Mark ShentonInclude in homepage slide?, News of the dayLeave a Comment

Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily that is e-mailed to subscribers every morning (to subscribe, send message to, and is also available online here.

My review of THE DRIFTERS GIRL that opened at the Garrick Theatre last night is here:


Theatreland’s long-standing feud between Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, not to mention the casual contempt and disposability of their own employees whether in the orchestra or casts, has come to a very public head.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, interviewed on BBC ‘s Front Row on Tuesday, was asked about the reduction in the size of the orchestra of the West End edition of The Phantom of the Opera (down to 14 players from 27) when it re-opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre last month and he replied: “I didn’t, is the simple answer to that. Cameron Mackintosh produces that. I’d have preferred the orchestra to be bigger.” (The orchestra is pictured below in a lockdown video made of ALL I ASK OF YOU with Lloyd Webber himself at the piano).

Actually, Lloyd Webber CO-PRODUCES it and always has, as the show’s billing attests (shown below in the Playbill for the New York opening night).


Lloyd Webber was then asked: did he try to make a case for keeping the orchestra larger? “I did — in New York, we still have the great original orchestration.”

But that’s thanks to the New York musicians’

union there being far stronger than the Musicians’ Union here —  Local 802 would simply not allow it.
LLoyd Webber also claimed that they would not have been able to return with the same size of orchestra “even if Cameron had wanted to”, citing the recent cast of “the viola player at the Royal Opera House” being affected by hearing loss.

He did, however, add, “I would like to fight for 3 or more players”.

In a statement issued first via The Stage, Cameron Mackintosh shot back, calling Lloyd Webber’s characterisation of the decision to use a new orchestral line-up as solely Mackintosh’s as being “absolutely untrue”. He stated:  “It was a joint decision by Andrew’s own company, the Really Useful Group and myself, in order for us to be able to afford to bring back this spectacular musical to such an intimate 1,200-seat theatre. As it is, even with the new line-up, it is likely to take several years for this highly praised production to break even.”

Moreover, he said, Lloyd Webber “naturally has full contractual control of his music. Indeed, he is also billed as co-orchestrator of the current 14-piece Phantom orchestration, which he and David Cullen originally created in 2012, and has since been used around the world, apart from Broadway. Andrew’s own head of music and personally appointed musical director supervised the music at Her Majesty’s for the new production that opened in July this year. As a composer, I am sure Andrew would have preferred some extra musicians, but the Phantom orchestra remains one of the largest playing in any of his musicals around the world – including those solely produced by himself.”

Ouch. But if rewriting the facts is one matter, another was Lloyd Webber’s casual contempt for the cast of his production of Cinderella.

Asked on Front Row about his tannoyed public dressing down of the company that was reported to have upset many of them, he insisted it had been “wildly exaggerated,” while pouring yet more oil on the flames when he also said:  Younger cast don’t realise all the time that we are actually a service industry, and nobody has a right to be on the stage.”

Double ouch. A musical is nothing without its cast and orchestra, and both have been openly undermined by Lloyd Webber’s comments and actions.

Meanwhile, as a producer — a role that Lloyd Webber insists now he wants to step away from, and suggested he won’t be personally producing CInderella if or when it transfers to Broadway — was quizzed on the current state of the West End, and he replied, “”Cinderella, Frozen and Back to the Future are doing very, very well…. The New Year will be the testing point”.

It is, however, Interesting that LW Theatres are currently offering best seats for performances of Cinderella for £39 in December…


Tina Turner, 82 (pictured: on first night of TINA at Aldwych Theatre in 2018, with PR minder Janine Shalom from Premier Communications