Show's seat shuffle upsets grandmother's plans

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2012
Chrissy Bell and her grandchildren
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ FAIRFAX NZ
SEAT ROW: Chrissy Bell and her grandchildren, Paxton Trieu, 4, and birthday boy Asha Trieu outside the Opera House where they are going to see Hairspray.

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Wellington grandmother Chrissy Bell bought her family front row seats to the musical Hairspray, only to be shunted back to make room for the orchestra.

When tickets to the popular musical-comedy production went on sale nearly two months ago, Mrs Bell secured the Opera House's best seats for tonight - for Mrs Bell and her husband, her daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons.

She wanted seats as close to the stage as possible, to keep her grandsons enthralled through the 2 -hour show. And it was the perfect way to celebrate Asha's sixth birthday.

"I went for the best seats I could find and they were ‘A Reserve' seats."

But Ticketek called her just two days before the show to say they had to be moved.

"He told me they needed to move a row of seats because there wasn't enough room for the orchestra. I was really mad, really annoyed, when they said about moving us back."

Not only were they offered seats way back in row S or T, but her family would have to be split up as there were not six consecutive seats available. But that defeated the purpose of the family outing, she said. "I want to see the kids' faces, I want to enjoy it with them."

She loved musicals. Her grandchildren knew all the dance moves and could recite the film word for word.

"For ages when that DVD came out they played it all the time. They have been looking forward to it for weeks."

Mrs Bell paid about $360 for the tickets, so Ticketek would have to repay the difference.

Wellington Musical Theatre executive producer Michael Highsted said it was not until the Hairspray dress rehearsal that they discovered the front row would have to go to make room for the orchestra. There would be 11 shows, drawing in about 10,000 theatregoers. Ticketek had been instructed to find the best options for the 60 front-row ticketholders needing to be relocated.

"We don't want to hack anybody off. People that buy front seats want to be up close and personal. I hate the fact that it happened. But errors do occur."

The front-row ticketholders had three options - relocate seats, get a refund or change nights.

Last night, Mr Highsted said he was going to do all he could to find seating near the front for Mrs Bell's family.

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