It should have been a night to remember and the moment that Andrew Lloyd Webber basked in the spotlight, soaking up the applause of a full West End house of more than 1,200 people. Monday was the press night for his new musical Cinderella.
For the first time since March 16 2020, theatres have been allowed – under Step 4 – to remove social distancing. But instead of seeing his long hard slog as a campaigner for theatre during the pandemic and his perseverance as a composer come to fruition, on Monday evening he was found on stage in front of an empty auditorium at the Gillian Lynne theatre, off Drury Lane, issuing an impassioned aria of indignation aimed at the Government.
After two suspended performances on Saturday, on Monday afternoon it was announced that the show – at the erstwhile home of Cats – has been suspended until the end of the week, at the minimum, as a result of one cast member testing positive for Covid-19. Under the current rules regarding close contact that entailed self-isolation for so many of the 30-plus company as to make continuing unviable.
An exasperated and borderline tearful Lloyd Webber – the most gung-ho theatre establishment figure thus far – warned that Cinderella could not go on now and faces an uncertain future, given the huge knock-on effects in terms of costs. “I am determined to get Cinderella open here. There are voices saying ‘Come on, forget Britain, do it on Broadway’. I’m not going to do that but who knows when we will open here? 2084? There comes a time when we simply won’t be able to go on, there does come a time, we are pretty much at that point.”
“Every single member of the cast has been double-tested, none of them are positive apart from [that] one person. I felt that with the guidelines as they are at the moment, we simply couldn’t go ahead. The theatre can’t carry on like this.”