As It Happens

As Hamilton hits Canada, usher shares tips to handle the queue at the box office — and bathroom

Hamilton musical fans will stand in the rain for tickets, wait out snow storms and sit through a queue of thousands of people. Tanya Heath knows the extreme lengths fans will go to — because she's gone to them herself.

Philadelphia usher Tanya Heath made headlines for her skills managing sold-out crowds of the American musical

Tanya Heath is the head usher at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia. (Christina Nieves)
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Tanya Heath knows the extreme lengths people will go to for a chance to see Hamilton: An American Musical.

Heath is the head usher at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia. Because of her job, she has witnessed the show's rabid fandom firsthand. But she's also a diehard fan herself.

"It's been a fun ride," Heath told As It Happens host Carol Off. "I love everything about Hamilton."

North of the border, fans appear to be just as passionate. 

On Monday, tickets went on sale for the musical's Canadian debut in Toronto. The online queue hit 30,000 at one point and the show is expected to draw similar numbers as it visits other cities across the country in the coming year. 

Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda performs a tune from the musical at the 70th Annual Tony Awards in 2016. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Heath's advice to Canadians looking to score a ticket? Don't give up. 

"The key with Hamilton, both for the show and in the show, is persistence. You have to be patient and good things will apparently reveal themselves in mysterious ways," Heath said. "I'm so excited for you."

Back when the show first opened on Broadway in 2015, Heath was so keen to see it that she frequently waited in the cancellations line. On one occasion, she camped out on the sidewalk during a snow storm for 14 hours only to find out she had maxed out her credit card.

"I spent 14 hours in the snow, got my opportunity, and had to give it to the person behind me," Heath said. "It was interesting."

Heath's determination may not have paid off. But it was noticed on Twitter by Javier Munoz — the understudy of the musical's co-creator and orginal star, Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

"He found out that I spent all this time in January in that line and I was just telling him about it loosey-goosey," Heath said.

After hearing about Heath's ordeal, Munoz gifted her some tickets. Finally seeing the musical for the first time only inspired Heath more. She went on to audition to be in the show three times. She remembers lining up for blocks with other hopefuls on a rainy day in New York.

"If you can imagine like American Idol, where people are flooding to audition. I was No. 841," she said. 

Nowadays, Heath is still making Hamilton-related headlines.

Her latest brush with the cast came after Miranda gave her a shout-out after reading about her in a Philadelphia Inquirer article. The piece praised Heath for managing sold-out crowds at intermission, in particular the chaotic bathroom queue.

"It was a duty — ha! — I placed upon myself," Heath quipped. "I'm just like, 'Alright, ladies, we have to figure this out. You have to trust me. Trust your sisters to get you in and out. We cannot waste time. We have to go.'"

Heath in action somehow managing the chaotic bathroom queue during an intermission at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia. (Christina Nieves)

So far, Heath's "horseshoe" system to guide 200 patrons into 16 stalls in 20 minutes is near perfect.

"The time to beat, I guess, is 45 seconds into Act 2," Heath said.

"Sometimes the last stragglers are so frazzled I'll walk them personally back to their seats. I literally make sure everyone is out of the bathroom. I mean it. Like, you're not missing the show. I got you."

Heath has now seen the musical more times than she can count. But as a writer, she says the power of the words and music seem just as fresh each time.

"It's just the appeal of American history. It's a different scope on it," Heath said. "It's all these things that no one essentially cared about with the founding of American, until Lin-Manuel Miranda threw music onto it."


Written by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin and John McGill. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin.

 

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