Andrew Lloyd Webber has a new musical lined up for a West End world preem, and because it’s a new project from the creator of some of Broadway’s most enduring hits, it’s big news.
But given the track record of the composer’s most recent work, there’s no guarantee the show will turn into a big deal at the box office.
“Stephen Ward,” a new tuner about the 1963 London political scandal known as the Profumo Affair, will open in December in a production helmed by Richard Eyre. Scribe Christopher Hampton (“Les Liaisons Dangereuses”) and lyricist Don Black, both collaborators on Lloyd Webber’s musical version of “Sunset Boulevard,” also are on board the new show, as is choreographer Stephen Mear.
There’s no doubt that Lloyd Webber is among the best-known musical theater composers alive, a familiar name who, even more than “Les Miserables” songsmiths Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, was the face of the Brit megamusical that dominated Broadway in the 1980s. “Phantom” remains one of the legit industry’s most profitable global properties, and it’s only one of a string of popular credits that includes “Cats,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
But even that pedigree doesn’t necessarily mean similar Main Stem success for Lloyd Webber’s newer composing endeavors. His 2005 Broadway outing, “The Woman in Black,” ran for less than six months, and the sequel to “Phantom,” “Love Never Dies,” earned downbeat reviews in London in 2010, shuttered relatively quickly and has not yet made it to the Rialto. (A subsequent Australian production from a new creative team, however, proved well-received.)
There’s also the possibility that the subject matter of “Stephen Ward,” a UK scandal that won’t be familiar to a wide swath of US theatergoers, could prove too obscure to lure Broadway auds.
That said, any new title from Lloyd Webber is automatically a closely watched property. Robert Fox (“Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway,” “The Boy from Oz”), a British producer who’s no stranger to Broadway, and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group produce “Stephen Ward,” and legiters can bet that any success for the London staging will yield instant talk of a Rialto transfer.
On the West End, “Stephen Ward” begins previews Dec. 3 ahead of a Dec. 19 opening at London’s Aldwych Theater.