My Theatres Will Reopen Fully on June 21st “Come Hell or High Water”, Says Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber will take a stand against the Government if it does not remove all lockdown restrictions relating to his theatres later this month. With the premiere of his latest production, Cinderella, around the corner, the composer says he is willing to face arrest by opening his venues without social distancing if the lockdown roadmap is extended, insisting that “we are going to open, come hell or high water”. The Telegraph has the story.

Lloyd Webber, the world’s most successful composer of musicals, is putting the finishing touches to his first new West End show in five years. He should be preparing to celebrate – the first preview is just over two weeks away, with opening night set to follow on July 14th – instead, he’s spoiling for a fight.

The world premiere of his £6 million Cinderella depends on social distancing being lifted, in accordance with the Government’s “roadmap”, on June 21st, a promised milestone that looks increasingly in doubt. Yet, Lloyd Webber tells me, his voice bristling with defiance, “we are going to open, come hell or high water”. What if the Government demands a postponement? “We will say: come to the theatre and arrest us.”…

What should be the happy conclusion to a creative journey that began in earnest in 2018, before being diverted by the pandemic [lockdowns] (Cinderella was originally due to open last August) is once again in question. No show of this scale, with a bank-busting ensemble of 34, is commercially viable while attendances remain capped at 50% of capacity.

Despite the success of the vaccine roll-out, the mood music has suddenly changed, and official caution is once again in the ascendant. Lloyd Webber questions the justification for this. “I’ve seen the science from the tests, don’t ask me how,” he says. “They all prove that theatres are completely safe, the virus is not carried there. If the Government ignore their own science, we have the mother of all legal cases against them. If Cinderella couldn’t open, we’d go, ‘Look, either we go to law about it or you’ll have to compensate us’.”

The stakes could hardly be higher. It costs Lloyd Webber £1 million a month just to keep his six theatres dark. He has remortgaged his London home… and has reportedly borrowed more than £50 million, although he refuses to confirm that figure today. According to the Sunday Times Rich List his personal net worth has tumbled by £275 million in a year, to £525 million.

More challenges lie ahead. He has two other shows waiting in the wings: a new production of The Phantom of the Opera… is set to take over the refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre from July 27th; while a revival of Joseph is also due at the Palladium that month. Then, as owner of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London’s oldest playhouse, he’s also poised to unveil a £60 million renovation in time for the U.K. stage premiere of Disney’s Frozen in August. All of which leaves Lloyd Webber in a position he describes as “acute financial stress. I don’t think [the Government] understand it. We’ve never taken any profit out of the theatres. I’ve always tried to put back in, which is why we’re in a muddle now because we never had a big reserve.”

Lloyd Webber expressed his annoyance at the difficulty of getting the Government to understand the importance of unlocking live entertainment. “Unfortunately… the Government regards theatre as a nice thing to have rather than a necessity.”

Worth reading in full.

The only question is, will Lloyd Webber’s theatre productions be open to all? Last month, the composer compared “selfish” people who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid to drink drivers.