So, anyway, there we were having a quiet drink with Mel Brooks and Roger Bart when who should drop into the bar but Baz Bamigboye, the Daily Mail’s chief show-business reporter. Imagine the Whingers’ excitement.
Actually, that’s not quite true. The Whingers bumped into Baz first. It was at a very discreet and anonymous theatre bar. How long he had been following them is anyone’s guess, but of course the paparazzi were quick to capture the memory for eternity.
Having put Baz to rights on all things Broadway-related – principally the fact that Xanadu is a masterpiece of camp musical theatre (contrary to Baz’s own
misguided wrong opinion) they eventually agreed to disagree although Baz is still clearly smarting over the reprimand, as he sought to get his revenge in the following day’s Daily Mail:
Douglas Carter Beane, who, with Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, has created a musical version of that stinking Xanadu movie which starred Olivia Newton John sometime last century. The stage version at the Helen Hayes Theatre is better than the movie — which isn’t saying much. The show’s knowingly camp and is obviously sending itself up, but after ten minutes I’d had it. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the middle of a row, so had to suffer through a further 80 intermissionless minutes. The two Brit blokes who run the West End Whingers website also saw it and they loved it, which is a shame because I used to enjoy reading them!
And so it went on – arguing the toss on Young Frankenstein, which Baz had enjoyed much less than the Whingers but eventually finding a common ground with the delightful The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee although Baz couldn’t stop himself from using the cavil “with the original cast” at every available opportunity.
Fortunately their arguments were set aside when the two people in the next booth insisted on canvassing the Whingers’ opinions on various productions. Andrew didn’t need asking twice and (having been hideously over-served with alcohol) launched in with his opinion on Young Frankenstein – “Well, I’m afraid it’s certainly not The Producers. And it’s not Xanadu“.
Tom’s (yes, the Whingers are on first name terms; not that they bothered to ask) credits include Young Frankenstein, Hairspray, The Producers, Little Shop of Horrors, and the Whingers threw in their thoughts on the casting of Michael Ball in the London production of Hairspray. He seemed surprised at the Whingers initial doubts but they did confess to him that they were wrong for once, had loved Michael Ball and been forced to swallow their own words (and a rather large and indigestible meal it proved too).
Meanwhile, Phil was rattling on to Tom’s companion Patricia Daily putting Broadway to rights. It turns out that Pat (first name terms etc) is executive vice president of Phil’s favourite theatre website Broadway.com.
But back to Mel Brooks who was clearly anxious to solicit the Whingers’ opinions too. Phil kicked off by asking what had happened to their favourite line from the film of Young Frankenstein “Taffeta, darling”. Mel explained, “It just wasn’t getting a laugh so we had to take it out”.
Phil insisted that Mel (first name terms etc) put the line back in when the show comes to London, explaining that we’d get it (in London), or at least the gay audience would. And it may have been the drink but he’s sure he saw Mel scribble a note on his napkin, though this may have been a cry of help to the waiter to get these two people away from him.
But nothing was stopping Phil now. He complained about the lack of intimacy in the cavernous Hilton Theatre to which Mel replied “I like the Hilton!”. But Phil rambled on: “Put it in the Drury Lane in London” (although it actually has a much larger audience capacity than the Hilton, it just doesn’t feel like it), to which Mel lit up exclaiming whistfully, “Ah yes the Drury Lane!”
By now Mel B had been joined by Lisa Lambert one of the Tony winning writers of the music and lyrics for The Drowsy Chaperone and its current star, Bob Saget (Man in chair, right) who although unknown to the Whingers is apparently very well known states-side. As it seems are the Whingers now.
Andrew told Lisa he’d seen the London production of Drowsy three times and loved it, she replied dryly, “You must have kept that show running for the two months”.
As the Whingers finally took their leave shaking hands with all concerned – Bob and Roger and Mel and Lisa (Isn’t there a film called that somewhere?) and Tom and Pat – they shamelessly thrust WEW calling cards on them all.
The Whingers wished Mel and Roger good luck with the show but the Whingers’ alcohol levels dictated that tact should be absent from every exchange – even the humble goodbyes. Phil’s parting remark to Mel – “The strike must be helping you sell out” – received the rather curt reply, “We were sold out anyway!”