Andrew Lloyd Webber has hit back at playwright David Hare over his claims that musicals are “strangling” the West End.
Writing in his column in The Spectator on Wednesday (22 March), the Plenty writer shared his frustration about recently walking past the Wyndham’s Theatre and seeing that the production of Oklahoma! – which he nicknamed “Wokelahoma” – was “squatting there”.
“Musicals have become the leylandii of theatre, strangling everything in their path,” Hare wrote.
“It’s a crushing defeat to see Wyndham’s without a straight play. Is it our fault? Are dramatists not writing enough good plays which can attract 800 people a night? Will well-known actors not appear in them? Or did producers mislay their balls during lockdown?”
Hare’s claims were disputed by Webber, however, who suggested that the playwright disliked the genre due to the “disaster” that was his own musical, 1987’s The Knife.
“David Hare is responsible for one of the greatest musical disasters in history,” the Evita composer told The Times.
“[He] is probably saying this because he mainly wants to bury his own contribution to musical theatre.”
Webber’s last musical Cinderella ran in the West End from August 2021 until June 2022.
The Broadway production, now titled Bad Cinderella, is currently in previews and opened on Wednesday (22 March) night.
However, Webber was not in attendance as his son Nicholas has recently been moved to a hospice after being diagnosed with gastric cancer.
“The cancer goes up and down one day to the other. He came through the weekend and I went to see him this morning. Even today, very ill, he still smiled and said, ‘Hope your show goes well,’” Webber told the New York Post.
“I’ve done my life. I would change places with him if that were possible… My place can only be with my son. I can’t change places with him — or I would.”