The ill-fated life of Lord Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella has finally been euthanised.
However, before the Gillian Lynne Theatre waved goodbye to the production, his Lordship issued one final long and angry retort, in the form of a letter read on stage by his director, Laurence Connor.
Amongst other observations, he reflected, “I keep thinking, if only we had opened three months later we wouldn’t have had to postpone our opening twice because of COVID. If only we hadn’t had to close for a month over Christmas and New Year, once again thanks to COVID. And if only we had had a crumb of help from [the government’s culture recovery fund], I promise you we would have been here for a very long while to come,” before concluding that the whole venture had been “a costly mistake”.
With all due respect, there are far too many “if onlys” in that sentence to be realistic. If only he had seen sense and not opened the show at a time when it was always likely to be disastrous, the outcome might have been more favourable.
Much as he might (or might not) admire our Prime Minister, I doubt that Lord Lloyd Webber would have been pleased to discover that one thing the pair have in common is the ability to elicit boos from what should be an eager fan base. That was the cruel response of some attendees after the letter had been read out at the final performance of the doomed venture.
The other thing that LLW and BJ have in common is self-belief that some might argue borders on arrogance. Without wishing to increase the pain following a production that should have been postponed or abandoned long ago and clearly really was a very costly mistake, the writing was on the wall.
At the time that Cinderella belatedly opened, there was every prospect that coronavirus would close the theatre either temporarily or permanently for several months to come. Other producers acknowledged the inherent risks and cut costs to the bone, either putting on very small-scale productions or keeping their theatres dark.
Readers might recall that, so determined was the much-loved composer to open this show, he literally threatened to break the law if necessary, accepting the prospect of a prison sentence for doing so. This is not rational behaviour, more the stuff of fairy-tales such as Cinderella.
This woeful tale begs some other questions:
- Why would anyone open a very expensive show when it was almost guaranteed to become “a costly mistake”? Could it really be for the pleasure of martyrdom?
- Would the company have wanted to take a large loan from the Culture Recovery Fund, which might have been a heavy financial burden limiting opportunities for years to come?
- Was Cinderella really that good? Having only listened to the instantly forgettable soundtrack, this critic is not in the right place to judge. However, one must question whether it could realistically claim to be another Cats or Evita.
- Can any show be guaranteed to run for years at present with almost no tourists and the cost-of-living crisis on the horizon, not to mention COVID-19? Broadway is struggling, while several popular West End shows are also having a tough time.
Rather than licking his wounds and moaning about a bad call, surely Lord Lloyd Webber would be better advised to look to the future. Very few are better placed to recoup those losses either by writing something new and really special or reviving some of the serious money-makers, which are just about guaranteed to draw in audiences.
As suggested in a previous column, there is also a great story and maybe even a musical to be written about this saga, but perhaps by Michael Frayn in Noises Off mode rather than by Lord Lloyd Webber.