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)



Reviews Sort by
    Monday, 16th Dec 2013 by JP

Saw the matinee on Saturday 14th and must admit to feeling a bit let down by the show. Great story performed by some real talent, however, it certainly doesn't blow you away. The set is awful - really expected something more. Found myself mentally humming tunes from other ALW shows (particularly "Beautiful Game") - the score contains lots of references to that show. Great to see but I won't be rushing back. Best wishes to everyone for the opening night later this week.

    Sunday, 15th Dec 2013 by Dave

What a shame after such brilliance, we found it dire, disappointing, and can't imagine what they can do to inject some energy and emotion into the show at this stage. With Sunset being such a lush, grand beautifully scored show, I was hoping for something as magical as it was from the same team, but it was ploddy. Like a previous reviewer, we knew someone who was going for drinks with the producer after the show, and they were trying to think what on earth to say. Maybe we were out of step as there seemed to be a lengthy and enthusiastic reception at the end of the night, but began to think it must have been friends and family night.

    Sunday, 15th Dec 2013 by Andy

Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber's daring, by his standards at least, new West-End offering is more a 'drama with songs' than a fully-fledged musical but it does boast a couple of melodic and considerably moving power ballads and a riotously hilarious big company number which just about brings the house down, as a bunch of aristocrats in a stately house, following dinner, descend into a wild, frenzied orgiastic sex-party which would put the God of such things, Dionysus, to shame. It is also the first Lloyd-Webber production to feature, to gasps from the auditorium, the use of the racist word 'darkie', swearing, and the aforementioned full-frontal nudity and sex (simulated, of course).

Alex Hanson, well-known on the London musicals stage, is superb and gives a sympathetic portrayal of the doomed title character Stephen Ward, renowened osteopath to the stars, painter and befriender of Lords and Ladies, prostitutes and politicians, before the British Establishment turns on him in a - failed - attempt to protect it's own, as Ward and his entanglement with a couple of prostututes, who in turn have tangoed, if you like, with some British politicians and a Russian spy, rock the government and bring down a cabinet minister. All this taking place in 1963 with a trio of salacious hacks from The News of The World hot on the trail of a scandal. How relevant to the 21st century!

The relatively unknown actress Charlotte Spencer, who played, suitably enough, a whore in the film Les Miserables, nearly steals the show with her portrayal of good-time girl, Christine Keeler. Her resemblance to the reallife Ms Keeler is uncanny and she gives a studied performance veering between virginal sweetness and ruthless manipulator of events.

This is a delightfully smaller-scale production, compared to his blockbuster musicals - Cats, Phantom, Evita - as is possible to get. And it's all the better for it. Multiple locations from London settings to a Blackpool setting, prison cells to stately homes via a courtroom and, best of all I thought, a seedy nightclub in 60's Soho are expertly staged using projections and a very clever use of drapes! Oh, and a hooray too for the hoola-hoops!

Lloyd-Webber's score, which he also orchestrated, has flashes of 60s jukebox pop, reggae, and jazz.

Loved it and can't wait to see it again around my birthday next year.

    Sunday, 15th Dec 2013 by John Pank

Andrew Lloyd Webber has long entertained the world with blockbusters like Joseph, Phantom, Evita and Cats and his collaboration with Tim Rice was phenomenal. However, in recent times--with different lyricists--we've never had it so good and Stephen Ward falls into the worthy but also-ran category.

The story being well-known to the older generation and of little relevance to the new, lacks the excitement of the film Scandal and despite a fine performance from Alex Hanson he cannot hide the fact that--despite the heavy guns in charge of direction, lyrics, book and music--the story does not come to life.

The early scenes show promise with songs 'This Side of the Sky and 'You Never had it so Good' (and Keeler's pert derriere keeps the interest flowing), but ultimately the tedious court scene and the pantomime villains of press and police in the second half leave one wondering why ALW felt--apart from a personal crusade for belated justice for Ward--that it was worth all the effort? I can't help feeling that a title like Scandal has far better sale value than Stephen Ward but sincerely hope that I am wrong.

ALW is a great showman but SW is more of a miss than a hit as far as this critic is concerned.

    Sunday, 15th Dec 2013 by Edward

Oh dear, what a disappointment. The best that can be said is that the cast try very hard. But unmemorable songs, with crude and awkward lyrics and crashingly unbalanced musical volume made this an evening to forget. ALW seems to have adopted Stephen Ward as "cause of the week", and the second half of this show, almost entirely spoken, shows anger at the palpable hypocrisy of Ward's trial, but anyone not having researched the history beforehand will have a hard time understanding the issues. Those were first exposed by Ludovic Kennedy's "Trial of Stephen Ward" almost fifty years ago, and later compellingly described in the film "Scandal" with far more subtlety and with far stronger production values than is the case here, helped of course by some outstanding acting (John Hurt). Here ALW's attempts to capture the flavour of the times are inaccurate and simplistic. The orgy scene is so humourless as to be embarrassing. Perhaps the real problem is that the story of Stephen Ward may raise issues of injjustice and hypocrisy, but only in a specific time bound historical context. The man himself was hardly the stuff of universal values, big ideas and huge emotions such as we have come to expect, perhaps erroneously, from great musical productions. This is a poor little attempt at a period piece which fails to match expectations based on ALW's reputation.

    Sunday, 15th Dec 2013 by Philip

I was very excited to be able to buy a ticket for Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest show BUT god i was disappointed.

There were 3 good songs but the script was poor. I wanted to leave at the interval but out of respect for the actors, i stayed. I won't be trusting Andrew Lloyd Webber's name alone in the future, to purchase tickets for new shows.

    Saturday, 14th Dec 2013 by Fraser

Sophisticated, sassy and sexy; this show is just what the West End needs. It's a grown-up show which tells the story in a clean, simple , uncluttered way from the intriguing prologue to the chilling final moments. I loved it. Congratulations to all involved.

    Saturday, 14th Dec 2013 by Peter

A wonderful show. Don't know who these guys are who are criticising it. Some great numbers, very touching and made me cry. A wonderful mixture of fun and serious storytelling, with important points made about the workings of the establishment and very topical points about the press and the police. Lloyd Webber is a genius, bringing so much pleasure to the public.

    Saturday, 14th Dec 2013 by Trevor from Reading

If you want a standard ALW musical - forget it. It is a "musical play" with a hugely strong cast and songs that pull the story along at a cracking pace. No show stoppers but a really strong core. Acting is very good - and depicts a shameful period of our history. Excellent.

    Saturday, 14th Dec 2013 by Thomas

When I heard that ALW was writing a musical about Stephen Ward, I wondered how it could be done. Basically, it is a rather boring and somewhat sordid affair although there is actually much more to the story - I know because I was there at the time!

I thought ALW might turn it into some sort of fantasy with visually exciting scenes of the swimming pool at Cliveden, the two opposing "warriors" and the so very young apparent Mata Haris being skillfully manipulated by Stephen Ward against a complicated political background. A modern Greek tragedy.

In fact, from the moment that the curtain went up, it was just boring - much time is spent simply lecturing on the story and the cheap and unattractive scenery made it even worse. Nothing memorable about the music or songs - which were badly sung. I thought that it was a complete failure in every way.

I cannot imagine that it will run for more than a few weeks. A great pity!

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Show Information
Booking From: Saturday, 29th March 2014
Booking Until: Saturday, 29th March 2014
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

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