Smith: Why this 9-year-old 'Hamilton' aficionado didn't keep her free ticket to the musical

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Don’t be jealous, but for Mother’s Day we saw “Hamilton” at the Orpheum Theatre. What a workout.

All that crying, laughing, clapping, cheering, dancing in place, mourning, marveling.

I could go on with my “Hamilton” story but I’ll tell you straight up: Gabe Meline has a better one.

The Santa Rosa native son, KQED arts editor and former editor of The Bohemian tells on Twitter of being in San Francisco with his daughter, Lena, who’s 9 and an authority on “Hamilton.”

The two of them went to the Orpheum about a half hour before the start of an evening performance, not to see the play — again — but “just to see the crowd.”

LENA FOUND a sheet of paper and wrote a handbill inviting passersby to play her currently favorite game, one she often plays with her dad. Someone, anyone recites a line from “Hamilton” and Lena tries to recall and sing the line that follows it.

For the fun of it, Lena wrote also, “If you have extra tickets, let us know.”

Several patrons paused to play stump the kid. Lena listened to a line from the musical and adroitly, impeccably sang the line that follows.

FIVE MINUTES BEFORE showtime, a couple stepped up. The fellow read Lena’s sign. Then he asked if she could finish the opening line: “How does a ...”

Lena rattled off the rest of the line. The man asked, “Are you seeing the show tonight?”

When Lena and her father shook their heads, the fellow pulled out a ticket. It was for a seat on Row H and cost $425.

He offered it to Lena. The fellow and the woman with him assured Meline they would take care of her and return her safely after the show.

Though touched and grateful, Lena said she didn’t want to go in without her father.

So the strangers told her, take the ticket and before the show starts in just minutes, find someone to give it to — someone worthy.

Meline tweeted, “We’re still reeling from how crazy this all is when we find a twentysomething woman near the box office on the sidewalk.”


Approached by the Santa Rosans, she shared that she’d bought a ticket earlier that day on a scalper website, and when it was scanned at the Orpheum door it proved to be invalid.

The woman asked Lena and her dad if they had a ticket to sell. Lena held out the ticket she’d received barely minutes earlier.

“This is for you!” the girl said.

The young woman gazed at the Row H ticket in pure disbelief, then reached for her purse.

LENA TOLD HER, “No, no, this guy just gave it to us. It’s free! Take it!”

Suddenly the woman blubbered harder than ever. She clutched the ticket and headed for her primo seat, calling back “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

As “Hamilton” was beginning inside the Orpheum, Lena and her dad walked back to their car feeling as amazed, recharged and joyous as if they’d just seen the play.

Should you have the good fortune to meet Lena, you might say to her, “I’m about to change your life.”

And she’ll sing, “Then by all means, lead the way.”

You can contact Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and

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