The Daily Telegraph
Lloyd Webber’s new show could go on under Covid pilot scheme
Cinderella could get special exemption, but other producers say they are in despair over delay
THE Government could allow Andrew Lloyd Webber to open his new production of Cinderella with a large audience as part of the Covid pilot scheme, after the impresario threatened legal action.
The theatre industry was in despair last night as the Prime Minister confirmed its worst fears by announcing the four-week delay to a full reopening.
But Boris Johnson indicated that Cinderella could receive special dispensation, heading off a potential showdown.
Lord Lloyd-webber told The Daily Telegraph last week that he would open the show with a capacity audience “come hell or high water” and was prepared to face arrest for doing so.
“I’ve got colossal admiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber. The entire theatre sector is one of the great glories of this country. On Cinderella, I think we’re in talks with him to try to make it work, and we’ll do whatever we can to be helpful,” Mr Johnson said.
The pilot scheme will allow certain events to go ahead with increased capacity audiences and fewer restrictions.
Theatregoers who have booked tickets for Cinderella performances from June 25 onwards received a message last night saying: “We’re working hard behind the scenes to make sure everyone gets to the ball.”
Lord Lloyd-webber said last night: “My goal is, and will always be, to fight for the full and safe reopening of theatre and live music venues up and down the country.
“I was pleased and surprised to hear the Prime Minister mention Cinderella as part of his announcement today, but I can’t comment further on the proposed pilot until I know more about the scheme.”
However, Lord Lloyd-webber’s rivals have received no government assurances and one source said: “If they were to announce that some West End shows were to be able to open fully as a pilot, that feels very awkward. Everyone’s heads are going to explode.”
Other theatre producers said they were in “despair” at the four-week delay to unlocking, likening the government messaging to a West End farce.
London and regional theatres had pinned their hopes on a full reopening on June 21.
One of the year’s most anticipated productions is Hamlet at the Theatre Royal Windsor, starring Sir Ian Mckellen. It was due to run from June 21 to Sept 4 with full capacity audiences. Its producer, Bill Kenwright, said: “This is the worst day I’ve known in the business. I despair.”
Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire of Trafalgar Entertainment, one of the UK’S leading theatre owners and producers, said: “This delay is yet another bungle from a government that wouldn’t be given a single star in a review of its performance.
“The confusion and muddled messages are reminiscent of a West End farce. During the pandemic this Government has been fond of three-word slogans. ‘Hands, Face, Space.’ ‘Build back better.’ Today we ask them to consider a few more. ‘Open our theatres.’ ‘Enough is enough.’ ‘Let audiences in.’ ”
Sir Howard told The Telegraph: “It’s devastating and disappointing. We’ve marched all these armies up to the top of the hill – we were encouraged by Boris who has said consistently that he saw nothing in the data to reverse his view that we will be unlocked on 21 June.”
His newly renovated Trafalgar Theatre is due to host a revival of Jersey Boys from July 28, and he is co-producing another major musical, Anything Goes, at the Barbican with a run scheduled to start on July 23. Will these shows proceed? “We’re in a real dilemma. It’s a nightmare, because all these people have been employed, scenery has been built, the costumes have been made.
“Can we wait until mid-july to find out whether to proceed? We’ve have to think carefully even about getting to that point. Our huge fear is that they will say, ‘We will look at it again… nanny knows best.’ But nanny doesn’t know best.
“If restrictions remain into the autumn then it all collapses. I don’t think they understand.”
The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre said the four-week delay “will have serious implications” for many theatres, with thousands of jobs “hanging in the balance”.
‘We’re in talks to try and make it work, and we’ll do whatever we can to be helpful’