In a candid self-penned article in the Evening Standard, producer Cameron Mackintosh has revealed that he and Andrew Lloyd Webber have been forced to “sadly permanently shut down” the iconic West End production of The Phantom of the Opera as a consequence of the Coronavirus crisis. The decision had already been made in May 2020 to cancel the show’s UK tour.
Mackintosh explained that both he and Lloyd Webber were keen to bring Phantom back to London, but that was extremely unlikely while social distancing was still part of the scenario. While praising Lloyd Webber for the pilot performance at the London Palladium last week, he believed the experiment had “exposed the artistic and commercial bankruptcy of trying to apply social distancing to indoor mainstream theatre”.
Mackintosh, his producing partners and Delfont Mackintosh Theatres had already taken the difficult decision to delaying the return of Les Misérables, Mary Poppins and Hamilton until as early as practical in 2021.
As the owner of eight West End theatres, he discussed the “huge financial hit” his business had taken during the lockdown period which looked likely to devastate the theatre industry for at least 18 months.
He wrote in the Evening Standard: “With theatres closed indefinitely, I have had to let go all the actors, musicians, stage staff and freelancers that work for me. My loyal production and theatre management staff have been cut by 60% reduced to a dedicated team who will look after these priceless historic buildings so they are ready to ramp up back into production the moment the Government accepts that social distancing, which I have been totally opposed to from the outset, is no longer a requirement.”
Mackintosh ended the article by making a plea to prime minister Boris Johnson to preserve “one of Britain’s greatest cultural and economic treasures” by giving immediate detail about how the £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts would be distributed and presenting a set schedule about when venues could reopen.
He closed the article with the comment: “We are fed up of no business, we want to be back in show business.”
The Phantom of the Opera is the only show in history to have celebrated 30 years on both sides of the Atlantic. In October 2016 the London production celebrated its 30th anniversary with a special gala performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre and in October 2011 the London production celebrated its 25th anniversary with a staging of ‘The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall’ which was screened live in cinemas all over the world and subsequently released on DVD. The musical became the longest-running show in Broadway history on 9 January 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance. On 1 January 2018 it celebrated its 13,000th performance and later that month on 24 January the Broadway production celebrated 30 years on Broadway.