“Come hell or excessive water . . . ” he has stated. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the British composer and theatre impresario who made his identify and fortune with musicals corresponding to Cats, Evita and Starlight Categorical, this week expressed his dedication to open his West Finish theatres at capability this month — regardless of the present authorities steering on Covid-19.
Previews for his newest creation, Cinderella, are attributable to begin on June 25, simply days after the deliberate easing of coronavirus restrictions on June 21. That date now appears to be in query due to rising an infection charges, however Lloyd Webber has stated he can be ready to face a jail sentence in defiance of any additional delay.
Though he was made a Conservative peer, he says he won’t hesitate to launch a authorized battle in opposition to the federal government if there are extra delays, telling one interviewer he has “the mom of all authorized instances”.
At 73, Lloyd Webber is presumably probably the most garlanded composer alive. The New York Instances described him in 2001 as “probably the most commercially profitable composer in historical past”, with a number of awards for his musicals and worldwide success. He’s one in every of solely 16 folks ever to have scooped an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy. His productions — all dealt with by the Actually Helpful Group, which he based in 1977 — boast a string of information: Starlight Categorical (1984) ran in London for greater than 17 years; The Phantom of the Opera (1986) was the longest-running Broadway present ever.
Lloyd Webber had deliberate to open Cinderella on the Gillian Lynne Theatre (previously the New London Theatre, which was renamed in reminiscence of the late choreographer of Cats) in August 2020. Because the proprietor of seven venues, all through the pandemic he has been a vociferous opponent of the rules which have compelled theatres to shut for lengthy stretches. They’re at present allowed to function with diminished numbers, however Lloyd Webber argues that large-scale productions like his musicals are usually not sustainable with out full capability homes.
Campaigners for reopening level to the financial clout of the UK theatre sector, which introduced in practically £1.28bn in ticket gross sales from greater than 34m folks in 2018. In addition they spotlight the plight of the sector’s in depth workforce, which is for probably the most half self-employed and due to this fact notably weak to the closure of theatres. Insiders worry a expertise drain, in addition to particular person hardship. Lloyd Webber, who has referred to as for added subsidies, has pointed to inconsistencies in insurance policies that permit folks to sit down on an plane for a lot of hours however not sit in a theatre for 2 hours.
He additionally highlights the security measures in theatres. In September 2020 he informed a authorities listening to he was “completely assured that the air within the London Palladium and in all my theatres is purer than the air exterior”.
About £6m has been invested in Cinderella, and its ensemble of 34 actors, dancers, musicians and others entails big prices. The losses incurred by protecting his theatres darkish throughout their prolonged closure run to roughly £1m a month, and he has steered that additional delays will drive him to promote or shut them completely. Based on The Sunday Instances Wealthy Listing, Lloyd Webber’s private wealth has fallen £275m in a 12 months and now stands at £525m, though different sources put his web price considerably increased.
All through his profession, Lloyd Webber has confronted controversies, together with claims of plagiarism from sources as disparate because the Puccini property and Pink Floyd. However his total originality isn’t unsure. Don Black, co-lyricist for 1989’s Features of Love, claimed that “Andrew kind of single-handedly reinvented the musical”.
Born in 1948 to a musical household — his mom was a violinist and pianist, his father a composer, his brother is the celebrated cellist Julian Lloyd Webber — his expertise confirmed early. Skilled success started with Joseph and the Superb Technicolour Dreamcoat in 1968, when he was not but 21; Cinderella might be his seventeenth fully-produced musical.
A lot of his early hits have been in partnership with lyricist Tim Rice however he has labored with numerous writers. For Cinderella he has chosen multitalented Emerald Fennell, scriptwriter on BBC’s Killing Eve who received a Greatest Unique Screenplay Oscar this 12 months for her comedy Promising Younger Girl, which she additionally directed.
Lloyd Webber is an enthusiastic artwork collector, with a style for Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian painters together with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and others. His assortment — substantial sufficient to fill all the principle rooms of the Royal Academy in London when it was proven there in 2003 — helped to revive the fame (and lift the costs) of the beforehand out-of-fashion style. One skilled, Christopher Wooden, wrote of Lloyd Webber’s ardour for artwork: “It’s usually stated of Andrew that he writes musicals to gather extra work . . . Accumulating is his actual obsession.”
Different pursuits embrace substantial charity work for his personal Andrew Lloyd Webber Basis, in addition to different instructional and cultural organisations. He was knighted in 1992 and in 1997 he was created a life peer as Baron Lloyd Webber of Sydmonton, though he retired from the Home of Lords in 2017.
The subsequent week or so may decide whether or not or not Cinderella goes to the ball — and whether or not its distinguished creator finds himself on the flawed facet of the legislation.