Sir Tim Rice and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest shows flop in West End

After decades of breaking box-office records with the likes of 'Evita' and 'The Phantom of the Opera', audiences shun musical maestros' latest offerings

For 45 years, the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice have defined the genre and broken box-office records. But now, the theatre pioneers are united in failure, after the ambitious shows  they launched apart have both been forced to close, mere months after opening, due to audience indifference.

Lord Lloyd Webber’s much-hyped musical about the Profumo affair, Stephen Ward, is to close at the Aldwych Theatre after a run of four months. Producers have scrapped plans for a modest extension to the West End run and it will now end on 29 March. Fittingly, it is the same day that From Here to Eternity, Sir Tim’s latest production, comes to a premature close.

The lyricist’s Shaftesbury Theatre adaptation of James Jones’s wartime novel was due to run until the end of April but the house will go dark a month earlier, bringing the musical to a close after six months. Half-full houses did for the shows, which in Lord Lloyd Webber’s case is likely to mean a loss on the £2.5m required to stage Stephen Ward.

The flops will not join Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King among the pantheon of hits which Lord Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim either created together or separately, following the dissolution of their writing partnership 30 years ago.

 

Their failure may indicate that the musical-theatre baton has now passed from Lord Lloyd Webber, 65, and Sir Tim, 69, although Lord Lloyd Webber has announced he had begun work on new songs for his next theatre project, an adaptation of the hit film School of Rock. Tim Minchin, the composer of Matilda, which continues to play to packed houses on the West End and Broadway, has become the theatre world’s most sought-after songsmith. Where once Lord Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim broke boundaries with Jesus Christ Superstar, the Tony-winning The Book of Mormon has added a contemporary, acerbic, satirical edge to the religious musical.

The most successful music and lyric-writing partnership in musical theatre, Lord Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim first joined forces in 1965 and revitalised the form with the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Parting ways after the huge success of Evita, which ran for four years on Broadway, their relationship has been strained during the intervening years.

When Stephen Ward and Eternity opened within weeks of each other, it was perceived as a private box-office battle between the two ex-colleagues. Yet the challenge of launching two new, historically themed shows into a West End dominated by jukebox musicals and well-trodden revivals actually brought the duo together.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Stephen Ward’ is to close after four months Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Stephen Ward’ is to close after four months
Lord Lloyd Webber attended a preview of Eternity and gave Sir Tim some tips on improving the “sex on the beach” scene, made famous by the novel’s film adaptation. But his advice could not prevent the musical, starring Darius Campbell and Rebecca Thornhill, opening to poor reviews. Bemoaning its “thin” story and lack of star-power, Variety asked: “When was the last time anyone booked a ticket on the basis of a lyricist?”

The failure of Stephen Ward will be a particular blow to Lord Lloyd Webber, who believed it was his best work in years. “I haven’t had a hit in 20 years,” he admitted. “I’ve written six musicals in that time.” The composer insisted that the story of the Establishment’s destruction of the society osteopath at the heart of the Profumo affair would resonate with audiences 50 years on, a faith that may have been misplaced. While reviews were generally positive, Variety said the “flaccid” production was guilty of “slack storytelling”.

It will be a source of embarrassment to both men that their shows failed to match even the longevity of Viva Forever!, the Spice Girls musical, which limped on for seven months. Lord Lloyd Webber’s previous “flops” boasted more staying power – Love Never Dies ran for 18 months at the Adelphi and his collaboration with Ben Elton, The Beautiful Game, completed 11 months.

The two imminent closures, which explored themes of establishment hypocrisy and repressed sexuality, will give way to a brash, topical West End offering, with more obvious commercial potential. I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical, written by Harry Hill and fully endorsed by Simon Cowell, begins previews on Saturday, following the postponement of the opening two nights to resolve “technical issues”.

Lord Lloyd Webber’s back catalogue remains hugely popular and a revival of his 1980 song cycle Tell Me on a Sunday has just returned to the West End. But he admits that he may never again attempt to mount a major new project. “The costs of doing musicals have risen absolutely hugely,” he said before the Stephen Ward launch. “I don’t think I’ve got enough money to do very many more.”

Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star