand new musical cost $9.40 on a Friday or Saturday night when prices were highest.

As cost is relative, I looked up the minimum wage in 1964. The Federally set minimum in those days was $1.25 an hour. Which means, that forgetting taxes, deductions, and etc. someone earning the minimum wage would have to work for 8 hours to afford one ticket.

The top price for an orchestra seat for the current revival, which is far less than the price of a new show, is $167.00 for a Friday or Saturday night. Someone working at the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would have to work over 23 hours to afford one ticket.

The Broadway Theatre, one of the few theatres whose entrance is actually on Broadway. It was built as a movie palace with a stage. Mickey Mouse made his debut here before it switched to live shows. It returned to movies for the premiere of Disney's 'Fantasia', and once again for the premiere of Cinerama. When I was seeing shows there, the exterior looked quite different. (The first show I saw there was 'Cabaret', back in 1968.) The current façade and marquee are from work done when the neighboring skyscraper was built a few years ago.

My curiosity got the better of me, and I looked to see how much an average orchestra seat for the current hot ticket, the hip-hop infused musical 'Hamilton' would cost. Finding ticket prices is somewhat difficult if one isn't ordering, and for 'Hamilton', tickets are hard to get. I found someone who complained in a letter written last June that the mid-orchestra seats they had just acquired for that November cost $327.00 each. I decided to check the show's website, which claimed that a few seats were indeed available. The cost for next Friday night was well over $1,000.00. I think it was close to $1,200 something, but my eyes and mind boggled. I had to look away.

No comments: