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‘Just allow us to get on with our job’: Andrew Lloyd Webber criticizes U.K.’s COVID-19 rules

‘Who knows when we will open here? 2084?’ ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ composer said.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber arrives at the second night of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at The Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Andrew Lloyd Webber arrives at night two of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at The Microsoft Theater on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in Los Angeles. Lloyd Webber has shut down “Cinderella,” and criticized the U.K. government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Richard Shotwell, Invision/Associated Press

Legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has closed his new musical a day before its West End opening in London — and he’s placing the blame on the U.K. government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Andrew Lloyd Webber cancels ‘Cinderella’ opening

On July 19 — dubbed “Freedom Day” as it marked the day England lifted COVID-19 lockdown restrictions — Lloyd Webber announced that he would not be opening his new production “Cinderella,” which was scheduled to open on July 20 in London.

The composer’s announcement came after a cast member tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. In a statement, Lloyd Webber said the production has “employed a rigorous testing system” for the entire cast and crew since the beginning, and that after a few days of additional tests, the rest of the staff has consistently tested negative for COVID-19.

  • “Despite this, the impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the government’s isolation guidance, mean that we cannot continue,” Lloyd Webber said in a statement on Twitter Monday. “We have been forced into a devastating decision which will affect the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of people and disappoint the thousands who have booked to see the show.
  • “Cinderella was ready to go,” he continued. “My sadness for our cast and crew, our loyal audience and the industry I have been fighting for is impossible to put into words. Freedom Day has turned into closure day.”

“Cinderella” would’ve been Lloyd Webber’s first new show on London’s West End in five years, Variety reported.

Andrew Lloyd Webber criticizes U.K. government

Lloyd Webber told The Telegraph in a recent interview that he is still determined to get “Cinderella” on its feet in London.

  • “There are voices saying ‘Come on, forget Britain, do it on Broadway,’” Lloyd Webber said, according to Deadline. “I’m not going to do that, but who knows when we will open here? 2084?”
  • “What I can’t get to grips with is that this government does not seem to understand that theater is the lifeblood of our cities,” he continued. “Every other country in the world seems to have done so — America completely has grasped this. But this government doesn’t seem to understand. It’s not just about even our actors — it’s about all of the people who depend on us. It’s everyone from the taxi drivers to the restaurants to the dry cleaners. It’s an endless list, and they don’t seem to understand that theater is a huge revenue earner for the country.”

The U.K. actors’ union Equity recently called for self-isolation rules within the entertainment industry to change, stating that the current guidelines were creating a “devastating and costly impact,” according to Belfast Telegraph.

But England has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases lately, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson also in self-isolation as he was recently in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, NBC News reported.

Lloyd Webber remains adamant, though, that the theater industry has demonstrated it can carry on safely and has everything it needs to do so.

  • “We can’t go on like this,” he told The Telegraph. “Theater is now on its knees; there’s no way forward. ... Just allow us to get on with our job.”

The 72-year-old composer behind “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Phantom of the Opera” has been pushing for the return of theater since the early days of the pandemic. In August 2020, he participated in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, saying that he’d “do anything to get theaters large and small open again and actors and musicians back to work,” the Deseret News reported.