Entertainment & Arts

Lloyd Webber flop musical Stephen Ward to close early

Charlotte Spencer as Christine Keeler and Alexander Hanson as Stephen Ward
Based on the 1960s Profumo scandal, the musical starred Charlotte Spencer as Christine Keeler and Alexander Hanson as Stephen Ward

Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical, Stephen Ward, is to close after a West End run of less than four months.

The show, based around a sex and spies scandal, opened to mixed reviews just before Christmas, but will close on 29 March after sluggish ticket sales.

Top-price seats in the fourth row of the Aldwych Theatre are still available for performances this weekend.

"I am very sad to see the show close," said producer Robert Fox, adding he hoped it would one day be resurrected.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Several of the theatre impresario's newest productions have been forced to close early

The musical's opening night on 19 December was attended by stars including Dame Judi Dench, Elaine Paige, Arlene Phillips, James Corden, Jimmy Carr and film director Tom Hooper.

Critics were divided, however. The Telegraph praised the "delightful tunes" and "winning performances" but Variety said the "flaccid" production was guilty of "slack storytelling".

Based on a true story, Lord Lloyd-Webber's 20th musical focused on Stephen Ward, an osteopath and socialite who was instrumental in the Profumo sex scandal, which threatened to topple the Conservative government in 1963.

Put on trial for living off immoral earnings, Ward took an overdose of tablets and died three days after being found guilty.

The musical cost £2.5m to stage, which is relatively low for a new West End show.

But, speaking to The Telegraph shortly before it launched, Lord Lloyd-Webber admitted he was unsure whether it would be a hit.

Christine Keeler (Charlotte Spencer) hounded by the press in Stephen Ward - photo by Nobby Clark
Christine Keeler (Charlotte Spencer) hounded by the press in Stephen Ward

"It's an amazing piece of work. Whether it's a commercial piece of work is another question," he said.

"I haven't had a hit in 20 years. I've written six musicals in that time. I'm resigned now to the fact that anything I do probably nobody is going to like."

The West End impresario, whose hits include Evita and Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, has had a string of shows close early.

Among them were football-themed musical The Beautiful Game and Love Never Dies, his sequel to Phantom of the Opera, which ran for a disappointing 18 months in 2010-11.

In a statement announcing the closure of Stephen Ward, producer Fox said: "Andrew has never been afraid to embrace difficult and challenging subject matters and Ward's strong and compelling story highlights a serious miscarriage of justice.

"The piece set out to explore his fascinating life as a piece of serious theatre, which has now been told to a new generation.

"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."

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