After "Cats" and "Jesus Christ Superstar", Lloyd Webber turns to The Profumo Affair for musical inspiration
LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (SEPTEMBER 30, 2013) (HANDOUT) - A new musical by British impresario and composer Andrew Lloyd Webberwill delve into the sex, spies and politics at the heart of Britain's biggest postwar scandal when it opens in December.
"Stephen Ward" charts the rise and fall of a high society osteopath at the centre of the 1963 "Profumo Affair" which embarrassed the British establishment by exposing the permissive lifestyle of the London elite as the sexual revolution began.
"Everything was changing in Britain so it's a little bit about the last gasp of the old Britain whilst the new one was about to come and how of course this whole business led to the downfall of the government. It's a fascinating period of history. And add to that a dash of the Cold War and the fact that no-one really knew if they were going to wake up tomorrow morning. We wouldn't necessarily know if this interview was going to broadcast... everyone living in the shadow of the nuclear threat. It all becomes about a very febrile time which I found fascinating to write,"Lloyd Webber told Reuters at the musical's launch on Monday (September 30).
A sample of the songs in the new production sung live in an adult entertainment nightclub in Soho provided a bawdy look into the lifestyle of a man who mixed party girls and powerful people at seedy London clubs and country houses.
When asked if this was a break from the usual Lloyd Webber style, the 65-year-old composer replied: "I don't know there is an archetypal Andrew Lloyd Webbermusical. When you consider I wrote a story about Jesus Christ, and I did a musical about cats, I don't necessarily stick to the same thing. That's why I enjoy writing shows."
The osteopath introduced Keeler, a showgirl, to Profumo. Revelations that Keeler was having a relationship with Profumo and a Russian naval attaché at the same time led to the British politician's resignation.
Mandy Rice-Davies, who helped with the musical and was one of the girls involved in the scandal, contended that Ward was offered up as a scapegoat by the police, the establishment and the media to appease public morality. The osteopath took an overdose of sleeping pills and died three days after his conviction.
Alexander Hanson - plays the osteopath who treated Gandhi and Winston Churchill, painted portraits of royal family members and then partied the night away with showgirls and aristocrats.
Lloyd Webber - an Oscar, Tony and Grammy award winner who owns six Londontheatres - rebuffed suggestions that his latest offering was a departure from previous work such as "Sunset Boulevard" and "Jesus Christ Superstar".
Despite having huge success in London's West End, Lloyd Webber still admits there isn't a formula to success in the West End. "I hope that like all my shows that people will come because if it's any good - that's a big 'if' I suppose - but if it's any good, they'll come because they want to see it. I can't tell you why people want to go and see anything, I mean, I didn't know that Phantom of the Opera would turn out the way it did. You just don't know. You write because you want to write," he said.
The actors on "Stephen Ward" haven't begun rehearsing yet, but performances will begin on December 3rd at Aldwych Theatre in London's West End.