Who will inspire Lloyd Webber’s genius after Stephen Ward?

This latest show could see the blooming of a new musical genre


Hooray, the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is almost upon us. It’s called Stephen Ward, and concerns the chap at the centre of the Profumo scandal. We’ve been celebrating, if that’s the word, the 50th anniversary of the event for months, remarking on the vividness of the main characters, the good-time girls, the poshos, the diplomats, the druggies.

This scandal had everything.  But calling the musical Stephen Ward – it’s just not a musical name, is it? It’s a far cry from South Pacific, or My Fair Lady. And when playgoers around the world ask: “Who is this person about whom Lord Lloyd Webber has written one of his brilliant musicals?” what will the answer be? “He was a freelance osteopath who lived in Chelsea, knew lots of people, was abandoned by them all and committed suicide.” There have been more unlikely musical projects (Evita for instance) but not many that focus on the life of a doomed paramedical man-about-town living in a time of turmoil. We can only speculate where Lloyd Webber will go from here:

Li Zhi Sui. A musical insight into the court of Mao Tse-Tung, a place of decadence, cruelty, political intrigue and sexual excess, seen through the eyes of Mao’s personal physician. Learn about the dictator’s undescended testicle, his lack of hygiene and his catastrophic Utopian statism. Songs include the catchy “I Put My Faith in Purges,” and the hilarious ballad about the Great Helmsman’s haemorrhoids, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like My Rear?”

Edward Nettleship.  Musical exploration of late-Victorian values through the relationship between Queen Victoria and her eye specialists. When royal physician Sir James Reid (Olly Murs) discovers Her Majesty has cataracts, he summons the nation’s top ophthalmologist, Nettleship (John Barrowman) to confirm his suspicions. The Queen calls in Edward’s hated rival, Hermann Pagenstecher (Michael Bublé) for a second opinion. Anglo-Germanic wounds open. Featuring the irresistible “I Can’t See Clearly Now.”

Silas Lowering. Grim but evocative musical set in 19th-century Yorkshire, as recorded in the diaries of local GP Silas. His most famous patients were the Brontë family at Haworth Parsonage, where Dr Lowering was often called to attend the sisters’ fainting fits and their brother Branwell’s alcoholic ravings. At the climax Emily is found to have Asperger’s, as well as early-onset TB. Songs include “My Resistance is Low,” and the sparkling “Coughing in My Coffin.”

Rene-Theophile-Hyacinthe Laennec. Hilarious depiction of post-Revolutionary France from the perspective of the inventor of the stethoscope. With dancing sans-culottes, working guillotine and lots of bare chests. Songs include “I Can Hear Your Heartbeat (Through My New Invention)” and “Just Breathe Normally Please, Brigitte.”  Unmissable.

It’s all bread and butter politics

I’m struggling to work out the right answer to that crucial Tory Conference question: “Do you know the price of a supermarket loaf of bread?” Does anyone know the price of individual items in supermarkets? Don’t we just stand and marvel at the total bill when we get to the checkout?

Would we respect our party leaders if they spent hours memorising the cost of tinned tomatoes or cartons of Oxo cubes? But I know why David Cameron made his evasive “I’ve-got-a-bread-machine” reply. Because, if he were being absolutely truthful, he’d have said: “Supermarket bread? Sorry, you mean the Waitrose Organic Multi-Seeded Pave (£1.74) or the Gail’s Bakery White Sourdough (£2.89).”

And that’s not really a vote-winning answer, is it?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The handling of the tragic deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd in 2006 by Thomas Cook was appalling  

Thomas Cook case was a failure of heart

Danny Rogers
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine