May 27, 2011
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Love Never Dies...but it’s hurting
Andrew Lloyd Webber is battling to keep his musical Love Never Dies running in the West End, even though it has lost £4million and stands little chance of recouping its costs.
Plans were well advanced to close the sequel to the phenomenally successful Phantom Of The Opera by the end of the summer, and replace it with something that might make some money.
But the composer has been buoyed by a new version of Love Never Dies that has its first night in Melbourne tomorrow. It has been directed by Simon Phillips, who headed the creative team behind the Priscilla musical.
‘There is no decision to close the show in London,’ an executive involved with Love Never Dies, which opened at the Adelphi in London just over a year ago, now tells me.
For a show that should have been a sure-fire hit, it has been beset by some of the bloodiest behind-the-scenes shenanigans seen in the West End.
The Adelphi is jointly owned by Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and the New York-based Nederlander Organisation.
Nick Scandalios, who runs theatre operations for Nederlander, has wanted a production to replace the loss-making Love Never Dies.
To that end, Scandalios and his associates were working on a proposed revival of the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical Camelot.
The idea was for the show to star Robert Lindsay (he had been approached), and for it to be directed by David Leveaux.
Camelot, about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, has a dull and weighty book, but the plan had been to cut it back and concentrate on the songs, which include If Ever I Would Leave You and I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight.
But Camelot’s on hold now — for how long, no one knows.
‘We’re just about to phone Scandalios and tell him not to close Love Never Dies because the Melbourne version is previewing very well,’ the executive close to LND told me.
Lloyd Webber wants to introduce into the Adelphi show all the advances he and Phillips made in Melbourne. But that would mean shutting it down (again, because you may recall it was closed for a week earlier this year while Bill Kenwright ‘redirected’ it) and giving it new sets, costumes and cast.
Even harder would be persuading the public to shell out between £50 to £67.50 for an untested product (although there are heavily reduced seat prices to be had).
Many of those who worked on LND in London blame Lloyd Webber himself for its failure to take off. They insist that during rehearsals and previews last year the impresario refused to allow a single note of his score to be cut, which meant there could be no changes to the show’s structure. It’s easy to understand why Lloyd Webber wouldn’t want to cut his score — it’s one of the most beautiful he’s ever written.
But his recalcitrance caused mayhem behind the scenes and led to director Jack O’Brien, designer Bob Crowley and others asking lawyers to intervene.
Love Never Dies cost £5.5 million to put on and has returned about £1.3million to investors. Its producers aren’t allowed to raise further funds to keep the show running, so the Really Useful Group has for months been funding it itself. To do so, they slashed running costs by £15,000 a week.
The producers admitted to investors recently: ‘All of us are devastated that a project so full of promise has come to this pass. It’s hard to explain fully.’
Indeed it is. Really Useful claim they can afford to keep Love Never Dies running because it’s ‘haemorrhaging peanuts’ rather than haemorrhaging to death.