The West End’s production of “Cinderella” took its final bow in London Sunday evening, although a key member of the production’s creative team was not in attendance at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who composed the music for the new adaptation of the classic fairy tale, did not appear at the venue in the flesh.
Instead, the theater titan penned a letter that was read aloud by the production’s director, Laurence Connor, thanking the members of the production before calling the endeavor of opening the musical during a pandemic a “costly mistake” — a comment that was met by resounding boos.
“I am hugely sorry not to be able to be with you today, but I want to thank everyone from our fabulous cast, crew and musicians, the superb creative team, Laurence,” Connor read aloud, pausing to indicate that Webber was thanking him, before listing off other key contributors. “I keep thinking if only we had opened three months later, we wouldn’t have had to postpone our opening twice because of COVID… I promise you we would have been here for a very long time to come.”
“My huge thanks to everyone. We kept the government’s feet to the flames and led the charge to the West End opening again,” Webber’s statement continued. “It might have been a costly mistake, but I am proud of what we did and will forever be grateful to everyone who supported me.”
The recitation of “costly mistake” spawned murmurs among the audience and looks of visible confusion from the production’s ensemble as they stood on stage.
“‘Cinderella’ got some of the best reviews of my career and I am immensely proud of it and it’s hugely due to you all. All my love, Andrew,” Webber’s statement concluded. After a brief pause, a score of jeers engulfed the auditorium. Notably, Webber’s name had already been booed earlier in the curtain call, following Connor’s announcement that the composer had sent a letter in lieu of his attendance.
“Cinderella” has had a rocky road over the past few months. The production, with lyrics by David Zippel and a book by “Promising Young Woman” writer-director Emerald Fennell, finally opened in August 2021 after several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Cinderella” was forced to pause operations during the subsequent holiday season due to a surge of COVID-19 in London at the time.
“Cinderella” is only one of many troubled productions across the theater industry, which has continued to contend with limited attendance and unpredictable suspensions due to the pandemic. Cast and crew were informed of the show’s imminent closure in early May in an abrupt announcement that sparked demands for compensation from Equity, the trade union for performers and creative workers.
Representatives for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Emerald Fennell could not be immediately reached. Variety has also reached out to Equity for comment. The Society of London Theatres had no comment.
“What I feel about this production is that we’ve created something really special,” Connor told the audience during his own curtain call statement. “On this day, watching that final performance with everybody, that’s how I want us to go.”
Webber has since backtracked his comments, saying they were “misunderstood.”