‘Come Hell Or High Water’: Andrew Lloyd Webber To Risk Arrest Over Theater Reopening In The UK
Noam Galai/Getty Images for American Theatre Wing – Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Speaking onstage during the American Theatre Wing Centennial Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street, Sept. 24, 2018, in New York City.
Composer legend and theater owner Andrew Lloyd Webber told The Daily Telegraph in London, England, that he plans to open his theaters later this month “come hell or high water.”
In an exclusive interview with the British daily, Webber said his theaters were suffering “acute financial stress,” which “could only be alleviated by fully reopening, which he is willing to do even if the Government delays ending Covid-19 restrictions.”
The alternative might end up being selling his six theaters in London’s West End, which, while they’re dark, cost him £1 million per month, according to the Telegraph. Webber told the paper that he’s remortgaged his home.
He pointed toward the scientific evidence not linking theaters to the spread of coronavirus.
While the UK government hasn’t copped out of its June 21 date for lifting all remaining coronavirus restrictions, it has indicated its willingness to do so, should it deem the move unsafe.
Downing Street, the seat of the country’s prime minister Boris Johnson, is awaiting more data later this week before making a decision.
Previews of Webber’s latest musical, Cinderella, were supposed to begin on June 25, with the official world premier following July 14. Whether plans for the £6 million ($8.5 million) production go ahead depends on the removal of distancing mandates inside venues, which is why the entire country’s events industry has been awaiting the government’s June 21 target date eagerly.
“We are going to open, come hell or high water,” Webber told the Telegraph, and when questioned, what he would do if authorities decided to delay the full opening of the country, he said, “We will say: come to the theatre and arrest us.”
Referring to the pilot events carried out in the UK so far, Webber said their findings proved “that theaters are completely safe, the virus is not carried there. If the Government ignore their own science, we have the mother of all legal cases against them. If Cinderella couldn’t open, we’d go, ‘Look, either we go to law about it or you’ll have to compensate us’.”
The chair of the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Julian King, issued the following statement in response to Webber’s comments today: “It is very frustrating for the live events industry as we can see from Lord Lloyd-Webber’s comments though clearly I wouldn’t support anyone breaking the law.
“With the 21 June reopening on a knife edge the government needs to be absolutely upfront about the results of its pilot events and how they feed into decision-making.”