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Battling Bots for Tickets to Bette Midler’s ‘Hello, Dolly!’

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Battling Bots for Tickets to Bette Midler’s ‘Hello, Dolly!’
BY PATRICK PACHECO | SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

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There will probably be at least ten new musicals unveiled on Broadway in the course of next season. But all anybody is talking about this Spring’s revival of “Hello, Dolly!,” starring Bette Midler.

Tickets for this highly anticipated show at the Shubert Theater, directed by Jerry Zaks and co-starring David Hyde Pierce, go on sale on Saturday, September 17, at 10 a.m. and you better believe that the “bots” will be ready. The automated software known as “ticket bots” is the bane of Broadway because the program can scoop up tens of thousands of tickets at lightning speed. Their operators then put them up for resale at astronomical prices on ticket platforms like StubHub. Just try getting a ticket to “Hamilton” on that site at close to face value.

There were already laws on the books that made the use of bots illegal but enforcement was lax and the profit upside was so high that scalpers dared to transgress and face the civil penalties if caught. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton” personally lobbied the New York State legislature to strengthen the law. Last June, the lawmakers made it a misdemeanor to engage in such practices, short of the felony charge that Miranda and others were urging.

Making ticket transaction more transparent will continue to be a major push by attorneys general and producers not just on Broadway but also on the West End. In fact, the London producers of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” stung by the stratospheric prices on the resale market for their smash hit, have begun to put the burden on the ticket buyers themselves. On a spot-checking basis, some theater goers have been turned away if they cannot prove that their purchases were made from an official and legal entity.

In the case of “Hello, Dolly!” , the situation is exacerbated because Midler’s engagement in the show will be a limited one, beginning performances on March 15th, 2017 and opening officially on April 20. No end date has been announced. But the last time Midler appeared on Broadway—in the non-musical play “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers”—she was a sell-out in a total of only 89 performances. “Hello, Dolly!” with a much higher price tag will necessitate a longer run. How long is anyone’s guess. It’s a marathon role and Bette will be 71 when she comes down the steps of Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. So it’s best to be poised to book as early as possible and to be prepared to battle the bots and scalpers—at least for now.

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