Andrew Lloyd Webber delays Cinderella musical in West End

With its story and book by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell, the $11.2 million Cinderella musical (above) had been set to star English actress Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role.
With its story and book by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell, the $11.2 million Cinderella musical (above) had been set to star English actress Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role.PHOTO: NYTIMES
With its story and book by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell, the $11.2 million Cinderella musical (above) had been set to star English actress Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role.
With its story and book by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell, the $11.2 million Cinderella musical (above) had been set to star English actress Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON • One day before Andrew Lloyd Webber's much-anticipated Cinderella musical was slated to open in London's West End, and two days after a cast member tested positive for Covid-19, the prolific composer and producer announced on Monday that opening night would yet again be delayed.

"I have been forced to take the heartbreaking decision not to open my Cinderella," he said in a Twitter statement.

"The impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the government's isolation guidance mean that we cannot continue."

Lloyd Webber's announcement initially did not specify whether the production was closing for good or just being postponed, although a spokesman for him later clarified that the show's opening was delayed, not cancelled, and that they hoped to open the show "soon, but it's very difficult under the current conditions".

The composer's statement was likely an attempt to try and force the British government to change its rules on quarantine for actors and crew.

Last month, the 73-year-old made newspaper front pages with comments promising to open Cinderella at full capacity "come hell or high water" - even if he faced arrest for doing so.

He quickly pulled back from the plan after learning his audience, cast and crew risked fines for breaching British coronavirus rules.

With its story and book by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell, the US$8.2 million (S$11.2 million) musical had been set to star English actress Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role, and had been in previews at half capacity at the Gillian Lynne Theatre for about a month.

A surge of Covid-19 cases in Britain, driven by the Delta variant, has also been shuttering London's other West End theatres after members of productions like Hairspray at the London Coliseum and Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare's Globe tested positive earlier this month.

And London's Riverside Studios announced that The Browning Version, which had been set to open next month starring Kenneth Branagh, has been cancelled.

Despite a rise in the number of cases that has driven England's daily average to 39,950 - approximately double the level just two weeks ago - virtually all social distancing and mask requirements were removed on Monday, prompting widespread "Freedom Day" celebrations.

But for those involved with Cinderella, the news was grim.

"Cinderella was ready to go," Lloyd Webber said in the statement.

"My sadness for our cast and crew, our loyal audience and the industry I have been fighting for is impossible to put into words."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2021, with the headline 'Andrew Lloyd Webber delays Cinderella musical in West End'. Subscribe