'Don't cry for me, Christine Keeler...' is Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest the new Evita?

Plus: There's Rhinegold in them there Cotswold hills and Exile on Main Street for someone in the Sky newsroom


No doubt I will be drummed out of several cultural unions for saying this, but I do look forward to a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. He's not always fashionable in some circles, but I invariably enjoy his high-powered, romantic and melodic musical dramas. The last one, Love Never Dies, had too short a life, killed off I'm quite sure by the constant repetition of the epithet "Paint Never Dries", coined by a malevolent blogger.

Tickets have now gone on sale for Lloyd Webber's next. The musical, directed by Sir Richard Eyre, will re-create the Profumo affair in the year of its 50th anniversary. It is called Stephen Ward after one of the key players in that real-life drama, the osteopath who introduced war minister John Profumo to the prostitute Christine Keeler, and committed suicide during his trial for living off immoral earnings. It doesn't strike me as a great name for a musical. Wouldn't "Profumo" or "Keeler" or "Christine" be more likely to make you part with your cash?

Also, Andrew, I'd be wary of those bloggers and the "Paint Never Dries" syndrome. Avoid anything that attracts a derogatory rhyme. "Ward", well it does rhyme all too conveniently with "bored".

But if the name of the show is a bit iffy, the choice of material is bold. Of course the Profumo affair has drama in spades, and much of it the staple of musical drama, – sex, glamour, wealth, the convergence of high-society characters and shady characters, luxurious surroundings and more than one tragic downfall. Until the cast is made public, we can all play the game of casting, not least of the juicy, show-stealing role of Keeler's friend Mandy Rice-Davies. But while the show may have plenty of musical staples, I still believe the subject matter is bold, not because of the sex, which is old hat, but because of the politics. Musicals don't tend to stray into politics. And the Profumo scandal without the politics is meaningless. It was Profumo's lying to the House of Commons, after all, that triggered his downfall. I trust there will be a Westminster scene.

It will be strange. British politics is not the stuff of musicals. Evita yes, that's exotic with dictators and Latin temperaments. But in this one will we get Harold Macmillan singing "How do I keep my majority?"? Or the Lord Denning character crooning, "It's quite an inquiry but wait till you read my report".

These events may be 50 years ago, but they still feel familiar, almost parochial, sex and scandal mixed with Westminster minutiae. Andrew Lloyd Webber should be praised for extending the scope of the musical to make the art form embrace domestic politics. This musical could be a game-changer. Just change the name of the show.

There's Rhinegold in them there Cotswold hills

Although it is Wagner's bicentenary, there is surprisingly only one staging of The Ring cycle. I don't mean Daniel Barenboim's at the Proms, as this is only semi-staged. The only fully staged production is at Longborough Festival Opera, the fulfillment of a dream by Longborough's owners Martin and Lizzie Graham.

I saw The Valkyrie last week, conducted, as is the entire cycle, by Anthony Negus. It was a triumph for the Cotswolds opera house, which is staging three cycles. And it was particularly impressive that most of the excellent cast, as well as Negus and director Alan Privett, are British. It's the culmination of a long journey. Martin Graham says: "Thirty years ago both I and, more tentatively, Lizzie resolved to create a theatre and produce The Ring here at Longborough. This fanciful notion was born more from enthusiasm, ignorance and confidence than common sense."

Their feat in building the opera house and staging Wagner's Ring has been suitably heroic.

Exile on Main Street for Sky News's scriptwriter

The Sky News presenter beamed last Sunday morning as she read out the song-title pun that had been written for her. "It's All Right Now," she said, "as The Rolling Stones play Glastonbury at last." Well, "All Right Now" was indeed a big hit back in the day, but for the band Free. The Stones's hit was called "It's All Over Now", which would have not sounded so positive as their picture flashed up on screen. Back to the rock-history drawing board for someone in the Sky newsroom.

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