Andrew Lloyd Webber, the theater entrepreneur risking prison


“Come to hell or high water.” . . He said. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the British composer and theater entrepreneur who made his name and fortune with musicals such as Cats, Avoid and Starlight Express, this week expressed its willingness to open its West End theaters to capacity this month – whatever the government’s current indication on Covid-19.

Preview for its latest creation, Cinderella, should begin on June 25, just days after planning to alleviate coronavirus restrictions on June 21. This date now seems to be in question because of infection rates increase, but Lloyd Webber has he said he would be ready to face a prison sentence for defying any delay.

Although he has been made a conservative colleague, he says he will not hesitate to launch a legal battle against the government if there are more delays, telling an interviewer that he has “the mother of all legal cases “.

At 73, Lloyd Webber is perhaps the most garlanded composer alive. The New York Times described him in 2001 as “the most commercially successful composer in history,” with several awards for his musicals and worldwide success. She is one of 16 people who have ever won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy. Their production – all managed by the Really Useful Group, which he founded in 1977 – boasts a number of records: Starlight Express (1984) ran in London for more than 17 years; The Phantom of the Opera (1986) was the longest-running Broadway show ever.

Lloyd Webber had planned to open Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theater (formerly New London Theater, which was renamed in memory of the late choreographer of Cats) of August 2020. As the owner of seven venues, throughout the pandemic he has been a vocal opponent of regulations that have forced theaters to close for long stretches. They are currently allowed to operate with reduced numbers, but Lloyd Webber argues that large-scale productions like his musicals are not sustainable without full-capacity houses.

Campaigners for the reopening point to the economic influence of the British theater sector, which has brought in nearly £ 1.28 billion in ticket sales from more than 34 million people in 2018. They have also highlighted the situation of the vast workforce of the sector, which is for the most part -employed and therefore particularly vulnerable to the closure of theaters. Interiors fear a flight of skills, as well as individual difficulties. Lloyd Webber, who has asked for additional subsidies, pointed to inconsistencies in policies that allow people to sit on a plane for several hours but not stay in a theater for two hours.

It also highlights security measures in theaters. In September 2020 he told a government hearing that he was “absolutely sure that the air in the London Palladium and in all my theaters is purer than the air outside.”

About £ 6 million has been invested in it Cinderella, and its ensemble of 34 actors, dancers, musicians and others entails enormous costs. The sudden losses keeping his theaters dark during his extended closure go to about £ 1 million a month, and he suggested other delays would force him to sell or close them permanently. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, Lloyd Webber’s personal wealth has fallen £ 275 million in a year and is now £ 525 million, although other sources put his net worth much higher.

Throughout his career, Lloyd Webber has faced controversy, including plagiarism claims from disparate sources such as the Puccini and Pink Floyd domain. But its general originality is rarely in doubt. Don Black, co-lyricist for 1989 Aspects of Love, said “Andrew has more or less just reinvented the musical.”

Born in 1948 to a musical family – his mother was a violinist and pianist, his father a composer, his brother is the famous cellist Julian Lloyd Webber – his talent was soon shown. Professional success started with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1968, when he was not even 21 years old; Cinderella will be his 17th fully produced musical.

Many of his early successes were in collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice, but he worked with several writers. In order Cinderella he chose Emerald Fennell multi-talented, screenwriter for the BBC Killing Eve who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay this year for his comedy Promise Young Woman, which she also directed.

Lloyd Webber is an avid art collector, with a taste for pre-Raphaelite and Victorian painters including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and others. Her collection – substantial enough to fill all the main rooms of the Royal Academy in London when it was shown here in 2003 – has helped restore the reputation (and raise prices) of the old-fashioned genre. One expert, Christopher Wood, wrote of Lloyd Webber’s passion for art: “It is often said of Andrew that he writes musicals to collect more paintings. . . Collection is his real obsession. ”

Other interests include substantial charity work for its own Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, as well as other educational and cultural organizations. He was knighted in 1992 and in 1997 was created a life partner as Baron Lloyd Webber of Sydmonton, although he retired from the House of Lords in 2017.

Next week could more or less determine whether or not Cinderella go to the ball – and if its distinct creator finds itself on the wrong side of the law.

jan.dalley@ft.com



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