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Maxwell ghost haunts musical: Plan for 1.2m pounds show is met with legal threat

THE LITIGIOUS presence of Robert Maxwell is threatening legal action from beyond the grave to prevent the opening of a new musical about his life. Or at least his son, Kevin, is doing so on his behalf.

But Evan Steadman, the millionaire writer and producer of Maxwell, The Musical, which is due to open in November on the second anniversary of Maxwell's death, is using some of Maxwell's former millions to fight the threat.

Mr Steadman got the idea for the pounds 1.2m musical after working with the former Mirror Group Newspapers proprietor, an experience which reminded him of something out of a Gilbert and Sullivan musical: 'Everything Maxwellian was over the top, totally ludicrous, with many levels of sadness contrasting with the megalomania of the owner.'

When Maxwell bought his companies for pounds 16m in 1988, Mr Steadman found himself with the resources to stage his play and, working with professional lyricists, set up-dated Maxwellian lyrics to 14 of Arthur Sullivan's melodies. He is hoping to attract Mike McShane, the comedian, or John Goodman, who stars in Roseanne, to play the lead role.

But the spectre of the litigious billionaire reappeared in the form of a letter from Peters and Peters, acting for Kevin Maxwell. It warned that 'any production, television broadcast or newspaper periodical that vilifies the late Robert Maxwell (whether justifiably or not) or otherwise touches upon issues of fact in the proceedings our client and others face, inevitably prejudices him and his co-defendants'.

Without denying that the musical may involve 'vilification' of Maxwell, Mr Steadman's lawyers, Wright Webb and Syrett, stated that 'it is not correct as a matter of law that vilification of Robert Maxwell, if any further vilification is possible, which we doubt, would of itself prejudice the trial'. They have also invited the Attorney General to consider the issue.