The Phantom of the Opera to "permanently" close in London's West End
Posted on 28 July 2020
The Phantom of the Opera, one of the West End's hallmark productions, has been forced to shut down permanently along with its nationwide tour. The news was confirmed today by producer Cameron Mackintosh in an article written for the Evening Standard. Together with Andrew Lloyd Webber, he plans to bring the show back to London sometime in the future, though it's unclear what version of it fans might get and whether it will still run at Her Majesty's Theatre. The news marks a tragic day for London and UK theatregoers as the pandemic continues to ravage the industry with the UK Government working at a snail's pace to save the once-booming and prized arts sector.
The Phantom of the Opera "permanently shut down" due to the coronavirus crisis
Producer Cameron Mackintosh announced today that the London and UK touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera have "sadly permanently had to shut down" due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and subsequent theatre closures. The show's iconic chandelier has already been wheeled out of Her Majesty's Theatre, putting an end to a remarkable 33-year reign.
Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber are both "determined" to get the show back on stage but have also stated it would be impossible to do so with social distancing measures in place, which Mackintosh labelled as "artistic and commercial bankruptcy."
Cameron Mackintosh owns eight West End theatres, four of which are homes to the likes of Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, Hamilton, and Phantom. "As by far the largest independent employer in the West End it is not surprising that as both theatre owner and producer, with no outside investors, I’ve taken a huge financial hit,” Mackintosh said, further stating that the creative supply line has been ruptured for at least 18 months.
The venue owner and theatre producer has had to resort to "awful, distressing downsizing of [his] organisation" that has resulted in his production and management staff being cut by 60 per cent and all actors, musicians, stage staff, and freelancers being made redundant. He pledged to start re-employing most of his staff by next Easter, but only if box offices could reopen by November this year.
Mackintosh criticised the Government's inaction, saying: “In early May I warned Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and the Government that this would be necessary unless we received financial help. Despite the recent announcement of a £1.57 billion rescue fund for the arts, this help still hasn’t materialised.” He also continued in his plea to Boris Johnson to provide the funds needed to weather the storm and to announce a realistic time period for reopening theatres across the country.
Social distancing: possible for some theatres, impossible for most
It was announced a few weeks ago that indoor performances would be permitted to take place from the beginning of August with social distancing measures in place so long as Andrew Lloyd Webber's pilot performance proved to be successful.
Starring Beverley Knight (The Drifters Girl), the pilot show was held last week at the London Palladium and tested new safety measures inspired by the South Korean model, including reduced seating capacity, hand sanitising stations, mist spray, temperature checks, and the like.
The West End impresario, who had to postpone his new Cinderella musical for the second time this year, said he was "grateful" for the chance to run the pilot but added that "the Palladium is supposed to be full." Mackintosh also spoke of Lloyd Webber's trial run at the Palladium, but wasn't as grateful, calling socially distanced shows a "disaster" and "all Alice in Wonderland in their ridiculousness" while still applauding Lloyd Webber for at least trying it out. Mackintosh has "been totally opposed to [social distancing] from the outset."