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I Want Your Job: Box Office, part 3  
Markus Ritzmann reveals the best and worst elements of working in the Box Office...
Marcus Ritzmann inside the Box Office at the London Palladium

In the final part of our interview with the London Palladium‘s Assistant Box Office Supervisour Markus, we talk favourite shows, ideal venues and the impact of reality TV on theatre audiences.

Do you have to be a particular type of person to work in the box office?
Well, my manager says you’ve got to be a bit mad! I think you’ve got to work well under pressure, you’ve got to be able to make quick decisions, and in some ways you just have to accept that things work in a particular way and not question it. Because some things in theatre don’t seem to make much sense – it’s better to just go with the flow sometimes!  But you get to the stage where you deal with things intuitively. Have a good sense of humour, and don’t be scared of working hard. It’s not your normal office environment…

Do you have a favourite show you’ve worked on?

It’s difficult to say because in the preview period of a show, it’s really exciting to work on, but as soon as it’s opened it’s just a job. The glamour goes, if you like. But I have particularly liked a few over the years – I think this is a great show, Sister Act, it’s the first time that I can remember that the Palladium’s had a totally new musical, with all new songs.  It was also lovely to work on both The Sound of Music and Phantom, just because in slightly different ways they were theatrical phenomenons. We’d never seen a show like Phantom, and it had so much publicity across all the media.  And then with the whole reality TV show with Connie for The Sound of Music – that was another one. It was also really lovely when we had The King & I on here, because it was so nice to have an old-fashioned musical with a full orchestra. I remember walking up to the managers’ office once when they were going through the orchestral rehearsals in the bar – the bar’s aren’t open at that point, it’s just that it’s a nice space for it, despite all the stories about musicians and alcohol! – but it was just so wonderful coming in and hearing the first few bars of ‘Something Wonderful’ from The King & I. It was right after a couple of years of Saturday Night Fever, which was an entirely different ballgame, because it was a pop show.

Has the reality TV phenomenon changed audiences?

It’s brought people into the theatre who may never have come to the theatre before. I tend to think if 95% percent of the people who come for the first have a great night out and 20% of those say “do you know, I’ve really got a taste for this, I want to see something else” – that’s actually a real achievement. I think people who came to see The Sound of Music because of Connie – a lot of those people who might not have been before will now go and see something else, because it’s the whole experience.

I think it might be quite frightening for the people who win the competitions though!

What’s the best and worst thing about your job?
I think the best thing is just – after so long, it’s difficult to say – but there are so many good things about it. You’re working with lots of people who you get on with, have a lot of fun, and you really do feel like you can make a contribution to give someone that special night at the theatre. Very rarely sometimes I feel a bogged down in terms of beaurocracy but that’s the same in most jobs. At the end of the day, to work at what is arguably the world’s most famous theatre can only be a privilege – and I think everyone here feels that, in some way.

If you could work on any show and/or in any theatre, what would it be?
I’ve worked in so many in London at some point that I don’t think there’s anything left to compare to! So it’s not like I’m longing to work in another theatre, but if I found myself working in another country… Radio City in New York, or some of the well-known theatres there. As for shows, it’s like if you ask an actor what shows they’d like to be in, they always say a new show – it is always nice to be part of something new. But we shall see what comes up next here… hopefully something I’ve liked as much as the past few!

Posted on: 7th August 2009

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