How Covid cases and Omicron panic are wreaking havoc in the West End and beyond, writes JANE FRYER
Another week, another nightmare of cancellations, chaos and disaster for London theaters as government alarmists devastate West End audiences and Covid wreaks havoc on both cast and crew.
All over the capital, shows took place. Then turned off. Then again. Until no one knows if they are coming or going.
Andrew Lloyd Webber had to cancel Cinderella’s performance last night after five other members of the company tested positive for Covid.
The Lion King and the Cabaret – the new extravaganza (up to) £ 310 per ticket – have both been closed for several performances this week due to ‘forced absences by Covid’. The two were gone again last night.
The Lion King has been closed for several performances this week due to “forced absences by Covid”
Life Of Pi at Wyndham’s Theater has canceled five shows from December 9 to 13. Red Mill! restarted on Monday after a ten-day hiatus imposed by Covid and Hamilton is closed until further notice.
Others, including The Rhythmics – a sort of “Calendar Girls meets The Full Monty” – are finished, shut down for good after “a disruption caused by ongoing illness and Covid-19-related absences at the company” .
It’s not just London. Pantos everywhere, from Brighton to Milton Keynes, from Coventry to Pembrokeshire, have been called off or postponed until Christmas 2022. The doors have closed. Overwritten programs. Ice cream abandoned and Christmas staff laid off.
This is, of course, a total nightmare.
But even worse, and thanks to the government’s alarmism over Omicron’s “tidal waves”, now the public – once so loyal and steadfast – is disappearing.
Christmas sales are usually the “big one” that transports many theaters during the rest of the year. But endless mixed messages from the government and threats of “record” infection rates have seen this year’s bookings reach six.
Life Of Pi at Wyndham’s Theater has canceled five shows from December 9 to 13. Red Mill! restarted on Monday after a ten-day hiatus imposed by Covid and Hamilton is closed until further notice
Indeed, the minute Omicron was flagged as a serious threat, SeatPlan, the theater ticketing agency, saw sales drop 30% almost overnight. When Boris made his announcement, they took another plunge.
On top of all this, industry reports suggest that nearly half of spectators who bought tickets in advance choose not to attend, although refunds for general contractions are out of the question. (Theaters may provide refunds or exchanges when someone cannot attend because they have Covid or have been forced to self-isolate).
The truth is, the numbers no longer add up for theater companies. A decimated public does not inspire confidence. Canceled shows cost money – around £ 30,000 a week to keep a 1,000-seat West End theater closed. And much more for very large shows – a canceled Cinderella costs £ 80,000 a night.
Andrew Lloyd Webber had to cancel Cinderella’s performance last night after five other members of the company tested positive for Covid
Cabaret – the new extravaganza (up to) £ 310 per ticket – has been closed for several performances this week due to ‘forced absences by Covid’
The irony is that just a fortnight ago everything seemed so hopeful. Bookings were up, morale was high and London’s West End was showing signs of a rebound from the financial damage caused by Covid.
In recent months, sales have been strong, just below 2019 levels, a spokesperson for the Society of London Theater and the UK Theater said. The public came back from everywhere.
Even Lord Lloyd-Webber – who saw his new musical Cinderella delayed by a year and a half and had invested £ 1million a month of his own money to keep his seven London theaters afloat – felt cautiously optimistic.
The depressing feeling of déjà vu doesn’t help.
December 15, 2020 – just as Boris assured us the Christmas rules would be relaxed (something he backtracked on just three days later) – the West End was flattened by London’s crossing to level 3 .
Back then, of course, the government shut it down overnight, so there was no choice.
This year, it seems that the tactic is to scare people so unaware of the risks that they will not dare to go to the theater. “Stealth shutdown” is what industry insiders are calling it.
Which must be terribly frustrating because over the past 18 months London theaters could not have done more to demonstrate that with masks, vaccine certificates, lateral flow tests and a myriad of measurements of Carefully thought out Covid security in place, the public could not be better protected.
In fact, the theater world actively supported Boris’ Plan B – with mandatory masks and vaccination passes. Covid passes are not yet mandatory, but many cinemas have already implemented them. Why not? Everything to protect their customers.
Here, for those who refuse to be intimidated and are determined to support the industry, we provide a guide to what is happening, what is happening, what is coming back and what is not – for this week, in any case !
How broadcasts across the country are falling victim
The Kit Kat Club cabaret confirmed yesterday that performances will be canceled for the remainder of the week after members of the company tested positive.
Red Mill! reopened at the Piccadilly Theater on Monday after a ten-day hiatus imposed by Covid.
Cinderella was canceled last night. No news on tonight’s performance yet.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s comedy of mistakes at the Barbican canceled everything until December 22.
The press night for Hex, at the National Theater, a major new musical based on Sleeping Beauty has already been postponed once and is now pushed back to 2022.
The Lion King, at the Lyceum, has been on leave since Tuesday and yesterday announced further cancellations due to “ongoing absences imposed by Covid” among the cast and crew.
Hamilton, at the Victoria Palace Theater, was scheduled to resume after the cancellation of Wednesday night’s show, but yesterday it was announced that the producers were unable to get it to work.
Press night for Hex, at the National Theater, a major new musical based on Sleeping Beauty has already been postponed once and has now been pushed back to 2022
Life Of Pi at Wyndham’s Theater presented five shows from December 9 to 13.
London’s Southwark Playhouse closed its new musical The Rhythmics – described as Calendar Girls Meets The Full Monty – three weeks earlier, after “a disruption caused by ongoing illness and Covid-related absences at the company”.
The curious incident of the dog overnight at the Troubadour Theater in Wembley Park had canceled performances until today.
The Force Majeure performances at Donmar Warehouse, with Rory Kinnear, were canceled this week from Tuesday to Thursday, due to cases of Covid-19 at the company.
Maria Callas Letters And Memoirs at Her Majesty’s Theater, has been postponed to April 2022. Viewers with Book of Mormon tickets at Manchester Palace were given 90 minutes’ notice stating that Tuesday and Wednesday night’s shows had been canceled that day. week.
There has also been a widespread pantomime pandemonium across the country.
Brighton Center’s Aladdin, along with Anita Dobson, has been postponed to 2022 due to “the uncertainty and risk surrounding the Omicron variant of Covid-19”.
Peter Pan at the Chrysalis Theater in Milton Keynes has been canceled after junior members of the cast tested positive.
The performances of Beauty and the Beast at the Belgrade Theater in Coventry have been suspended since December 8 and will not resume until December 18, at the earliest.
Jack And The Beanstalk from the Big Pembrokeshire Panto in Tenby, due to James Argent from The Only Way Is Essex, has been canceled.
Rapunzel at the ADC Theater in Cambridge will now finish earlier.
Jack And The Beanstalk at Byre Theater in St Andrews, Scotland has been canceled.
The whole industry is having a nightmare!
By Andrew Lloyd Webber For The Daily Mail
It has been a few terrible days and it just keeps getting worse and worse. It is just heartbreaking for me to see our industry decimated by a situation beyond our control.
We had to cancel last night’s performance of Cinderella on three hours’ notice.
Five other members of the company have tested positive, in addition to three on Thursday. We’re a very large production and every canceled show is devastating, but we just can’t repeat the gaps in the cast and cover the performance.
Of course, the whole industry is experiencing the same nightmare – from big extravaganzas like Cinderella, with massive cast and endless costume changes, to small local theaters, many showing our beloved pantomimes, in downtown areas of top to bottom of the country.
It’s just heartbreaking for me to see our industry decimated by a situation beyond our control, writes Andrew Lloyd Webber
Not to mention all the hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and the thousands more that rely on us to bring people to city centers.
I am almost 74 years old and I am desperate to start writing again. Instead, for the past year and a half, I’ve been campaigning for the commercial theater industry.
But in the end, I have come to the conclusion that no one in government is listening. Certainly not the new Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who has made it clear that she doesn’t think commercial theater needs support.
This is a tough message for all industries, jobs and people who are now wavering day by day to hear from someone who is supposed to be a Conservative minister representing the arts.