Consequences of an Auction Bid: An Evening with Dinner and “Hamilton”

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Last night, I had the opportunity of savoring the fruits of my bid at the auction at Elmwood’s 70th Anniversary Gala. In case you weren’t at the Gala (and, if not, why not??!), the main item up for auction was two tickets for Hamilton preceded by dinner in Manhattan. PJ Mouquin and I got into a bidding war, with my bid of $5,000 being topped by PJ’s $5,500 winning bid. At that point, Ed Van Saders, who had generously donated the auction prize, revealed that he had a third ticket to Hamilton, which the auctioneer allowed me to bid for – and I bid half of PJ’s bid – $2,750 – meaning that Elmwood got $8,250 total for this one auction item.

The tickets to Hamilton were last night, August 12th, and Ed, his partner, Paul, PJ, and I left Rockland County, in Ed’s luxurious car, at 4:30 – with the satellite radio playing Broadway songs very softly under our vibrant conversation. We hit little traffic and arrived at DelFrisco’s Restaurant on 49th and 6th for our steak dinner. There we met Charlotte, PJ’s daughter, who was the beneficiary of the second ticket that PJ had won. It had been Charlotte’s birthday this week – and this evening was one of the celebrations of that event.

The dinner was wonderful – cocktails, a lovely bottle of Malbec, appetizers or salad – with a lovely shared appetizer of “Thick Cut Bacon Au Poivre” which we split between the five of us and was so rich that it practically melted in your mouth. For the main course, I had an aged steak, which our waiter described as having the scent of hazelnuts as it travelled through the restaurant. The aroma may have been exaggerated, since I was unaware of it, but the steak was delicious. Unfortunately, we had no time for dessert, and we all walked through the crowds of midtown to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 46th Street. There had been predictions of rain, but, fortunately, those warnings were unfounded – and it was not too hot as we walked in the sunset light to the theater.

The five tickets were split between three tickets in the Orchestra – 5th row on the left – and two tickets in the third row of the Rear Mezzanine. Since PJ had made the larger bid, she, Charlotte, and Paul sat in the Orchestra seats, while Ed and I sat in the Rear Mezzanine. But the seats were still excellent – with an unimpeded view of the full stage and no diminishment of the experience.

Now I’ve only listened to the CD of Hamilton about 185 times, and I know almost all the lyrics and the music intimately. But seeing the show was still a thrilling experience that offered enrichment and surprises to that with which I was already familiar. What amazed me most was the precision with the principals and the ensemble all performed – desks, chairs, and other set pieces moved on stage by ensemble members so seamlessly that you barely were aware of its happening. In one particular instance, I was watching as a desk and chair for Hamilton was moved on stage, quickly and efficiently as part of the choreography, and then Jefferson and Madison sat down in chairs that I had not even seen coming on stage. They just appeared as by magic, and that was not, by far, the only instance of the way that the action flowed.

I will not talk about the plot or the music – you can listen to them yourselves on the recording – but the visual aspects of the show were phenomenal, and the lighting design was genius. Some of the harmonies, as well, are not done justice on the recording – and must be experienced live to fully appreciate them. The show sped by and the audience caught up in the story – it was scarcely conceivable that two-and-a-half hours had transpired. As Ben Brantley of the New York Times said in his review, “I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show. But ‘Hamilton’ . . . might just about be worth it.”

Ed and Paul deserve hearty praise for having donated the tickets and having paid for the expensive dinner – all for Elmwood’s benefit. And I hope that this auction prize will be followed by many more at future galas to raise money for the theater we all love. Was it worth $2,750? Considering that the money went to Elmwood, you betcha!!

Derek Tarson

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