And now, Maxwell - the Musical: He is the very model of . . . he is the very model of . . . a modern major criminal

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MAXWELL, the Musical? Unbelievable, but true - just like the man on whom it is based. As lawyers and liquidators sift fact from fiction in the real-life story of Robert Maxwell, the disgraced late publishing tycoon, a lyricist will be mixing the two and adapting it, mainly to Gilbert and Sullivan.

Or rather, to Sullivan the composer with only snatches of the original words by Gilbert, even though he wrote highly appropriate lines such as '. . . all the crimes that I find . . . I've promised to perpetrate daily'.

The musical is set to follow Maxwell, the movie, and Maxwell, the television series, but so far only two songs have been written - a calypso for the leading man and a version of 'Three little maids from school are we' with Maxwell's sons, Kevin and Ian, as the maids. 'As ever, it will need 14 rewrites,' says Evan Steadman, the musical's producer, 'but we'll have Kevin flying to school by helicopter, as he actually did.'

Mr Steadman is a former chairman of Maxwell Business Communications Group Limited and knew his subject at first hand. Since his boss's death at sea he has bought various pieces of Maxwell memorabilia at auction - chairs from his flat in Maxwell House and the filing-box he carried everywhere - and these will find a place on the set.

Mr Steadman is not, however, obsessed by accuracy and the strict historical truth. As a backer of recent West End successes such as Me and My Girl and High Society, he knows he has a duty to entertain.

'Whether stories are apocryphal or not doesn't matter,' he says. 'They will be the sort of stories everyone expects would be true of a man like that. And there are so many of them that you don't need to make them up.' Poignancy will be provided by a small chorus of former Daily Mirror workers who confront Maxwell about their pensions.

The cast will be modest in number - eight actors - though one of them should not be modest in size. Contracts have yet to be signed, but an actor of 'rotund' proportions is being pursued. 'Mel Smith comes to mind,' says Mr Steadman.

Spectacular audio-visual effects are promised. Film and photographs will be back-projected, including clips of Maxwell embracing the Queen and appearing on This is Your Life. Mr Steadman says he wants to use 'the bit when Michael Aspel said that one thing that Maxwell will be most remembered for is his sense of charity'.

And as the HMS Pinafore chorus said, 'And a right good captain, too]'

(Photographs omitted)