West End Musicals

Stephen Ward Reviews - Aldwych Theatre

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Venue Information
Aldwych Theatre

Aldwych Theatre
49 Aldwych

Seating Plan


(10mins) Head out onto the main road Strand. Cross street where possible and go right. When you reach the fork, veer left onto Aldwych.

Review Summary
Average Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars based on 93 review(s)



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    Saturday, 28th Dec 2013 by Geoff Pullan

We went to see the first preview performance on the 3rd December and paid for the best seats. I am writing this review now because I was just thinking that I would like to go again

We just like nice songs and good singing so we are not at all demanding in an "arty" sense.

We thought all the lead performers were great and it would be hard to fault any of the cast to be honest.

This is a high profile story (for people of my age) but a major challenge is how to get anyone to care about the characters - they are either seedy, political or posh - all deserving of a kick in most people's view I suspect. This is important because it seems to me that in my favourite musicals I have to care about the characters to appreciate the songs

His Lordship has tried hard to portray Stephen Ward as a victim but if you read about him that just can't be true. Similarly the girls are hard to really care about.

That all said, we enjoyed the show and would encourage others to go see it.

Good things -

All the cast (Alex H was brilliant as was Anthony Calf - a great actor who can sing really well too)

Some lovely songs

An OK plot - making the best of reality

Areas for improvement (like I know !!) -

Please Your Lordship - write one or two more show stoppers. This is what separates a great show from a good one.

Reduce the time spent on the court case in act 2 - we got the message

Give that time to SW's final scene - Too Close To The Flame could be a brilliant song but needed more time - ( I could write another verse for no £)

So I think we will go again because I always enjoy shows more the 2nd (3rd......) time.

Anyone wondering should go see it as you might not get another chance and it is not one you should have on your "I wish I had" list


    Monday, 23rd Dec 2013 by LORRAINE EDWARDS

I was so excited to get tickets for Stephen Ward but what a disappointment. So dated in execution and the orgy scene was embarrassing. In fact I missed the court scene as I fell to sleep, says it all really.

    Friday, 20th Dec 2013 by Lisa Jones

What a funny and interesting show. Very gripping to see the other side of this political story. I love that as an audience member you are left to make your own view on 'Stephen Ward' and if he is guilty. The musical is a varied selection of catchy fun ensemble and melodic, meaningful ballads. Very funny and enjoyable.

    Friday, 20th Dec 2013 by Robyn

One could analyse and discuss the flaws in this show at some length: the combination of sung-throughand spoken material is not altogether well-judged; there are a number of assumptions made that audiences will know exactly who is who and what is going on/went on - and this is not so for the many who are too young to have been there.

Then again, if it's the kind of sublime joyous pleasure of a "Top Hat" you want, you won't like it, as is clear from a number of the comments now in.

All that said, I found it an interesting backward look, capturing the flavour of the time, and largely enjoyable. Alexander Hanson is splendid, Christine and Mandy very good. There is some genuine wit, some poignancy, some food for thought and some enjyable music. No, it's not Phantom or Sunset Boulevard. So what? The usual ALW detractors might like this one a lot for that very reason!

    Friday, 20th Dec 2013 by Rac1

I was lucky to get a complementary ticket for Stephen Ward and am immensely glad for not having to pay! The cast did a sterling job in the face of a poor script and lacklustre songs. Act two was slightly more engaging with a redeeming song by Profumos wife but overall I think this show proves a name and a spot in a west end theatre does not guarantee a good show. Put your money elsewhere!

    Thursday, 19th Dec 2013 by Playbill

Saw the show last Saturday and must admit to not being overly enthusiastic. Had high expectations (having already heard some of the music and knowing a little about the story), however, the overall presentation and pace left me feeling a little bit bored. I thought the set was awful - got really fed up of seeing those bloody awful black/silver/shiny curtains - which became the point of projection for all the various locations we were supposed to be transported to. Thought the cast were great though, particularly Alexander Hanson and the two girls. I bought the cd at the theatre (is this the same one as the forthcoming cast album?) and have listened to it several times since Saturday - the music certainly sticks in your mind. I hope the cast get a decent run (they deserve it for their hard work) but sadly fear it won't make it to the end of the current proposed run!

    Thursday, 19th Dec 2013 by Adam

Saw last night before press night. Worst show I've ever seen. Horrible music, clichéd script, no character depth, we kept on laughing as each song started. Imagine 'aches and pains' as a song title, but so heavy handed, no subtlety or grace. Horrible sexist view of women with gratuitous nudity, esp when she gets out of bed and puts her nickers on, bare arse pointing into the audience.

Why could no one tell him if wasn't good enough to go to stage?

    Wednesday, 18th Dec 2013 by JEAN LIGHTWOOD

My sister and I went to see the Stephen Ward musical on the 9th December and found it to be absolutely brilliant. We have booked to see it again, the acting is faultless and I we found it very moving at the end,it is well worth going to see just simply excellent theatre. Don't listen to the people who are negative go and see for yourself you will be glad you did.

    Tuesday, 17th Dec 2013 by Jonathan King

Intelligent, different, creative, clever, unusual; more Sondheim than Lloyd Webber - absolutely excellent in my opinion, sadly going to be misunderstood by both critics and public, I suspect, but one of those that will gather more and more appreciative cult comments over time. Much credit to ALW for trying something totally out of his comfort zone and succeeding.

    Monday, 16th Dec 2013 by Oliver

It is understandable that many people are not going to relate to a show with this story, although it is true to say that even at the height of his popular success, Lloyd Webber never chose subjects for musicals which were, on paper at least, the stuff of mainstream commercial theatre. Like all great artists he writes from the standpoint of what interests him artistically, rather than choosing to write either for popularity or for critical acclaim (writing with the intention of pleasing the critics is just as lacking in integrity as writing for popular success in my view). There are a number of artists who fall on either side of this divide but Lloyd Webber isn’t among them.

In some ways I am not surprised that many people don't find the music to Stephen Ward memorable (although I really can't understand how they fail to appreciate the beauty of the melody in the song "This Side of the Sky") because Stephen Ward isn't a musical made up of show tunes arranged in a neat running order side by side. There is nothing wrong with what I call a "numbers" show and I am not arguing that one form of musical theatre is necessarily better than another. However, Lloyd Webber is as much a composer and a musical dramatist as he is a songwriter, and I find his work more satisfying as a result.

In the second act of Stephen Ward, there is actually only one song, as far as I can recall, which stands on its own with a beginning and an end and with an opportunity for the audience to clap afterwards. As a consequence of this kind of subtle writing, many audience reviewers have started saying that “I’m Hopeless When it Comes to You" is the only memorable song in the show. This is simply not true and it betrays a lack of understanding of what the composer is striving to achieve musically. Whether one actually likes the intention is another matter, personally I do, but simply put, if you are looking for a musical which contains lots of big show tunes then this isn’t the musical you should go to see.

One or two gripes I had: for me the end of act one is too abrupt and doesn’t work in the way it should. `!963’ is obviously intended to be a pastiche and isn’t supposed to be anything special in and of itself. However, whereas the other pastiche numbers are fragmentary, intended only to give the audience a flavour of the mood of the times, this song stands alone and is played out in full towards the end of act one. I would have preferred it to occupy a more minor position in the score.

Then we come to the wretched synthesizers in the pit. A reviewer posting on this site mentioned that it is disappointing that these replace some of the acoustic instruments, and I agree with him wholeheartedly on this point. However, he appears to be confusing orchestration with arrangement and sound reproduction. The presence of keyboards in the pit is not a fault of Lloyd Webber’s orchestrations (which are excellent in my view) but the necessity to cut costs. The fact that keyboards are representing, say, trumpets at a given point in the score makes no difference to the compositional intent behind the orchestration. It is still a line intended for trumpets, it is just that it has been transcribed, or recalibrated, for synthesised reproduction. In a different production, acoustic instruments might be used instead of the keyboards, but it would still be Lloyd Webber's original orchestrations for Stephen Ward which are being used. I imagine the reason for keyboards in the pit is nothing more than a compromise with the backers for a musical that is relatively high risk, since it is far more economical than having a string section for example. I think it highly unlikely that, given the choice, Lloyd Webber would prefer keyboards imitating strings than the real thing. I find it hard to understand why he didn't use a string section in the cast recording, however. This Side of the Sky is such a beautiful song and it deserves better treatment than this.

So, is Stephen Ward right up there with Lloyd Webber’s finest musicals? Probably not but it is a superb piece of theatrical storytelling nevertheless. Stephen Ward won't be a hit with audiences but it definitely deserves to be.

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Show Information
Booking From: Saturday, 29th March 2014
Booking Until: Saturday, 29th March 2014
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Show Status: This production is closed

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