April 27: The rotten stench of contempt for people, from the government to its people and from producers to their orchestras and audiences

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Are we reaching a tipping point? Boris Johnson has just been revealed to have shown his utter contempt for the safety of the the entire British population with his remarks reported on Sunday evening that he’d rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands’”than order a third lockdown, although of course he’d already got that particular wish met, as the bodies DID piled higher on his watch than in any other city in the Europe we’re no longer part of, thanks to him.

Naturally, he now denies that he said them. But if true, he’s proving that he is leading not just the most incompetent UK government in history, but also the most heartless, too. It’s all about the money, NOTHING else.

As Andrew Rawnsley noted in The Observer on Sunday,

“If you’ve missed the latest sleaze story, don’t worry, another one will be along in a minute. As I like to remark from time to time, the personality of institutions is hugely influenced by the example set by the person at the top. When the prime minister is a man with a lifelong contempt for the norms of decent behaviour and a career history of behaving as if he can get away with anything, the government is going to reflect his amoral character…. A culture of impunity in which unethical behaviour, however outrageous, never goes punished, is pretty much a guarantee of even worse to come in the future.”

And if a fish rots from the head down, the Tory party’s former heads have already proved just how rotten they are, so it’s just part of the same story.

Look at Johnson’s chum David Cameron, pulling all the strings to bail out Greensill Capital, and even trying to call on government funds set aside to help big firms through the pandemic to do so. Dave texted the chancellor Rishi Sunak, contacted Treasury ministers Jesse Norman and John Glen and even called and texted the Treasury’s top civil servant Sir Tom Scholar on his official phone, in an attempt to stave off the investment firm’s collapse.

Human lives don’t matter. Only big business — and protecting the personal profits each of these grubby human beings stand to make — do.

And sadly the same Conservative contempt for the people that have helped make that money can be seen in how former Tory peer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and proud Brexiteer Sir Cameron Mackintosh have handled the re-opening of The Phantom of the Opera.

Despite assurances from Lloyd Webber that The Phantom of the Opera WOULD be restored in all its glory after the original production was loaded out last year to enable refurbishments to be carried out to its long-time home Her Majesty’s, it has now been exposed for exactly what it was: a pretext to formally close the original production (and with it, their fiduciary obligations to the show’s original investors), re-capitalise it on their own as they replaced it with the new touring version, and — most egregiously — reduce the orchestra from 27 to just 14 players. I already wrote about the betrayed promises here.

Yet Lloyd Webber had said in a video he posted to Twitter,

As he states in this video,

“I promise you, it’ll be the Hal Prince production that comes back in its entirety, hopefully even bigger and better, because, as you all know, I’m a great fan of Hal Prince and he was, in my view, one of the greatest directors that Broadway or theatre ever had.”

Lloyd Webber’s co-producer Cameron Mackintosh insisted to the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish in a piece that ran on Sunday that this wasn’t an attempt to dilute the brand (or even the sound of the band):

“It’s not a pale imitation, Are you telling me that the orchestra we had for Miss Saigon in the last production is a pale imitation of [the one in] Drury Lane? It wasn’t, it sounded thrilling, as Les Mis sounds thrilling with a 14-piece… better than the one at the Palace, where we opened with a 25-piece. In terms of spectacle, I think Phantom will look more opulent…. Why would I change a show and not deliver? I have spent 50 years delivering the highest-quality musicals this country has ever seen and I’m not about to stop now.”

Even Lloyd Webber is co-opted in the piece to agree:

“Today’s technology enables excellent replication of sounds, especially woodwind and brass, but the skill of the keyboard player shouldn’t be underestimated and this orchestration demands a great deal of the other players who have to be of soloist standard.”

But when Cavendish asks Mackintosh why it is that the Broadway production WILL come back with its full orchestral strength of 27 players in the pit, he replies,

“It’s a much larger theatre. The London production couldn’t run any longer in the original incarnation. We could have patched it up for a few more months or even a year, but it would eventually have had to close.”

Actually, Mackintosh is being disingenuous. The Broadway pit size is regulated by the agreements that the theatre owner has with the unions, who determine the minimum size orchestra each theatre must have. When an attempt was made to change these regulations in 2003, (most of) Broadway was shut down for what seemed like a then-unheard four day period as the musicians called a strike, after which minimum orchestra sizes were brought down from 24-26 musicians to 18-19.

I look forward to hearing the score again in ALL its glory on Broadway, but I will, sadly, never now see it again in the West End.

The fish has gone rotten from the head down, and it will never taste or smell the same again in London.

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