Composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber has decided not to open his £6 million ($8.2 million) musical “Cinderella,” one day before it was due to open at London’s West End after a cast member tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
On Monday, June 19, the U.K. reopened fully on the so-called “Freedom Day.” “Cinderella,” co-written by Oscar winner Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) would have been Webber’s first new West End show in five years.
More from Variety
“Today, on this “Freedom Day”, I have been forced to take the heart-breaking decision not to open my ‘Cinderella,” tweeted Weber on Monday. “At ‘Cinderella,’ from the outset, we have employed a rigorous testing system for all the cast and backstage crew before they begin work. On Saturday, as part of this process, we identified one positive case in a member of our cast who has a cameo role in the show. As a precautionary measure, we cancelled two shows on Saturday while we carried out further tests on everyone backstage, which were negative. Any of those who were identified as a close contact of the positive case were given additional PCR tests. These tests too were negative. This morning we carried out additional tests on those due to perform tonight. Every one of them was negative.”
“Despite this, the impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the Government’s isolation guidance, mean that we cannot continue,” said the “Cats” composer’s statement. “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. 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.”
Weber has been a trenchant critic of the U.K. government’s treatment of the beleaguered theater sector. In June, he had said he was prepared to court arrest if the government’s promise of returning to capacity audiences was not met. And later the same month, Weber and other industry stalwarts sued the government to reveal the results of their pilot scheme to bring audiences back to live events.
In recent days, Netflix’s “Bridgerton” season 2 and “Matilda” have had to pause due to positive COVID cases as has the play “The Browning Version,” starring Kenneth Branagh, and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon.”
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are currently self-isolating after exposure to Health Secretary Sajid Javid who tested positive for COVID-19. The country is now recording an average of 50,000 new cases a day.
Best of Variety
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.