Monday, June 21, 2021
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Andrew Lloyd Webber, the theatre impresario risking prison

“Come hell or high water . . . ” he has stated. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the British composer and theatre impresario who made his identify and fortune with musicals reminiscent of Cats, Evita and Starlight Express, this week expressed his willpower to open his West End theatres at capability this month — no matter the present authorities steerage 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.

Although he was made a Conservative peer, he says he is not going to hesitate to launch a authorized battle towards the authorities if there are extra delays, telling one interviewer he has “the mother of all legal cases”.

At 73, Lloyd Webber is probably the most garlanded composer alive. The New York Times described him in 2001 as “the most commercially successful composer in history”, with a number of awards for his musicals and worldwide success. He is considered one of solely 16 individuals ever to have scooped an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy. His productions — all dealt with by the Really Useful Group, which he based in 1977 — boast a string of data: Starlight Express (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 at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (previously the New London Theatre, which was renamed in reminiscence of the late choreographer of Cats) in August 2020. As 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 are at present allowed to function with diminished numbers, however Lloyd Webber argues that large-scale productions like his musicals usually are not sustainable with out full capability homes. 

Campaigners for reopening level to the financial clout of the UK theatre sector, which introduced in almost £1.28bn in ticket gross sales from greater than 34m individuals in 2018. They additionally spotlight the plight of the sector’s intensive workforce, which is for the most half self-employed and due to this fact significantly susceptible to the closure of theatres. Insiders worry a abilities drain, in addition to particular person hardship. Lloyd Webber, who has known as for extra subsidies, has pointed to inconsistencies in insurance policies that enable individuals 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 “absolutely confident that the air in the London Palladium and in all my theatres is purer than the air outside”.

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 prompt that additional delays will pressure him to promote or shut them completely. According to The Sunday Times Rich List, Lloyd Webber’s private wealth has fallen £275m in a yr and now stands at £525m, though different sources put his internet price considerably larger.

Throughout his profession, Lloyd Webber has confronted controversies, together with claims of plagiarism from sources as disparate as the Puccini property and Pink Floyd. But his general originality is never doubtful. Don Black, co-lyricist for 1989’s Aspects of Love, claimed that “Andrew more or less 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. Professional success started with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in 1968, when he was not but 21; Cinderella will likely be his seventeenth fully-produced musical.

Many 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 Best Original Screenplay Oscar this yr for her comedy Promising Young Woman, 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 principal rooms of the Royal Academy in London when it was proven there in 2003 — helped to revive the repute (and lift the costs) of the beforehand out-of-fashion style. One skilled, Christopher Wood, wrote of Lloyd Webber’s ardour for artwork: “It is often said of Andrew that he writes musicals to collect more paintings . . . Collecting is his real obsession.”

Other pursuits embody substantial charity work for his personal Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, in addition to different academic 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 House 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 incorrect aspect of the legislation.

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