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.
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?
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.