One day before Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-anticipated “Cinderella” musical was slated to open in London’s West End, and two days after a cast member tested positive for the coronavirus, the prolific composer and producer announced on Monday that opening night would yet again be delayed.
“I have been forced to take the heartbreaking decision not to open my Cinderella,” he said in a Twitter statement. “The impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the Government’s isolation guidance mean that we cannot continue.”
Lloyd Webber’s announcement initially did not specify whether the production was closing for good or just being postponed, though a spokeswoman for him later clarified that the show’s opening was delayed, not canceled, and that they hoped to open the show “soon, but it’s very difficult under the current conditions.”
The composer’s statement was likely an attempt to try and force the British government to change its rules on quarantine for actors and crew. Last month, he made newspaper front pages with comments promising to open “Cinderella” at full capacity “come hell or high water” — even if he faced arrest for doing so. He quickly pulled back from the plan after learning his audience, cast and crew risked fines for breaching British coronavirus rules.
With its story and book by the Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), the $8.2 million musical had been set to star Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role, and had been in previews at half capacity at the Gillian Lynne Theater for about a month.
Lloyd Webber, 73, has been pressuring the government for more than a year to allow theaters to open at full capacity. In an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, he said protocols that required a show to cancel performances because one member of the cast came into contact with someone who tested positive could be the death knell for a musical like “Cinderella.”
“The trouble is, we wouldn’t be able to carry on,” he said. “We can’t carry on hemorrhaging money each week, because at 50 percent we do. It’s almost unthinkable, but there comes a time when you just have to hand in the towel.”
A surge of coronavirus cases in Britain, driven by the Delta variant, has also been shuttering London’s other West End theaters after members of productions like “Hairspray” at the London Coliseum and “Romeo and Juliet” at Shakespeare’s Globe tested positive earlier this month. And London’s Riverside Studios announced that “The Browning Version,” which had been set to open next month starring Kenneth Branagh, has been canceled.
Despite a rise in cases that has driven England’s daily average to 39,950 — approximately double the level just two weeks ago — virtually all social distancing and mask requirements were removed on Monday, prompting widespread “Freedom Day” celebrations.
But for those involved with “Cinderella,” the news was grim.
“Cinderella was ready to go,” Lloyd Webber said in the statement. “My sadness for our cast and crew, our loyal audience and the industry I have been fighting for is impossible to put into words.”