Shades of disharmony as producers clash over star tributes

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The Independent Online
THEATRICAL folklore will probably remember it as the battle of the sunglasses. The shades that cover the faces of the Blues Brothers outside the Comedy Theatre, and Roy Orbison outside the Piccadilly Theatre also hide a falling out between two West End producers.

The tale includes bitter words over a clash of first nights, the cancellation of a glitzy party, and even the intervention of the Health and Safety Executive.

Both West End shows, Only The Lonely and The Official Tribute to The Blues Brothers were due to open tonight. The producer of the Blues Brothers show, David Pugh, 33, was furious when he discovered that the veteran producer Bill Kenwright was opening his Roy Orbison tribute on the same night with a lavish party at the Waldorf Hotel and a virtual guarantee that he would attract all the critics, as the Blues Brothers show had played in London before.

Mr Pugh said: 'I never got a phone call or anything. Surely there should be some sort of courtesy one goes through. Because of his prominence as a powerful producer, all the critics would go and see his show.'

However, Kenwright capitulated and decided to move his first night to next week. Meanwhile, Mr Pugh was using an American police car with loudspeakers to publicise his show. But after its first trip down Shaftesbury Avenue, the Health and Safety Executive said he must not use it again. They had had a complaint from 'someone in the theatrical business'.

To add to his misfortunes, his leading man, Simon John Foster, coming off stage at the weekend in the pre-London run at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, tripped and broke his foot. He is now out of the show. 'We have had last- minute problems,' Mr Pugh said last night, 'but we will still open today with a new member of the cast; and Simon will make a guest appearance on crutches.'

Bill Kenwright was unavailable for comment. Sue Hyman, spokeswoman for the show, said: 'Bill will lose money on the previews because we have had to have a longer run than we originally wanted. He has gone out of his way to accommodate another, younger producer. Obviously, no one from the Bill Kenwright organisation had anything to do with the complaints about the American police car.'

(Photograph omitted)