The advance ticket sales already total a record $34 million, but that didn't stop a long line from forming Feb. 4 at the Broadway Theater when the box office opened for the musical "Miss Saigon."
About 120 people were waiting when the theater's three box office windows opened at 8 a.m., two hours earlier than usual, and producer Cameron Mackintosh planned to keep the box office open until midnight.Orchestra seats already are sold out for Friday and Saturday nights through the end of the year.
First in line were Darren Stein, of Beverly Hills, Calif., and Peter Hack of Montclair, N.J., two students at New York University. They had arrived at 5 a.m. to purchase tickets to the hit British musical for themselves and friends.
"It's an incredible show. I saw it in London," said Stein, a film major at NYU.
By 5 p.m. the Broadway Theater box office had taken in $461,230, and there were still seven hours left for sales, said Fred Nathan, a spokesman for the musical. In comparison, "Les Miserables" took in $447,275 the first day its tickets went on sale at the Broadway Theater, said Nathan, while "The Phantom of the Opera" took in a record $920,271 when its box office opened.
But individual "Miss Saigon" tickets have been on sale through phone and mail orders since May 20, 1990, 24 weeks longer than "Phantom" had been on sale when its box office first opened, Nathan said.
"Miss Saigon," the most expensive show in Broadway history, also will have the most expensive tickets - $100 for the 250 best seats in the front mezzanine - when it begins preview performances March 25. The musical opens officially April 11.
The orchestra ticket price of $60 matches the current top price for musicals like "The Phantom of the Opera" and "City of Angels." Other tickets will range as low as $15, but those will be available only for students, and not on weekends.
The decision to charge $100 for certain seats was "completely mathematics," the producer said. "The economics of `Miss Saigon' are very high."
In London, "Miss Saigon" plays at a 2,250-seat theater, while the Broadway Theater in New York has 1,765 seats. And the show cost $6 million to produce in London but will cost $10 million in New York.
The musical, a variation on "Madama Butterfly," is set during the Vietnam War and focuses on the fall of Saigon in 1975. It concerns the romance between an American Marine and a Vietnamese bar girl.
The show, which has a cast of 48, was written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, the team responsible for another of Mackintosh's big successes, "Les Miserables."
The show's road to New York has been stormy. Mackintosh battled Actors' Equity last summer when the union barred British actor Jonathan Pryce from playing a Eurasian in the New York production. Equity said such casting would be an insult to Asian actors.
The producer canceled the musical but changed his mind when the union relented. He also fought Equity over the casting of Lea Salonga, a Filipino actress, in the title role. Mackintosh won that battle, too, when the dispute went to arbitration.
Salonga, who was in the original London production, will share the role with Kam Cheng, a 21-year-old student at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.
A top Broadway ticket of $100 isn't new. In 1981, and again in 1985 when it was revived, "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" had a $100 ticket. But "Nickleby" was an eight-hour play, seen either in one all-day session or spread over two days.