Glenn Close out? “No refunds for you!”

We had one of those terrific stories about an understudy blowing the roof off the joint a few weeks ago, when relative unknown but West End vet, Ria Jones, subbed in for a sickly Glenn Close in the recently opened Sunset Boulevard at the English National Opera.

Like something out of a musical itself, when the rep for the Opera dramatically took to the stage to tell the crowd that Ms. Close would be sick, there were boos and people literally screaming, “Give us our money back!”

Of course, Ms. Jones was within earshot of every boo and jeer and then had to step out on the stage and perform one of the most demanding roles written for a woman in the last couple of decades.

And by the end of the night, she won over the crowd and got a rapturous ovation.

I wish I could say the same for the Opera.

As you can read here, apparently the Opera refused to allow anyone to get a refund despite Ms. Close not being in.

Honestly, I was shocked.

Listen, I get the “no refund” thing when the artist that is absent is not a “star” or more specifically, not part of the marketing package for the show (even though, as we proved in this study years ago, any actor being absent lessens the experience for our audience).

But to not honor a refund when Glenn can’t perform, when she was one of the primary reasons for people to see the show?

I’m glad it worked out that night and everyone was happy with the understudy.

Decisions like that may work in the short term, but they definitely won’t in the long term.  Theater tickets are expensive.  Super expensive.  And the consumer already takes a lot of risk by buying the big ticket . . . not knowing if they’ll even like the show or not.  But to bait-and-switch them, even though illness is beyond our control, is a sure way to get them to not take that risk in the future.

If you paid $150 for a ticket to see a star and they didn’t appear, wouldn’t you think twice about paying that amount next time?

You know what you might do instead?

Watch Netflix.  Stars can’t call out of that.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.