Hospitality Event Feature - Billy Elliot
Square Meal checks out the hospitality package on offer for the award-winning musical Billy Elliot
A night at the theatre may not be the most obvious form of corporate entertainment but on the back of treating 30 clients to an evening of hospitality at the Victoria Palace, we’re completely sold on the concept. For a start, the take-up rate on invitations was sensational and we didn’t have a single drop-out on the night.
It may have helped that we chose a smash-hit show that had just picked up four gongs at the Lawrence Olivier Awards (Best New Musical, Best Theatre Choreography, Best Sound Design and Best Actor in a Musical for the three boys who play Billy), but guests always like to be invited to something a little bit different and theatre tickets always work a treat – not least because it’s so easy to get to and from the West End.
The whole point of hospitality is to make people feel special and VIP theatre packages certainly deliver on this point. Not only are they based on the best seats in the house even at sold-out shows like Billy Elliot (ours were in the centre-front part of the dress circle) but they offer an experience well beyond what you could achieve by simply buying tickets.
Hospitality guests are invited to arrive 45 minutes before curtain-up, when doors are still closed to the general public, and are personally greeted in the lobby before being shown in to a private function suite. Here, they can relax over Champagne, canapés and complimentary programmes, knowing that the host will be back to escort them to their seats just in time for the show.
On our visit, a generous selection of nibbles included delicious duck pancakes, mini grilled vegetable quiches and dainty bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. For the interval, when our host appeared in the aisle as if by magic to escort us the few steps back to our room, these had been replaced with delectable little pots of chocolate mousse, while waiters stood at the ready to again greet us with a glass of Champagne.
Not that many of us were paying much attention to the refreshments at this point – we were far too busy raving about the show. At once beautiful, brutal, thought-provoking and funny, Billy Elliot All our guests were thoroughly impressed and, the next day, thank-you notes dropped in thick and fast. ‘Not only was this the best show I have seen, but you provided the best theatre experience I’ve ever had,’ said David Eck of Red Carnation Hotels. Sam Gill, the MD of The Ultimate Experience agreed: ‘It was a real treat to see such a great show without the challenges of pre-ordering drinks or scrumming down for a warm white wine in the interval.’ Perhaps summing up the experience better than anyone else (in a statement obviously influenced by the show’s colourful language), Fiona Hering of Masala World gave us her immediate thoughts as she stood up at the end of the last encore and exclaimed: ‘That was absolutely bloody brilliant!’
Tempted by the idea of hospitality in a West End theatre? The premium tickets and VIP hospitality specialist London Entertains can offer similar packages for a range of West End shows. Here, the company’s managing director, Roz Ball, chooses her top five tickets for spring:
1. Sinatra featuring unseen footage of Frank
2. Hay Fever starring Judi Dench
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with the option to meet Christian Slater post-show
4. Smaller directed by Kathy Burke, starring Dawn French and Alison Moyet
5. Mack and Mabel set in 1920s Hollywood