The media is in a frenzy again. Journalists appear to be outraged by the news that some tickets for the transfer from Broadway of Plaza Suite at the Savoy Theatre in the New Year are on sale at £395 apiece, the cost of a pair of tickets equating to a romantic weekend for two in Paris.
To be fair, the ostensible ticket price retails at a modest £300 with the £395 premium package, branded as The Suite-Heart Experience, including:
"access into our Ambassador Lounge. Enjoy three glasses of Grande Marque champagne, a luxury Plaza Suite-Heart dessert board, a Jude’s ice cream, and a programme. (Suite-Heart dessert board contains: Milk, Gluten, Barley, Wheat and Sulphates. Allergen information available from your host.)"
Although the pricing sounds outrageous, it pales into insignificance when compared to the $800 charged for top-price tickets to Springsteen on Broadway 5 years ago.
Quite why anyone cares is something of a mystery. Even amongst UK theatregoers, it is doubtful whether more than one in a thousand would be interested in this production at any price. Anyone keen to see it might also like to note that restricted view tickets start at £35 and there will be a daily lottery of tickets priced at £40.
Once again, we are the victims of celebrity culture. With all due respect, Neil Simon was a popular but not necessarily outstanding playwright whose heyday in this country whether on stage or film occurred around half a century ago. Any remaining Neil Simon groupies or readers keen to see what all the fuss is about can always download the film version of Plaza Suite, starring Walter Matthau, Maureen Stapleton, Barbara Harris and Lee Grant, by subscribing to Apple TV+ or purchase the DVD at a modest cost.
Without the drawing power of husband-and-wife team Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, there would be no possibility of reviving this 1968 comedy in the West End, let alone trying to flog tickets at extortionate prices.
The storm in a tiny teacup is really quite insulting at a time when, rather than planning an expensive night at the theatre, millions are at or below the poverty line, contemplating a terrifying winter. They will literally be skipping meals, feeding children junk food and shivering in unheated homes because the cost of eating and heating adequately is unaffordable.
Most committed theatregoers see through star casting and want a more fulfilling night out. Admittedly, they will miss out on the selfies and illegally captured videos of TV and film favourites in the dim distance, but that isn’t what true addicts crave.
There are alternatives. Someone who loves going to the theatre will almost certainly derive far greater pleasure in spending over £800 including booking fees by making monthly trips to see more modestly priced West End productions every month between now and the spring.
Even better, given that the community desperately needs whatever support it can get, why not consider “investing” the money by visiting a couple of dozen fringe offerings in the knowledge that you will be helping some young directors and actors to stay in the game?
The likelihood is that the producers have judged their market correctly and will sell out this relatively short run. Whether they get many takers at £300 plus is another matter, but that is the joy of dynamic pricing.
At the other end of that equation, those who drool over Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker will need to hold their nerve in the hope that prices come down to slightly more affordable levels or, who knows, tickets may eventually be knocked out on discount sites because not that many people are interested in the event.
The reason why this is such a non-story is that any sane person is going to take one look at the ticket prices and decide that they have no interest in seeing an amusing but not sensational play, even if it does feature a couple of big stars.
After all, by spending a couple of hours sleeping in front of the TV, someone could save £800, which is not a bad rate of return.