Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward the musical to close in early

The curtain is to fall on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest show Stephen Ward, a musical interpretation of the Profumo scandal, after less than four months following disappointing ticket sales. The musical, which cost £2.5m to stage, opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 19 December.

Untitled jStephen Ward producer Robert Fox said in a statement: ‘I am very sad to see the show close in London but firmly believe this piece will be seen by many audiences in the future.’

In response to the criticism the show had received, Lloyd Webber said in a letter to The Telegraph: ‘The difference between success and failure in musical theatre is a horrifyingly fine line. However, I believe that if you choose a subject purely because it appears commercial, catastrophe looms’.

According to statistics from The Society of London Theatre, out of the 24 longest-running shows on London’s West End, five are Andrew Lloyd Webber productions (Details correct as of November 2013: The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Starlight Express, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita).

Stephen Ward runs at the Aldwych Theatre until 29 March www.stephenwardthemusical.com

ATG owners top The Stage 100 List

Chief executives Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire of the Ambassador Theatre Group have come top, for the fifth year running, of The Stage 100 List – the industry paper’s annual power list. The theatre group, established over 20 years ago, owns 39 theatres in the UK.

Last year saw ATG undergo a period of change and growth: the company purchased New York theatre, Foxwoods, home to the soon-to-close production Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. This marks the first UK theatre group to own a Broadway venue. Later in the year ATG was bought out by a US private equity firm for £350m. Deputy editor of The Stage Alistair Smith described the deal as a ‘game-changer’ and ‘the biggest theatre transaction that has ever taken place in the UK market.’

The National Theatre team of Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, who came joint top with ATG’s Panter and Squire in the 2013 list, have come in second in this year’s fixtures. Andrew Lloyd Webber, having previously topped the list six times, is in third place. Cameron Mackintosh and Nick Allott come in at four and Sonia Friedman at five.

New entries in the top ten include Gregory Doran and Catherine Mallyon for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sam Mendes and Caro Newling for Neal Street Productions, and theatre director Jamie Lloyd.

For the full The Stage 100 List, visit www.thestage.co.uk.

New Year Honours for British actresses

Dame Angela Lansbury: the actress is recognised in 2014's New Year Honours (Credit: Featureflash)

Dame Angela Lansbury: the actress is recognised in 2014’s New Year Honours (Credit: Featureflash)

The Queen’s 2014 New Year Honours list has recognised and celebrated some of the country’s leading acting and theatre talent: theatre, film and television actress Angela Lansbury is to become a Dame of the British Empire for her services to drama, charitable work and philanthropy. Bafta and Olivier Award winner Penelope Keith will receive the same honour for her services to the arts and charity, as will choreographer Gillian Lynne, director of more than 50 shows in the West End, on Broadway and on tour, for her services to dance and musical theatre.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, a collaborator of Gillian Lynne’s on productions such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera, said that he was ‘thrilled that the grand lady of British musical theatre has got the recognition she deserves.’

Accolades for women in the arts continues: Canadian-born stage and television actress Lynda Bellingham is to be awarded an OBE for voluntary service to charitable giving in the UK. Actress and writer of Gavin and Stacey, Ruth Jones, will receive an MBE.

There were also a few notable male honours in this year’s selection, including CBEs for television actor Michael Crawford and former Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke, as well as a knighthood for Michael Codron, the owner of London’s Aldwych Theatre, for his services to theatre.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation donates to arts education projects

 

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation is donating £380,000 to arts education projects throughout the UK.

Recipients include Creative and Cultural Skills, who were granted £75,000 for their range of masterclasses in technical theatre training; The Old Vic, which received £10,000 for their Old Vic New Voices Programme; and The Wales Millenium Centre’s Creative Apprenticeship Scheme, which has been awarded a £45,000 to train students wanting to work in backstage theatre.

The biggest donation of £180,000 was given to The Royal Ballet School, who had their funding frozen by the department for education.

Madeleine Lloyd Webber, trustee of the foundation said that they were, ‘delighted to be able to support such a diverse range of arts education initiatives.

‘We feel it is hugely important to encourage the next generation of artistic talent. The UK is currently a global leader in the arts, and by investing in programmes to train young artists, we hope our country can continue to be a creative force.’

www.andrewlloydwebberfoundation.com

 

Actress Joanna Page hits out at Lloyd Webber reality show

‘Insulting’: Actress Joanna Page attacks Lloyd Webber’s reality show

Stage and screen actress Joanna Page has called the latest reality television show to find the next stage star ‘disgusting’. The RADA graduate criticised the ITV series Superstar and shows with a similar format.

The programme saw Andrew Lloyd Webber search for a new male lead to perform the role of Jesus in the forthcoming arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. The finale, broadcast last night, saw 31-year-old Ben Forster win the reality TV show. He will join Chris Moyles, Tim Minchin and former Spice Girl Mel C in performances around the UK.

Page, speaking to The Stage, voiced her concerns that reality television programmes overlooked performers already working in the industry: ‘There are actors and musical theatre performers who have given their whole lives to the profession because it is their passion, and then you have some bloody van driver on a show saying “I didn’t do this when I was 12 but I wish I had done, but I didn’t have the guts”. Well, that’s your problem, because you obviously didn’t have the passion, spirit, drive, and the determination, to dedicate your whole life to it.’

The Gavin and Stacey actress also questioned Andrew Lloyd Webber’s choice not to cast actors he has previously worked with, labelling it as ‘insulting’ to those who had performed in his previous shows.

She also went on to query how useful the arrangement of the series really was in showing the true potential amongst the contestants, as the show had no real platform to display their acting ability. Page said: ‘I am finding myself really happy now that they are left with people who aren’t suitable. There is no one with the charisma, the authority, the stature or the maturity to play Jesus.’

This isn’t the first time Superstar has come under attack. When plans for the show were first announced Lloyd Webber’s long time collaborator Sir Tim Rice voiced his discontent that Jesus Christ Superstar would be getting the ‘tasteless reality television treatment’.

Rice said at the time: ‘Andrew wants to rehash things all the time, but I really don’t think Superstar needs that. Those shows are relentlessly downmarket, which is fine if the show is a lightweight bit of fluff.

‘It’s just possible that it might be the most sophisticated, tasteful show hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I doubt it. It sounds tacky and I really don’t think Andrew should do it.’

Kids Week and West End Live make theatre accessible this summer

While this summer looks to be dominated by sport, those with an appetite for theatre won’t be disappointed. It was predicted by theatre bigwigs such as Andrew Lloyd Webber 2012 would see theatre’s struggle against the tide of Olympic tourists. However, there are a couple of initiatives which are making London’s biggest theatre hits more available to everyone.

One scheme which will keep children happy throughout the summer holidays is Kids Week. The project, in its 15th year, will run throughout the whole of August – providing parents and children with a respite from the Olympic Games.

The scheme allows young people under the age of 16 to see a theatre performance in London for free, when attending with a paying adult. Amongst this year’s selection of performances are Billy Elliot the MusicalBlood Brothers, Chicago, War Horse, The Lion King, The Wizard of Oz and many more. Tickets went on sale on 12th June and saw popular show Matilda The Musical sell out within hours.

Young people who have bought a ticket through Kids Week also have the chance to take part in a workshop from their chosen play. Those attending Singin’ in the Rain can opt to have a go at a vocal and dance workshop for free. Visitors to The Woman in Black can participate in an interactive ghostly workshop and many other productions are offering Q&A sessions with Kids Week audiences. For more information about Kids Week, visit www.kidsweek.co.uk. Tickets and workshops are subject to availability, so book soon to avoid disappointment.

However, if your budget is too tight to shell out for full price adult tickets, West End Live are offering a free weekend of London theatre performances for visitors to enjoy. The event, organised by Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), will see live showcase performances of London’s biggest theatre shows.

There will be performances from Shrek, Wicked, Ghost The Musical, Stomp and Phantom of the Opera. If you’ve missed out on tickets for Kids Week for shows like Matilda the Musical and Billy Elliot they will also be in attendance. The weekend will also see musical performances take place from acts such as the National Youth Music Theatre and Ghost The Musical star Mark Evans.

West End Live will take place on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th July. All performances will take place in Trafalgar Square and entry is free. To find out more, visit www.westendlive.co.uk.

Make sure you make the most of all that the West End has to offer this summer!

New theatre to be built in heart of West End

Westminster City Council has approved plans for a new theatre to be built in central London. The yet- to-be-named venue will be the first new theatre to join the West End in 30 years.

The project is being undertaken by Nimax Theatres, owners of the Apollo, Duchess, Garrick, Lyric and Vaudeville Theatres. Nimax have also recently acquired Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Chief executive of Nimax, Nica Burns, told the Finical Times about her excitement for the project: ‘I’m delighted that this beautiful theatre has gone on to the next stage of its development. It will add greatly to the potential of London theatre making. I didn’t want it to compete with other theatres. I wanted it to offer a different space for London in a fabulous location for actors and directors.’

The new state-of-the-art theatre venue will be constructed on top of Tottenham Court Road Station, which is currently undergoing redevelopment. Work on the theatre is expected to begin in 2017.

Plans for the interior of the building have also been revealed. The theatre’s design will allow for a variation of performance spaces to be created. There will be facilities for productions to perform in the round and in a horseshoe configuration. The theatre is expected to accommodate up to 500 visitors.

Topic of the day – To Edinburgh or not to Edinburgh?

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a valued tradition amongst theatre enthusiasts. As we head further into the warmer months of the year, theatre companies, students and schools begin to hatch their plans for this year’s performances. However 2012 is not like every other year.

The Olympic Games is set to completely take over London during the summer. But with the Edinburgh Fringe so removed from the chaos that will descend upon London, will it really put off the usual suspects of attending this year’s festival? The Guardian reports that the Fringe have been proactive in preparing for this year’s festival – they have decided to bring forward the release of their brochure by two weeks and have already listed 15 shows, including big names such as Jimmy Carr, on their website to entice visitors. This summer an estimated 5 million visitors will descend on the UK for the Olympic Games. Today The Guardian has been asking: Is it worth performing at Edinburgh this year? The West End has already begun bracing itself for a tough summer. Andrew Lloyd Webber has said that the Olympics will cause a ‘theatre bloodbath’ this summer and he claimed that bookings have been 10% below their usual number.

What do you think? Will you be avoiding the Edinburgh festival this year? Or will the Olympics provide you with even more of a reason to head north? Let us know what you think.

If you are going this year, as a performer or a spectator, have you started to think about all the preparation? In Teaching Drama Summer 1 (out 2 April) we will be reviewing Mark Fisher’s The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide. Make sure to get your copy to read our verdict.

To read the original article, visit: www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2012/mar/01/edinburgh-festival-fringe-theatre-olympics?INTCMP=SRCH

www.edfringe.com

Profits fall at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company Really Useful Group

The Really Useful Group has seen its profits fall by 50% in the past year. Even with the celebration of The Phantom of the Opera‘s 25th anniversary couldn’t help lift the company’s profits above £4.6 million, compared to £10.7 million the year before.

It has been a financially challenging year for Really Useful Group and owner Andrew Lloyd Webber. £1.6 million had to be paid in severance to chief executive Andre Ptaszynski and  finance director Howard Witts who both parted ways with the company this year.

Also damaging to the finances was the fall through of Lloyd Webber’s sale of four venues to Lord Grade. Really Useful Group was set to sell off The Palace Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Cambridge Theatre and New London Theatre. The deal was worth £50 million but fell through after a deal was unable to be struck.

From a recent BBC Radio 4 interview, Lloyd Webber does not look optimistic for the year ahead. He has said that the 2012 Olympics, which will descend upon London this summer, will cause a ‘theatre bloodbath’. He claimed that theatre bookings have been 10% of their usual number leading up to the games.

For more information on the Really Useful Group visit their website:

www.reallyuseful.com