Andrew Lloyd Webber’s New Act: Activism


LONDON – Andrew Lloyd Webber, 73, has been a household name in Britain for decades with his flamboyant, semi-operational musicals. Now, she’s come to be known for something more unexpected: activism.

Lloyd Webber, who has redefined musical theater with shows like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats,” and served for years in the House of Lords, has been harassing Britain’s conservative government for more than a year to open theaters fully. capacity to make scientifically questionable claims along the way at times.

It just made newspaper headlines here this June, after promising to open it. new “Cinderella” musical “come hell or high water” – even if he facing arrest for doing this. (He quickly backed out of the plan after learning that his audience, cast, and crew were also at risk of fines.)

he went Prime Minister rejected Boris Johnson’s offer Britain, which will allow itself to test-open “Cinderella” without restrictions, as it puts other cinemas in a difficult position; take part in legal action against the government to request the publication of research results on whether the coronavirus has spread at cultural events; and to tell an interviewer Regretted meeting with Britain’s Conservative Party While in the House of Lords, the party could no longer support artistic and commercial theatre.

“The way he does it, it’s like straight out of a musical – loud, exaggerated,” said Arifa Akbar, chief theater critic for The Guardian.

James Graham, a leading playwright (who “Ink” He starred on Broadway in 2019) confirming that Lloyd Webber has become “a big thorn in the side of government.”

Theater has been one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic. Most Broadway theaters in New York don’t plan to reopen until September. With the West End in England, theaters were allowed to open with social distancing and masked audiences for a short time. reopens last May 17th.

But Lloyd Webber, at times impatient, urged the government to clarify when theaters could reopen at full capacity and complained that they were being forced to stay closed or enforce restrictions much longer than other businesses.

Now the government seems to be giving him the clarity he’s been looking for: Remove most of the remaining restrictions on July 19.

“I never wanted, never intended, to be some kind of spokesperson for the arts and theater in Britain,” Lloyd Webber said in a recent interview at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, where the musical “Cinderella” was featured in social distancing previews. “But a strange situation arose where no one else was.”

Outside of the theatre, several theatergoers praised Lloyd Webber’s new role. “I’ve never been his biggest fan – I’m more of a Sondheim fan,” said 70-year-old Carole Star. “But if I see him tonight, it’ll be hard not to hug him.”

“I can cry over what they did this year,” she added.

But others said they were glad it backed out from the threat of a full reopening before the government decided to allow it. “I admire her passion but I hope she keeps everything safe,” said 25-year-old Samantha Fogg.

Lloyd Webber, who participated in the vaccine trials, said the theater was driven by a “true sense of injustice” that it was treated differently from other parts of British life. Tens of thousands of football fans in June Allowed in stadiums – “everyone sings”, he said – while theaters could only open in limited capacity, and amateur choirs were not allowed to sing inside. (Scientists are clear that outdoor activities are much safer than indoor activities.)

He said the British government’s stance on the arts was “astonishing”.

But health officials weren’t impressed by a theater composer’s views on the safety of a full reopening.

British government in June published a report in a series of trial cultural and sporting events. He said events held outside, mostly for people who could show they had tested negative, had only led to 28 potential coronavirus cases, but the data should be interpreted with “extreme caution”. And the study was done before the more contagious Delta variant began to sweep the UK.

Lloyd Webber said the report “basically says everything is perfectly safe.” But Paul Hunter, a British academic specializing in epidemics, said in a phone call that the report “in no way” said it was safe to reopen closed theaters. (He said the government had approved a plan to reopen at full capacity on July 19.)

When the epidemic first hit the UK, Lloyd Webber tried to show that cinemas could be reopened safely by taking precautions as in the past. Continuing “Phantom of the Opera” in Seoul. Mandatory masks for spectators, fire checks at the gates, and spraying disinfectants in theaters are some of them.

spent last July 100,000 pounds, about $140,000, to run a trial at the Palladium theater in London to prove that such measures work.

Lloyd Webber: “I must say it is a rather sad sight” said that day, staring into a largely empty auditorium. “I think this amply proves why social distancing doesn’t really work in theater,” he added. “This is misery for artists.”

The event did not lead to a major reopening of the theaters, and Lloyd Webber said frustrations are heightened as the UK allows planes to fly at full capacity and people return to bars, restaurants and garden centers in disarray. Last September, he sarcastically said to a group of politicians He said he was considering turning the Palladium into a garden center so he could hold shows again.

Despite the growing scientific consensus that being outdoors is much safer indoors, he added, “I am absolutely confident that the air at the London Palladium – and indeed all my cinemas – is cleaner than the air outside.”

He said Lloyd Webber’s breaking point came last December, when theaters were only allowed to reopen for a few more shows. being forced to close again as cases increasealthough shops are allowed to remain open. “You’ve seen scenes where people are literally tickled, no distancing, nothing,” he said.

“That was the point where I realized that this government was not interested in theatre,” he added. “When I realized that, I saw no reason to hold back.”

He later explained that the government was right to close the cinemas at this point (there were more than 25,000 theaters). coronavirus cases in the UK It peaked at over 60,000 on the day the West End closed and within a few weeks). Lloyd Webber said he never felt he had sought reopening so soon. “I think everyone thought things would get better sooner,” he said.

Other British theatrical figures, such as producer Sonia Friedman, also made headlines by encouraging the government to do more for theatres, but none received as much attention as Lloyd Webber, who, in addition to being a composer, owns substantial real estate in the West. End.

Lloyd Webber, who personal wealth estimated at £525 millionreported that it cost his company £1m a month to keep his seven theaters closed and said he had to mortgage his London home to raise funds. However, he insisted that money was not behind his advocacy. “My main concern is getting everyone back to work,” he said.

“Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote the book for Lloyd Webber’s “School of Rock,” said in a phone interview, “I don’t think money has anything to do with it,” adding: the man is on a mission and you can say that.”

But Lloyd Webber hasn’t escaped criticism in his own community. It was reported in April The “The Phantom of the Opera” orchestra in London was to split in two. when turned back on it is replaced by keyboards for percussion, harp and oboe.

“When I see him get on the soapbox, part of me wants to applaud him and part of me wants to take him on duty,” percussionist Matt Dickinson, who lost his job, said in a phone interview.

Asked about this, Lloyd Webber said he was not the producer of the show and stated that during the quarantine he had recorded a series of orchestral suites in which 81 freelance musicians worked.

Lloyd Webber remains an extraordinarily busy – or driven – man. In addition to trying to produce and finish “Cinderella,” who is also the director and screenwriter of Emerald Fennell’s book.promising young woman” adds a contemporary twist to the fairy tale – included Theater Royal in a £60m renovation of Drury Lane.

Even as he explored the old churches in Hampshire the other day, he couldn’t escape his new role in politics and people told him, “We can’t believe that government can treat art the way it is. ”

But it’s also clear that sometimes he’s happy to emphasize it. When the government set the reopening date to 19 July, Lloyd Webber wrote on Twitter that he would add a special “Liberty Day” performance and a gala whose proceeds benefit Britain’s healthcare system.

“I am excited” He wrote“It looks like cinemas can finally reopen!”


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