“Come to the theatre and arrest us”. It may sound like the title of a new musical but it’s the latest threat from a defiant Andrew Lloyd Webber who is fed up with the government’s rules on theatre openings. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph’s theatre critic Dominic Cavendish, Lord Lloyd Webber promised to open his venues at full capacity later this month “come hell or high water” whatever the government rules on social distancing.
The impresario hopes to bring Cinderella, his 17th major musical, to audiences on 14 July, after previews starting in London on 25 June. This £6 million work, with a 34-person ensemble, will not be commercially viable, he said, if audience attendance is limited to half capacity. Two other shows are also in preparation: a new production of The Phantom of the Opera for Her Majesty’s Theatre, and Joseph at the Palladium.
It has already cost the composer a million a month to keep his theatres in the dark, and he claims he has had to remortgage his London home as a result of the closures. Those calling the shots don’t understand the “acute financial stress” his theatres are in, he said.
Lloyd Webber has been an outspoken critic of the government’s handling of the arts during the pandemic, saying ministers regard theatre as a “nice thing to have”, rather than a necessity.
A source from the Joseph production, which is due to reach audiences on 1 July, tells The Hound they have been in intense rehearsals since April. The team, including the child actors, have been working six days a week and there is regular Covid testing to keep everyone safe. And what happens if the government doesn’t ease the rules and Lloyd Webber goes ahead and gets the show on the road? Will the Met send in the heavy squad to arrest him ? Now that would be some show.
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