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Broadway in LA!

As a kid who loved performing in musical theater shows, I was always very excited when I got the chance to go see a Broadway musical in New York City. I enjoyed visiting the beautiful Broadway theaters, that were always much more impressive inside than out, and watching the talented singer/dancer/actors. There is only one place in Los Angeles that I've found that brings those wonderful Broadway theater memories flooding back: the Pantages Theatre.

Exterior of the Pantages Theatre
Over the years, I've seen a bunch of musicals at the Pantages, including Wicked, The Lion King, The Producers, Shrek The Musical, and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, and always had a wonderful experience.

On a recent trip to New York, my family treated me to tickets to Billy Elliot the Musical at Broadway's Imperial Theatre. I liked the show so much that, when I heard that Billy Elliot was playing at the Pantages, I decided to see it again.

A friend and I headed to the Pantages Theatre without tickets in hand to try for day-of-show tickets. For some engagements, the theater box office offers same day tickets at deeply discounted prices. For this engagement of Billy Elliot, there was a ticket lottery. I'd found out about the lottery on the theater's Facebook page.

Anyone who arrived at least two hours and one minute before each performance could slip their name into a rotating drum. Then, two hours before showtime, names were drawn one by one, and these winners were allowed to buy up to two tickets, at only $25 for each ticket, cash only, if they presented a photo ID.

Getting there

To get to the Pantages, I took the Metro Red Line subway to the Hollywood/Vine station, across the street from the theater. The interior of the Hollywood/Vine station is one of the coolest subway station interiors I've ever seen. The tunnels are lined with old film reels, and artwork on the walls and yellow tiles on the floor give a nod to The Wizard of Oz. The Metro Red Line fare is $1.50 each way and some of the stations (like the one in North Hollywood) offer free parking.

Interior of the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Vine station
For people who drove to the theater, there were two parking lots at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue that were charging $10 per car (the price is sometimes higher).

The day of show ticket lottery

About fifteen potential theater-goers assembled for that Sunday matinee's Day of Show Lottery. We each put our name into the lottery drum. A few minutes later, my friend's name was drawn. Eventually, most, if not all, of the names were selected that morning, although this is not always the case according to the Pantages employee who I spoke to, especially for the Friday and Saturday evening shows.

We lined up at the designated ticket window with the other winners and were offered two tickets for orchestra seats in the left center section in row VV (note: Orchestra rows at the Pantages are lettered A through Z followed by NN through ZZ). All of the other winners that I spoke to were also offered orchestra seats in row VV. According to the employee who sold us the tickets, the location of the lottery seats varies from performance to performance. Our seats were good, and, at $25 each, they were a true bargain (for this show, these seats would normally cost $95 each).

The neighborhood

We pocketed our tickets and explored the neighborhood around the Pantages Theatre, which ranges in appearance from not-so-nice to sparkling-new. Many of the sidewalks feature the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame stars.

We had lunch at Jersey Mike's Subs, about two blocks south of the Pantages at 1517 Vine Street. Our subs were delicious, with thinly sliced meat, fresh rolls, and seasonings. The people working there were delightful as well.

Inside the Pantages Theatre

Fully satisfied, we headed back to the Pantages and joined the throngs of people entering the theater. As always, a smile crept onto my face as I entered the expansive, ornate lobby.
Looking down on the Pantages Lobby at intermission (left) and a close-up of a lobby chandelier (right)
At the auditorium doors, ushers gave us directions to our seats, and quickly offered extra assistance to those who needed it. The theater auditorium is impressive, but I only know that from prior visits. Our row VV seats were under the mezzanine.

Soon, the show began, and it was spectacular; in fact it was every bit as spectacular as the version of Billy Elliot I'd seen a few months earlier on Broadway. The boy who played Billy at the Pantages' show, J.P. Viernes, (there were four boys who alternate the role, just like on Broadway) was exceptionally talented! I enjoyed his performance just as much as that of the two boys I'd seen in the role of Billy on Broadway (During the Broadway performance that I attended, the boy playing Billy became ill and the "standby Billy" (one of the other three Billys) took his place for the second act).

Other standouts at the Pantages performance were Leah Hocking in the role of the ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, whose bond with Billy was touching, and Rich Hebert, who gave a multi-dimensional performance, at times gruff and at other times tender, as Billy's dad. The sets, costumes, and choreography almost always matched what I remember from the Broadway production.

My only disappointment was that the show had to come to an end and that we had to leave the Pantages, but, of course, I'll be back.

I visited the Pantages most recently in 2016 in Hollywood, California, USA.

Jen (California, USA)