The mystery of the missing Chita

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Our regular reader will know that the West End Whingers are very interested in real (i.e. nearly dead) stars of stage and screen and will go a very long way indeed to see one in the flesh before it croaks.

In recent years they have managed to tick some quite impressive people off what is an alarmingly diminishing list without going too out of their way – Elaine Stritch in her one-woman show at the Old Vic, of course, Eartha Kitt (rather incongruously at the Shaw Theatre) and – somewhat bizarrely – Celeste Holm warbling the words she could remember, bless her, at the Pizza Express at Hyde Park Corner.

So the news that Broadway legend Chita Rivera was coming to the west end in a one-woman (presumably plus pianist and perhaps dancers) show caused a flurry of excitement in the Whingers’ respective households. The woman is in her eighth decade for heavens’ sake.

Anyway, it has all been a bit of a curious affair.

It was originally announced that the show would be called Up Close but presumably somebody took a look at Chita up close and suggested that the title Chita Sings might be kinder.

Whatever. Great excitement! For two weeks only at the Wyndham’s Theatre from 10 to 23 September 2007! And one of the producers was called Turnipseed! Could it get any better? Front row seats would have to be secured at any price.

A like-minded friend had tipped the Whingers off that tickets were going on sale on Wednesday 8th Augus,and that people were already turning up at the box office and being put on some kind of list. This sounded so wonderfully cloak and dagger that the Whingers were determined to get on it come hell or high water. Of course, it might have been more of a McCarthyist list…

“I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Department for Culture Media and Sport as being fans of musical theatre and who nevertheless are still blogging about legitimate theatre.”

… but we were willing to take the risk.

Come the 8th of August Andrew was up before midday for once in order to telephone Phil and instruct him to get himself over to the Wyndham’s box office post haste to be first in line for what would surely be a stampede (Note to selves: is it ‘a stampede of bachelors’? Doesn’t sound right).

And so it was that Phil trotted up to the box office window in his fur-lined cape (but wisely without dagger) to purchase tickets for the Cheeta’s show – whatever name it was now trading under.

The conversation – bearing in mind Phil’s memory is not what it was – went something like this:

Phil: Can you tell me how much the tickets are for Chita Rivera?
BO: Tickets aren’t on sale yet.
Phil: But a friend turned up here the other day and was told they go on sale today.
BO: They do, but later today.
Phil: When?
BO: We don’t know.
Phil: Do you know how much they will be and if there will be reductions for groups?
BO: We don’t have any information yet. We can put you on a list and call you later.
Phil: I don’t want to pay the iniquitous booking fee.
BO: We won’t charge you a fee.
Phil: Why don’t you know how much they will be? There are websites with the prices on.
BO: They may be incorrect; the prices haven’t been confirmed yet.
Phil: (signing the list, 95% of which consisted of the names of gentlemen) And people wonder why the west end is in crisis.
BO: We’re much nicer to the people who come into the box office rather than those who phone.
Phil: Can I quote you on that?
BO: No.
Phil: Sorry too late.

Now to be fair (??? Look this word up. Not sure what it means) this wasn’t really a case of Box Office Poison like Spamalot or The Sound of Music. It wasn’t the fault of the gals in the box office that they hadn’t been given the information. Indeed, considering Phil’s assertiveness they were perfectly delightful, even more so after Phil squeezed out a bit of what he likes to think of of as his charm on them. But it did all seem a bit shambolic.

Phil trotted off to phone a number they gave him for group sales, only to find out they didn’t know if there would be reductions for groups. Though they did call back later to tell him there won’t be.

And so it was that Phil spent the next five days sitting patiently beside his telephone waiting for it to ring (nothing new there).

Finally, yesterday, the box office did call him to let him know that the whole thing was off. Chita wasn’t coming. Forget it. Nothing to see here. Move along. And sadly that’s the end of the story.

So you will have to content yourselves with this instead. And maybe decide that it was all for the best.

Footnote: Chita’s mystery disappearance leaves the Wyndham’s scratching around to fill an even larger gap waiting for The History Boys to rise from its own ashes and take up residence again in December. Having had its run cut short earlier in the year it seems strange that producers seem to think there’s life in the old boys yet. Jenny Seagrove’s stint at The Wyndham’s has finished, but then The Letter was distinctly second class and presumably finished off by the postal strike.

7 Responses to “The mystery of the missing Chita”

  1. Graham Says:

    At least Mickey Rooney is still doing his tour later this year – and he’s in his ninth decade.


  2. Whingers,

    I’ve had the enormous pleasure of seeing the remarkable Chita Rivera several times over just the past few years and can attest to her breathtaking vitality.

    She stopped the show in “Nine” — not because she needed a doctor, but because she blew the audience away.

    She sparkled when I caught her cabaret act a couple years ago at the intimate Feinstein’s at the Regency in New York and captured my heart.

    Then she brought “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life,” along with many of her greatest Broadway hits back to life on the Great White Way. While she deserved a better vehicle, she once again proved what a driving force she can be.

    Now, I’m anxiously awaiting the ticket sale for her turn in Kander & Ebb’s “The Visit” May 13 – June 22, 2008 in DC. You can bet I’ll be reporting on that again soon.

    Don’t you dare miss her. She is as good as it gets, especially in your quest to connect with theatre history.


  3. @ Graham: Phil has already notched up Mickey Rooney and anyway there is plenty of time for him to cancel.

    @ Steve on Broadway: We aren’t missing her – she’s missing us. Do keep up. By the way, when you say “She is as good as it gets” do you really mean that? Better than Stritchy?

    Talking of which, came across this Noel Coward quote from At Liberty again: “Take heart, Stritchy! Any leading lady who doesn’t do a double take when a nine-foot bear asks her to dance is my kind of actress!”

    Does Chita get better than that?

  4. Tim Says:

    Speaking of being historic, Wyndham’s Theatre is bringing in a revival of the play “Shadowlands” this autumn, to fill in the gap before “The History Boys” returns.

    The latter is an attempt to re-write history by conflating the experience of a Northern grammar-school boy in the early Fifties with a play supposedly set thirty years later.

    We can all drop a decade, but three decades is pushing it.

  5. daveonthego Says:

    I believe it’s a pod of batchelors or a batchelor pod!


  6. I loved Stritchy, which rhymes with… But Chit-ahhhh! She’s bliss, class and talent. Plus, given her near-death, near-crippling accident, it’s all the more impressive that she can still manage some of those kicks.

    Also, in case you missed it (sorry, in case she missed it), she’s missing the fact that she’s not coming as soon as she planned after all. And who can blame her? I was terribly disappointed when I made my sojourn across the pond and didn’t get to whing with the best of you!


  7. At the risk of not being as pithy as those who have written above me, I’d like to let you know that I sat front row at one of Chita’s shows in Melbourne, Australia last year and she was gorgeous, full of life, in great voice and still with great legs. I hope they reschedule and you get to see her in London soon!


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