Andrew Lloyd Webber opens Cinderella with a side swipe at the Government

Image above: Lloyd-Webber speaking to the cast of Cinderella

“You’ve given us more money than the Government has” Andrew Lloyd Webber tells audience

Andrew Lloyd Webber opened his production of Cinderella in the West End on Friday night (25 June) with a dig at the Government. He thanked the audience for not demanding refunds when the production was delayed, but instead leaving their ticket money with the show.

Just by doing that “you’ve given us more money than the Government has” he said.

The composer and producer, with a string of hit musicals to his name, has become the most prominent opponent of the Government over its policy towards the Arts over Covid.

He announced on 18 June that he would not be accepting Boris Johnson’s offer for his musical Cinderella to be included in the next pilot scheme for live events.

On Thursday 24 June his company, Really Useful Group, announced it was taking a joint legal action with Cameron Mackintosh, and music industry body LIVE, to force the Government to publish the results of its Events Research Programme.

They said the Government was treating the live entertainment industry unfairly because it had chosen:

“to keep the live entertainment industry under severe restrictions from June 21, while allowing parts of the economy that have not been subject to similar scientific studies, including hospitality, public transport and retail, to operate.”

On Friday, June 25, the Government released the Events Research Programme results, which revealed that just 28 people who attended these events had tested positive in the following weeks. This study came from testing 58,000 people who attended the first nine pilot events. The initial phase included the FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley Stadium in April and the BRIT awards.

As it stands, theatres have to continue playing to audiences at half capacity until the final phase of easing out lockdown restrictions.

Theatre industry ‘an afterthought and undervalued’ – Lloyd-Webber

Earlier, the composer had said he was prepared to go to jail over the restriction on theatres to operate at half their normal capacity. After taking legal advice, he realised that to open with 100% capacity would have risked each individual member of cast, audience and backstage staff receiving fines, so he thought better of it.

He said he would bear the financial loss personally rather than disppointing his young cast and crew by putting off opening night any longer.

“It is the product of hundreds of people’s tireless effort for years. Win, lose or draw, we have to continue.

“Finally, can I thank the thousands of people who have contacted me with messages of support, including those who wanted to come and bring me a cake in jail.”

A number of Cinderella‘s cast studied at ArtsEd in Chiswick, where Lloyd-Webber has been President since 2007. He gave the musical theatre school £3.5 million for a new theatre, which was relaunched as The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre in 2013. The Andrew Lloyd-Webber Foundation also offers scholarships to ArtsEd, on the combined basis of merit and financial need.

Image above: Susan Penhaligon at home on her houseboat; in character as Mrs Boyle

West End “heaving”, with people “crammed into pubs”

Actor Susan Penhaligon wholeheartedly supports Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stance and says 95%, if not 100% the industry feels the same way.

The actor, (Bouquet of Barbed Wire, A Fine Romance) is a long term Chiswick resident, currently performing in Afatha Christie’s epic The Mousetrap as Mrs Boyle, “a very grumpy old lady; the sort of guest the owner of any hotel would dread”.

She posted on social media on Saturday:

“Last night the West End was heaving, people jostling on the streets, crammed into pubs, restaurants, sitting beside each other, except in our theatre. Madness”.

The production has two complete casts, who play alternately, so that if one person gets Covid, their entire cast can isolate. The actors have christened them ‘Marple’ and ‘Poirot’. While their production costs have increased, they can play to a half empty house at best.

“People are just so loving being back at the theatre” she told The Chiswick Calendar. “There’s so much cheering.

“At the curtain call we clap them, for being there”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: David Puttnam opens Chiswick Cinema

See also: V&A honours Chiswick artist Ben Johnson with retrospective

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