We already know from Sarah Brightman’s confessional on the Graham Norton show that she married Andrew Lloyd Webber not because he was the handsomest boy in the playground but because ‘he did have the biggest willy’. Now he’s head to head with Sir Cameron Mackintosh in another size contest over who will have the prettiest small one.
Theatre, this time. ALW’s Really Useful Group signed heads of agreement on Friday with the current owners of the small but beautifully made St James’s Theatre in Victoria, with a 312 seat main auditorium and well-appointed cabaret studio. His critics may suspect cockblocking: dominance in West End real estate can mean shows from rival impresarios may find it harder to rent a theatre.
Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber have long been in competition for who has the biggest or best one and who has the most marbles – Cam has 9 and Andrew 6 but Andrew’s are bigger: Really Useful Group’s London Palladium beats Delfont Mackintosh’s Prince Edward by a whopping 670 seats.
Sir Cameron already owns the Ambassadors but is in talks with planners and heritage bodies to convert the Grade II listed property, to be re-named the Sondheim, into an open-stage auditorium capable of housing productions originating in the subsidised sector, and to give them a home in the West End where they can be staged in their original formats instead of being coerced into a proscenium setting.
But Lloyd Webber’s plan for the St James’s is to emulate the bijou Gramercy Theatre in New York where – at least until LiveNation bought it as a concert venue in 2006 – new plays were tried out before mainstream Broadway investment: audiences paid a lower ticket price, typically $40 (£26) in return for providing an ‘honest opinion’ of the production. Top price at the St J’s for a fully-fledged production is currently £35.
Interesting proposals, but I can’t help feeling sorry for the St James’s creative team particularly chief executive Robert Mackintosh – yes, Cameron’s brother – seeing his theatre fall to his bro’s big rival, and James Albrecht and Marc Brown who worked so hard to gain it a great reputation since it opened just three years ago with Sandi Toksvig‘s remarkable play Bully Boy.
I wonder if she’d be as comfortable getting in to bed with Andrew Lloyd Webber.
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