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Wharton Center for the Performing Arts

April 21, 2022

  • 750 E. Shaw Lane
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • (517) 432-2000
  • Website

It was finally time to cash in L’s Christmas present.  

L became obsessed with the musical Hamilton a few years ago.  J and I had went to see it at the PrivateBank Theatre in Chicago then listened to the soundtrack quite often in the car on road trips after that.  L’s becoming somewhat of a history buff as she gets older and has went all in on the life of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.  

We took her to see Hamilton for the first time a couple of years ago when it was at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids.  Our seats weren’t very good.  I had actually gotten tickets in the very last row of the balcony thinking we were going to bring B and I would need an escape route if he couldn’t sit through it.  

The seats didn’t matter.  L loved it.  She bought a dress and wore it around the house proclaiming she was Elizabeth Schuyler while she sang the soundtrack all day long.

The obsession has tapered off a bit but she still really likes the show and when we found out it was going back on tour after the pandemic subsided a little bit, she asked if we could go.  

J and I like it enough we didn’t mind seeing it a third time.  I was going to buy cheap tickets again but J’s mom stepped in.  When J was young, her uncle would always buy theater tickets for her and they were always the expensive seats up front.  Nana wanted to give L that experience.  

We chose to go to the show in East Lansing at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.  The East Lansing run of the show was later in the spring than the second run in Grand Rapids so we were hoping that if the pandemic was still raging in the winter, it would subdue a little bit by April.  

The Wharton Center for Performing Arts is on the campus on Michigan State University.  The theater is technically on Shaw Lane at Bogue Street but the parking ramp entrance is actually on Wilson Road on the back side of the building.  We skipped the parking ramp all together (which was charging $10) and parked just down the street at Fee Hall.  Because it was a weekend, there were no parking restrictions and we it was just a short walk past the IM Fields to the theater.  

The entrance to the theater is on the Shaw Lane side of the building. There’s a large glass facade and a little courtyard leading in. Stupid me, I assumed they weren’t doing security screening for some reason and forgot to take a Leatherman out of my pocket. I handed J two tickets for her and L then ran back to the car.

I got through security screening then just kind of followed everyone to the right in to the Cobb Great Hall. They weren’t scanning tickets at this point so I kept walking trying to figure out where my seat was.

Our seats were in Orchestra Right so I had to walk all the way through the lobby area to get to the other side. The thing that stood out to me right about the Wharton Center was just how plain it was. There’s really no design the lobby area. It’s just a large hallway to get you to the door you need to go to.

I passed a concession stand on my way to my seat. Theater concessions are always so sad. I get not wanting to have all that garbage in the theater to clean up afterwards though. J and L did go and grabbed a couple of boxed waters and some kind of candy in a small tin but I just passed. We had a pretty big lunch at Crunchy’s before heading to the show so I was fine.

I got to the Orchestra Right door and that’s where tickets were being scanned. In order to get people to the right place, they scan tickets right before entering the seating area instead of back at the entrance to the building.

We had good seats. I never would have paid the price for the seats but J’s mom was pretty insistent we get the best seats possible no matter the price.

The theater is pretty large and like the rest of the building, really has no discernable features. It’s a theater. It’s a nice theater. It’s clean, it’s comfortable, and the sightlines are all really good. Like a lot of modern theaters, it’s not something people are going to look at in hundred years and go “WOW” like we do with, say, the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Our seats were sixth row just to the right of center. I have never sat this close at a theater performance before.

We loved Hamilton the previous two times we saw the show but this was a completely different experience. J’s uncle always got her good seats because he said you really do get more from a show when you can see the actor’s faces. It’s true. You can see the emotion and we were even able to see King George making Aaron Burr break character at one point. It wasn’t germane to the story but it’s one of those fun little things you can’t see from the back row.

We really enjoyed seeing Hamilton at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts. Our seats probably had a lot do with that but the venue really is easy to get to and easy to move around. There is a lot of space and watching the show, even for a bigger guy like me, is comfortable with wide seats and a lot of leg room. We typically see shows at Miller Auditorium because it’s right down the street but Wharton Center will be in consideration in the future for bigger shows.

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