Super-producer and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has joined his fellow artists working in the beleaguered theater and music industries in taking legal steps to get the U.K. government to release results of its ongoing Events Research Program.
The program was set up to examine the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from attendance at events and explore ways to enable people to attend a range of events safely. To achieve this, the program, the first phase of which ran over April and May, explored how a combination of testing and non-pharmaceutical interventions could inform decisions on safely lifting restrictions at events.
However, the government has failed to reveal its findings so far. The U.K. was due to reopen fully on June 21 after a crippling series of COVID-19 induced lockdowns over the past 15 months, but this has been pushed back to July 19, due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the virus. Thanks to this, theaters, cinemas, live sporting events and concerts have been forced to continue to operate at vastly reduced capacities, resulting in debilitating losses.
Webber’s first new West End show in five years, the £6 million ($8.5 million) budgeted “Cinderella,” with a script by white hot “Promising Young Woman” writer-director Emerald Fennell, is due to open for previews at London’s Gillian Lynne theater June 25, followed by a world premiere July 14. Reduced capacity would seriously affect its box office.
The composer turned down a last-minute offer to make “Cinderella” a part of the Events Research Program. On Thursday, his Really Useful Group, theater impresario Cameron Mackintosh, music industry body LIVE and other leading figures from the entertainment world have instigated legal proceedings to force government ministers to release the findings of phase one of the program.
“Last week I rejected the government’s invitation for ‘Cinderella’ to be singled out as a last-minute part of the Events Research Program,” said Webber. “Today, with a range of voices from across the theater and live entertainment industries, we are forced to take it further. We simply must now see the data that is being used to strangle our industry so unfairly.”
“The government’s actions are forcing theater and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead. The situation is beyond urgent,” the “Cats” composer added.
Some 45,000 fans will be in attendance at Wembley for the climax of the Euro 2020 soccer championship, while tennis tournament Wimbledon’s men’s and women’s finals will be played to full houses as these have been given test event status under the Events Research Program.
The theater and music industries have also called for an insurance scheme to protect them from further losses. “Having been forced to close our theaters twice last year, the second time after the government encouraged reopening for Christmas, losing further millions as a result, a joint insurance scheme to protect us against another enforced closure is vital,”
“Along with most of the commercial theater we have had absolutely no direct financial help either for our productions or the upkeep of our historic theater,” the “Les Misérables” producer added. “Opening without any sort of protection is impossible for many producers, live event organizers and theater buildings across the country. Having contributed huge amounts of money to the exchequer over the last few decades, the theater desperately needs to be supported in its hour of need or the government will be responsible for the disintegration of one of this country’s most priceless and irreplaceable assets after centuries of being the envy of the world.”
Earlier this month, Webber had said that he was willing to court arrest if there was any delay in fully reopening theaters.