|Booking From:||Saturday, 29th March 2014|
|Booking Until:||Saturday, 29th March 2014|
|Running Time:||2 hours 20 minutes|
Unfortunately, Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Stephen Ward might as well be called Hospital Ward as this was an epic disaster.
Repetitive, poorly constructed unmemorable songs lead the way. The bar set higher, because of Lord Webber's previous successes. The show is well cast and sung to the best of their ability, but lacking emotion and feeling with the exception of one song sung by Joanna Riding.
Having wanted to learn more about a scandal, it barely touched the edges. The audience clapped just once in lukewarm fashion at the interval.
The second half started badly, when the lead forgot his line and had to stop and be advised by the conductor. It may be a show in preview, but you can't afford to do that in a West End production.
The audience applause was loudest for Joanna Riding's playing Valerie Hobson and her solo song. They were equally loud for the end, but I feel this was out of sympathy for the actors and the script they had been dealt.
The seats were half empty and this is how I came away feeling. A show with potential that will be lucky to last long into 2014.
7th December - matinee.
Absolutely fantastic, both the acting and the music was fabulous. I was only a baby when the scandal hit and after seeing this show, it made me want to go home and find out more.
The actors who played Ward, Keeler and Mandy were amazing and we loved every minute of the show. Much has been made of the nudity and orgy scenes, but both necessary and beautifully crafted. Well done. Hope the show runs for years!
I know that these days any story can be turned into a musical but I'm not sure 'Stephen Ward' works well as one. Having said that it is more of a play with music. It may be unfair to judge it when it's only in previews but it needs some work.
The first act opened promisingly with 'Human Sacrifice' but seemed to drag after that and all that happened was that we found out how Mr Ward met Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies and how he introduced Ms Keeler to Jack Profumo and they had a brief affair. We found out about 'society people' too and how some of them lived. 'This Side Of The Sky' and You've Never Had It So Good' were memorable but were reminiscent of previous ALW songs.
Act 2 was a bit better and there was more drama but it still seemed to drag. The only stand out song was 'I'm Hopeless When It Comes To You'. The ending was all very dark and quite sad so don't expect to leave the theatre on a high.
Don Black's lyrics were very clunky at times and didn't even rhyme and to some extent were just words with a melody playing in the background. ALW is running out of melodies I'm afraid and just regurgitating what we've heard before. I think he needs to wake up to the fact that he is never going to have another mega hit. I doubt this show would have even got into the west end without ALW having the money to put it on.
Alexander Hanson was superb and held the whole thing together and also acted as a narrator at times to make sure we all understood what was happening I think.
I can't see this show having a very long run but think ALW will plough enough money into it to keep it going for as long as he can.
Fantastic cast - not a musical but a play with music added. It was just ok. ! Disappointed !
As the other reviewers mentioned the show starts well but doesn't keep up.
You leave the theatre and don't remember a single song anymore.
I am not sure how Stephen Ward will fare as a West End musical for the mass market; I intentionally did not research The Profumo Affair before attending, but I felt the play overwhelmed me with information, the sets were simple but effective, and the actors carried the plot well. I didn't think that the music really added anything to the experience - indeed, I think this would make a much better "serious" play at the National rather than trying to hold its own on the West End against Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's more memorable back-catalogue.
The musical started well, with some fantastic interaction between the two protagonists and "This Side Of The Sky" which was for me the stand-out number from the show. But then the "orgy scene" with "You've Never Had It So Good" lost the play's intensity for me and I don't think it recovered after that. The gritty portrayal of the press and police coupled with the repetitive Police Interview number just left me uncomfortable, but by this time I had lost any connection with the characters. "I'm Hopeless When It Comes To You" was a powerful number in the second half, but I was at a loss as to where the character singing it fitted into the story.
The suicide ending brought the performance to an abrupt halt, but the play must have worked for some of the audience as the cast-bows were greeted by a standing ovation from about half the auditorium. It will be interesting to see what changes are applied to this performance; I did enjoy it, but I won't be buying the OST album.
Very undramatic: surprisingly when you consider the opportunities in the story! Little if any tension throughout - most of the musical numbers lacked any emotional depth or memorability. It was interesting that potentially the most 'operatic' moment, the trial scene, was actually all spoken: 15 minutes of it. The production seemed starved of money, though I don't think that anything more lavish would actually have improved matters. I was glad when it ended!
I really enjoyed it.
The performances (Hanson in particular) were tremendous and the story the whole injustice and establishment cover up was very well told.
It wasn't perfect and I agree with some of the previous comments there were no obvious show-stoppers but I'm a bit biased here as I'm not a great fan of ALW, sacrilege though that may be!
It must be a hard story to pitch at the right level to under-tell it could confuse newbies to the story and over explaining risks alienating those au fait with this well documented piece of history.
However, I was thoroughly entertained, enthralled by the performances and above all delighted that this shameful episode is quite justifiably given a fresh airing.
Will it be a hit?In my opinion, sadly, no. So see it now while you can! It is allowed to enjoy a musical that doesn't run for decades.
After initial promising beginning the show deteriorated the longer it ran.
Stephen Ward was the only interesting character but even his likeability began to wain amid the court room debacle.
Musically there were far too few highlights.
Overall this show was disappointing and much work will be required to "whip it into shape" for the opening run .(If it has a run at all ).
The show starts well and has a captivating forty minutes in which a strong cast deliver an excellent script (so much better than Paul Nicholas's recent flop Keeler) full of wonderfully wry and ironic lines which perfectly counterpoint the touching and romantic action before a brilliantly realised set. Christine's moving and repeated words "he saw something in me" are a perfect touch and very representative of the fine writing and perfectly integrated and sensitive production.
Then things totally collapse. The "sex orgy" number "You've never had it so good" seems to come from a dated and rather grubby pantomime and the shows initial sophistication and style vanish and things never improve again as it descends to crude stereotyping, repetitive and monotonous music and totally unconvincing melodrama for the remaining two hours.
Even the 11o'clock number given to Valerie Hobson fails to ignite and the problem is made worse - it is tired and too reminiscent of Lloyd Webber's former hits but totally lacking their musical or emotional power - particularly as Hobson herself is presented without the charm and dignity she had in real life and is relegated to the stereotype of the "upper class wife". Then things are made worse through the vast amount of linking narrative which is landed on Alexander Hanson, the excellent actor and singer playing Stephen Ward himself. It just goes on an on with ever diminishing effect. That coupled with the appallingly crude way in which the police, court officials and "establisment" as a whole are presented are the final nails in the musical's coffin.
The cast are uniformally excellent but are not well directed - and the end of Act One (a weak number about the '60's not particularly well delivered, followed by a shockingly messed up "coup" involving the black "villains" shooting at the door of Stephen Ward's apartment) is a complete anti-climax and left the audience bewildered and disappointed.
Act Two unfortunately has none of the musical panache of the first part of Act One and the court scenes collapsed beneath the tedious music underlying a very banal script. Then poor Hanson is expected to deliver a bombastic and over-orchestrated finale which is totally misjudged and despite using every instrument in the orchestra to pound us into emotional submission - totally fails.
If the shows "thesis" about Stephen Ward's "betrayal" is correct, it demands much better handling than this. With some urgently needed and judicious re-writing, and cuts to the tedious music in the court scene, things could improve as "opening night" is 10 days away - but it's going to be a very tough job.
As the cast take their bows and the tedious and repetitive refrain of "You've Never Had It So Good" plays yet again, neither they nor the audience really believe it its cliched and unintentionally ironic sentiments. Yes, Lord Andrew, we have had it so good - and particularly from you in the past!
Sitting near us in the stalls some friend's of the production were heard clearly saying as the shows music faded away "What on earth are we going to say to Andrew. Think of something positive". Well the biggest service they could do Lord Lloyd Webber is to tell him the truth so that perhaps - in the short time left before the show opens - he and his vast team could do something to save what promises to be a commercial and financial disaster unless massive re-working takes place. Oh dear - it is such a shame for all concerned!
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