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Friday, January 24, 2014

Stephen Ward - The Musical

Unfortunately I could not attend the opening of Don Black, Christopher Hampton and Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Stephen Ward at London's Aldwych Theatre in December. The reviews were mixed, what was to be expected. The show's topic is too controversial. The musical starts with Ward gazing at a replica of himself in the Blackpool Chamber of Horrors and performing the song Human Sacrifice. Then it backtracks to show how Ward enjoyed manipulating the great and not-so-good and first introduced the pretty call girl Christine Keeler to Britain's secretary of state for war, John Profumo in 1961. Their affair might have been forgotten but for the fact that Keeler was also involved with a Soviet naval attache and was later violently attacked by a jealous lover. When all this came out in 1963, society found a scapegoat in Ward who was tried for pimping and took his life before a verdict could be pronounced. The show's stance is that he was a victim of justice. Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian: "It's a story that requires the same tone of mordant irony that Kander and Ebb brought to Chicago or The Scottsboro Boys. But Lloyd Webber's great gift is for exploring fulfilled or thwarted desire… For the most part this is a musical in which technical proficiency outweighs retrospective anger." This may be true, but I still admire Andrew for leaving the beaten track, and Don and Christopher for agreeing to try something completely different.

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