Sunday, 13 October 2013

Preview: Stephen Ward The Musical

“I invented a new way of lie, some might call it unconventional,

All that stuffy post-war Englishness, I liked something more consensual”


With such a busy couple of weeks, I’ve only just gotten round to having a listen of the sneak preview of four songs offered at the launch of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s new musical Stephen Ward. I was prompted by an offer to download two of them for free (for a limited time only) but you can also listen to them online and/or watch the videos below. The story is undoubtedly a little niche, exploring the 1963 Profumo scandal from the point of view of Ward who was smack bang in the middle of it, he being the one who introduced MP John Profumo to Christine Keeler and setting in motion events that rocked the government.


As for the music, there’s something rather endearing about Lloyd-Webber’s continued contributions to British musical theatre, he could so easily have decided to retire yet he carries on writing to the beat of his own drum, safe in the knowledge that a devoted fanbase will lap it up. Unsurprisingly, the four songs previewed do not reveal any major change in direction and so it will be interesting to see if the show is able to transcend the attentions of musical theatre devotees and appeal to a wider audience. Joanna Riding’s simple ballad Hopeless When It Comes To You is the pick of the bunch but Alex Hanson, playing Ward himself, runs her close with the sinuous storytelling of Human Sacrifice.





The duet This Side of the Sky feels a little lacklustre to me, the song seeming to suffer from its lack of context and also not making the most of the dual voices for my liking. But ensemble number You’ve Never Had It So Good smacks of Lloyd-Webber of old, calling to mind songs from Cats, Evita and going further afield, even a touch of My Fair Lady. I like the way that the production is previewing material this way and attempting to build connections with social media platforms rather than casting them as the devil’s work. After all, these are all potential audience members and reaching out to as many of them as possible in as many ways as possible is the name of the game these days. And for me, I have to say it is definitely piqued my interest in the show, not that there was any doubt that I was going.


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"This Side of the Sky" is a beautiful melody, I don't understand how you can consider it "lacklustre". A duet which features two solo vocal lines is perfectly valid, it's just a different kind of duet. Also, I disagree that this isn't a change of direction, but that's another matter...

Anonymous said...

Very disappointing preview. Excellent first 30 mts then it falls apart and never recovers. Good cast and design but weak script, score and direction. It may improve as time goes on but wait to buy tickets until it sorts itself out.

guidediane said...

Just saw a preview. I thought the direction and performances were good but this is a strangely low key musical which is not packing in the audiences (possibly due to the unimaginative title and the fact that only the over 50s know who Stephen Ward was when musical theatre audiences are more youthful than audiences for other types of theatre). I can see this having a short run but then being revived as a chamber piece at a venue like the Menier in a few years time where it will work very well.

Anonymous said...

Ordinary at best and tedious at times, (ie the police interrogation scenes). Although the cast perform valiantly, this lacklustre vehicle is not of the standard that Andrew LLoyd Webber founded his success on. Disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Just seen it and we were very disappointed. After a good opening it gets very messy and unsatisfying. Amazed that Richard Eyre is directing as it's all a bit of a mess. Very expensive preview tickets for what looks like a very early dress rehearsal. Lloyd Webber must treat his audiences with more respect and not preview shows until they are in better shape than this.

Anonymous said...

I loved the show. I was impressed by the actors who played Ward, Keeler & Rice-Davies.
Earlier in the year, I heard Richard Davenport-Hines give a hilarious presentation of his new book 'An English Affair - Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo". When I found out that Lloyd Webber was writing a musical on Stephen Ward, I knew I had to attend.
I got a good seat close to the front instead of my usual cheap stratospheric perch one mile away in the Upper Upper Circle.
I would highly recommend this musical.
I'll return with a friend and catch it again in early 2014.

Ian said...

Interesting to hear all your comments. I saw the show last night and so you can now read my review here http://oughttobeclowns.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/review-stephen-ward-musical-aldwych.html