Time to face the music

A couple of weeks back we reported how the West End productions of Stephen Ward and From Here To Eternity – the new shows from Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice respectively – will close early, at the end of March, due to poor ticket sales.


The failure of Stephen Ward and From Here to Eternity to set the West End alight is in marked contrast to Lloyd Webber and Rice’s combined efforts in the seventies, which spawned the hugely successful Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.


Have the two musical masters lost their Midas touch? Not necessarily. The Light Princess –  aka Tori Amos’s much hyped first theatrical foray – closed early at the National Theatre last month without managing to secure a much coveted West End transfer. And Top Hat – a 2013 Olivier Award winner – is no longer in London.


Rather the closure of the aforementioned reveals the difficulty involved in launching a historically themed or serious production, in an era where the West End is dominated by jukebox musicals (Mamma Mia!, The Jersey Boys, The Bodyguard et al).


But even jukebox musicals (the trend of a band’s songs being immortalised in a show) can fail – witness the Viva Forever fiasco, Let It Be, Daddy Cool and Never Forget (a musical that most Take That fans are only to happy to forget).


For a show to succeed in the capital, it needs to have the ‘cool’ factor. How else to account for the phenomenal success of American import, The Book of Mormon, from the team behind the edgy South Park? Or the indie, Irish hit Once and the controversially titled, Urinetown?


Whether imminent arrivals Memphis, Made in Dagenham and I Can’t Sing – a parody of the X Factor –  will have, erm, the X Factor remains to be seen.


As for Andrew Lloyd Webber? It looks like Stephen Ward may well have been his last musical. Stephen Ward’s failure follows in the footsteps of  recent Lloyd Webber flops such as Love Never Dies and The Beautiful Game (his collaboration with Ben Elton which lasted 11 months).


“The costs of doing musicals have risen absolutely hugely,” the theatre impresario said back in December 2013. “I don’t think I’ve got enough money to do very many more.”