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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Chris Wiegand

‘A costly mistake’: Andrew Lloyd Webber booed as Cinderella closes in West End

Audiences queue for the final performances of Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne theatre, London, June.
Audiences queue for the final performances of Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne theatre, London, June. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

A letter from Andrew Lloyd Webber, read on stage at the closing night of Cinderella, suggested that opening his new musical during the pandemic “might have been a costly mistake”.

The musical finished its run at the Gillian Lynne theatre in London on Sunday after heavy criticism for the way in which some of its workforce had learned of its closure on social media. Boos could be heard in the audience when Lord Lloyd-Webber’s letter was read out by the show’s director, Laurence Connor. In the letter, the composer praised a “fabulous cast, crew and musicians” and “the superb creative team” and repeated his previous assertion that he had “kept the government’s feet to the flame” during the Covid crisis in which the theatre industry weathered shutdowns, restricted capacities and severe financial difficulties.

The letter continued: “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.”

Towards the end, Lloyd Webber’s letter read: “It might have been a costly mistake, but I am proud that we did [it] and proud of everyone who supported me.” After significant criticism at the suggestion the show was a “costly mistake”, a spokesperson from the composer’s Really Useful Group said that the phrase was “never intended to relate to the production itself, more the myriad of challenges which the production has faced because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the full text of the letter makes clear”. On Monday afternoon the composer released a statement saying “I am very sorry if my words have been misunderstood” and adding that he thanked everyone involved in his “beloved” production for all they had done.

In a post on Instagram, Cinderella’s star Carrie Hope Fletcher said that over her three years on the project, from the first workshop to the final show, there had been “many highs and lows but overall I’m glad to have stood in Cinderella’s glass slippers … It’s been a ball.”

A new production of Cinderella is to open on Broadway in 2023. The Gillian Lynne theatre will next present a production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which has been on a UK tour.

Ivano Turco, centre, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella.
Ivano Turco, centre, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

A fairytale’s ending: Cinderella’s troubled timeline

10 January 2020
News announced that Andrew Lloyd Webber is creating a new version of Cinderella with writer Emerald Fennell and lyricist David Zippel.

14 February 2020
Carrie Hope Fletcher announced in lead role for musical, set to open in August 2020.

5 March 2020
As Covid causes disruption, announcement made that the first preview will now be delayed to 9 October owing to “current global circumstances”.

8 July 2020
Opening night delayed to March 2021. “The show will absolutely go on, just a little later than I’d hoped,” says Lloyd Webber.

4 June 2021
Far Too Late song released for musical, which is now due to open in July.

8 June 2021
Lloyd Webber says he is determined to open Cinderella at full capacity and ready to risk arrest in doing so.

18 June 2021
Composer slams “government delay and confusion” and says Cinderella will not be part of a pilot scheme for reopening theatres, as suggested by the prime minister.

25 June 2021
First preview takes place at the Gillian Lynne theatre.

19 July 2021
Press night cancelled at short notice owing to a Covid case in the cast; Lloyd Webber criticises “impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the government’s isolation guidance”.

18 August 2021
Cinderella finally opens to critics, receiving five stars in the Guardian.

21 December 2021
Cinderella performances halted because of Omicron and will restart “as soon as this wave is licked”, says Lloyd Webber.

3 February 2022
Cinderella reopens.

1 May 2022
Closure announced. “Thank you very much to everyone involved, particularly our UK audiences who have loved and supported the show,” says Lloyd Webber.

12 June 2022
Final performance at the Gillian Lynne theatre.

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