My friend Maria del Mar was living in London for a few months. We love musicals, so we wanted to see a show together before she was going back to Barcelona. Which one can we see? There were lots to choose, how hard! But we saw that Andrew Lloyd Webber was presenting a new musical, called ‘Stephen Ward’. Maria del Mar and I looked at each other and said: “Andrew Lloyd Webber? He created most of the best musicals in history, like The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar or Cats.” Don’t think twice, let’s get some tickets.
‘Stephen Ward’ is the first musical of Andrew Lloyd Webber that I have seen live in a theatre. I am a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera, the songs, for me, are incredible, they express a lot of feelings. So, obviously, we were really excited before the show started. It was a nice day, we visited many places, and Maria del Mar was saying goodbye to London and to the musicals. We were sitting, waiting for the show to start, really nervous. What happened next was quite disappointing.
The musical was at the Aldwych Theatre from 3rd December 2013 until 29th March 2014. The book and lyrics are created by Don Black and Christopher Hampton and the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The show was about to run in the West End until 31st May, but finally closed the same day as ‘From Here To Eternity’ (which I missed).
The story is based on the Profumo Affair, a political scandal in UK in 1963. John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War had a sexual affair with Christine Keeler, a young model. The Conservative Party was really damaged for this event, and lost the general election at the following year. Christine Keeler was involved too with the soviet Yevgeny Ivanov, because of her friendship with the osteopath Stephen Ward. The Government was really damaged for this scandal because the security of the nation could be in danger for this event, during the Cold War.
I think that we were disappointed with the show because the story was too British for us. The story didn’t interested me at all, but I’m sure that is not a bad story, because is a real affair that changed the UK Government. The problem is that I wasn’t impressed, because in Spain there’s a lot of corruption and troubles in our Government, it’s not new for us. Probably most of the British people know about the Profumo Affair, but I didn’t before ‘Stephen Ward’.
I must say that it wasn’t interesting for me, but it wasn’t boring as well. The performance ran 2 hours and 20 minutes, including the interval. It wasn’t a long musical; the scenes were changing very fast, which is good too. But I had the feeling that the creators of the show wanted to make a provocative musical no matter what. There were lots of naked women and the characters were talking about sex most of the time. And I know that the show is talking about a sexual political scandal, is not Disney, but it was too much. None of the characters were charismatic for me, I had the feeling that I really didn’t care about Stephen Ward, Kristin or Valerie.
The songs were not that bad, but not as good as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classics. There wasn’t a song that you could remember after the performance. The show starts with ‘Human Sacrifice’, which is a really good beginning. It reminds me ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar‘. And I remember ‘I’m Hopeless When It Comes To You’ too, thanks God there was a dramatic and powerful diva song in the show. The lyrics and the music were nice, Valerie Hobson, John Profumo’s wife, tries to understand her husband when he explains everything to her.
I don’t think ‘Stephen Ward’ was a horrible musical, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would like. I read a lot of reviews and they were all good, I couldn’t understand why. But it’s because I’m from another country, it was difficult for me to get the atmosphere and get involved in the story. But, as a musical fan, I missed amazing songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber. He created lots of great songs that I never get bored of listen in my iPod. But Maria del Mar and I sometimes remember the show, we sing ‘1963, we’ll be on TV…’ and feel disappointed yet.