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Shafting the incumbent: When shows gazump

June 22, 2011 

In the business world, it always feels slightly wrong when a company heralds the arrival of a fabulous new executive whilst their predecessor is still sat at their desks.

James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors, to transfer to the Adelphi Theatre

James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors, to transfer to the Adelphi Theatre

And it happens in the theatre world too. In casting, there’s rarely a chance for the hoofer sweating away night-after-night to announce their departure before the press release goes out about the bright young thing taking their place (Legally Blonde recently announcing that Carley Stenson is to replace Susan McFadden as Elle Woods caused much gasping, least of all from the rest of the cast, who read it first on Twitter!)

And there is nothing more brutal and shameless than a keen show busting to get into a West End venue. Even bastions of good taste such as the RSC aren’t shy of a little venue-stealing, announcing last month that Matilda would crash into the Cambridge Theatre in October despite Chicago’s long-running status at the venue, thereby prompting lots of speculation about the future of that show.

The National has also followed suit, leaking news last week that their James Cordon hit One Man, Two Guvnors will transfer to the Adelphi, current home of Love Never Dies, in November. The news sent “Love Must Die”-hards into spasms of delight and left Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group to then have to follow with a closing notice.

LND is especially interesting because Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group only part-owns the theatre: rumours have circulated for some time that the other owner of the Adelphi, the Nederlander Organization,  has been unhappy with the income they are generating from the show (a significant part of a venue’s revenue comes from sales of merchandise and catering, and so depends on getting people through the doors).

I suppose it has to be the way. If you left the incumbent to make the announcement it would never happen, at least not quickly enough for the upstart. But there must be a way to do it with dignity. I tell you, showbusiness… it’s ruthless!

Andrew Lloyd Webber keeps theatres

December 15, 2010 

Andrew Lloyd Webber has pulled out of a deal to sell four of his West End theatres to a consortium led by Michael Grade.

The original deal for the theatres was rumoured to be around £50 million and the consortium buying the theatres was led by former BBC Chairman and ITV Chief Executive Michael Grade and theatre agent Michael Linnit.

A statement released by Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group regarding the sale to the GradeLinnit consortium said that “at the eleventh hour, GradeLinnit raised issues relating to a long-standing contractual agreement between one of the theatres and a production company about a possible future production. GradeLinnit decided that they would not want to take this contract forward as owners of the theatre. The Really Useful Group has chosen to continue with the agreement and therefore the sale will not be going ahead.”

The deal had included the New London Theatre, current home to War Horse, the Palace Theatre, where Priscilla Queen of the Desert is playing, Chicago venue the Cambridge Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre, which has run Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera since 1986.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and his Really Useful Group will continue to own the four theatres and West End flagship venues the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, currently housing Oliver! and then Shrek The Musical, the London Palladium, which sees Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz open in February, and a 50% stake in the Adelphi Theatre, home to Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies.

It is expected that Michael Grade will be particularly disappointed that the sale has not gone through. His family’s history is entwined with London theatre, with his uncle Lew Grade staging Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the 1950s and 60s for his ATV network. Michael has recently recorded a Radio 2 history of the venue timed for its centenary this December.

His uncle Bernard Delfont converted the London Hippodrome into the Talk of the Town restaurant in 1958, bringing in a host of entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt and Judy Garland, and staging the Folies Bergère. In the early 1990s Bernard Delfont struck a deal with Cameron Mackintosh to take on his Prince Edward and Prince of Wales theatres, creating the company Delfont Mackintosh, which today owns seven West End theatres.

Lloyd Webber has been slowly divesting of his theatre assets. In 2005 Really Useful sold four theatres to Nimax Theatres – the Lyric, Apollo, Garrick and Duchess for £11.5 million. And in a frank interview with the Daily Mail in July, Lloyd Webber talked of the stress involved in keeping the theatres going and the large debt owed on them: “We’ve got an overdraft of about £100 million against the theatres, which is too much… it’s simply beyond me.”

Producers associated with the venues that were to be sold include Cameron Mackintosh, producer of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Broadway producers Barry and Fran Weissler and their production of Chicago at the Cambridge and Liz Koops and Garry McQuinn at Back Row Productions, producers of Priscilla at the Palace Theatre.

It has long been rumoured that Cameron Mackintosh would like to buy the London Palladium and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for his Delfont Mackintosh company, but Lloyd Webber has so far been unwilling to divest of the venues.

LINKS

More information on the New London Theatre, Cambridge Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre and Palace Theatre

Lloyd Webber sells venues to Michael Grade

October 27, 2010 

Lord Lloyd Webber has agreed to sell four of his West End theatres to a consortium headed by Michael Grade, according to The Stage newspaper.

Michael Grade, former head of ITV

Michael Grade, former head of ITV

The deal for the theatres, rumoured to be around £50 million, was brokered earlier this week. The consortium buying the theatres is led by former BBC Chairman and ITV Chief Executive Michael Grade and theatre agent Michael Linnit.

The deal includes the New London Theatre, current home to War Horse, the Palace Theatre, where Priscilla Queen of the Desert is playing, Chicago venue the Cambridge Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre, which has run Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera since 1986.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and his Really Useful Group will continue to own West End flagship venues the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, currently housing Oliver! and then Shrek The Musical, the London Palladium, which sees Sister Act close on Saturday and Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz open in February, and a 50% stake in the Adelphi Theatre, home to Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies.

Final contracts are still to be signed. Really Useful Group chief executive Andre Ptaszynski has told staff at the venues that “we are fully committed to a process of information provision and consultation, where appropriate, with staff (and trade unions) to make sure that we cover all employee issues and concerns.”

Michael Grade’s family history is entwined with London theatre, with his uncle Lew Grade staging Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the 1950s and 60s for his ATV network. Michael has recently recorded a Radio 2 history of the venue timed for its centenary this December.

His uncle Bernard Delfont converted the London Hippodrome into the Talk of the Town restaurant in 1958, bringing in a host of entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt and Judy Garland, and staging the Folies Bergère. In the early 1990s Bernard Delfont struck a deal with Cameron Mackintosh to take on his Prince Edward and Prince of Wales theatres, creating the company Delfont Mackintosh, which today owns seven West End theatres.

Michael Grade’s ability to run leisure and entertainment companies has often come under fierce criticism. He took over Bernard Delfont’s First Leisure Corporation, set up with Max Payne, in 1997, leaving in 1999 after a turbulent few years. He received harsh criticism from Delfont’s widow, Lady Delfont, who told the Daily Telegraph in 1999 that, “At no time did we understand that Michael Grade’s job was to asset-strip a thriving company.”

His recent tenure at ITV was during a troubled time for the broadcaster and, as Chairman of Pinewood Shepperton studios, he recently faced calls to step down by one of its leading investors, the funds group Crystal Amber, charged with an unconvincing performance since the company floated six years ago and a lack of adequate direction.

Lloyd Webber has been slowly divesting of his theatre assets. In 2005 Really Useful sold four theatres to Nimax Theatres – the Lyric, Apollo, Garrick and Duchess for £11.5 million. And in a frank interview with the Daily Mail in July, Lloyd Webber talked of the stress involved in keeping the theatres going and the large debt owed on them: “We’ve got an overdraft of about £100 million against the theatres, which is too much… it’s simply beyond me.”

Lloyd Webber has a close association with all four venues he is divesting: the Palace Theatre was famously the office of Prince Edward, who worked for Lord Webber on a number of his shows from the venue; the Cambridge Theatre housed his production of The Beautiful Game in 2000; the New London was where his acclaimed, internationally successful production of Cats started in 1981; and Her Majesty’s Theatre has been home to his most successful ever production, The Phantom of the Opera, which celebrated its 10,000th performance at the venue this week.

LINKS

More information on the New London Theatre, Cambridge Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre and Palace Theatre

Lloyd Webber fans play part in new box set

September 20, 2010 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and Universal Music are inviting Lloyd Webber fans to play a role in the forthcoming “Andrew Lloyd Webber 60″ CD release.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Fans are being asked to help choose the packaging and tracks for the new CD box set, which is timed to celebrate his 60th year.

The special release will feature 3 CDs of the best music from Andrew’s musicals, plus a hardback book and twenty poster prints from his shows.

By filling in a questionnaire that surveys fans on aspects such as potential packaging for the CDs and their own favourite shows, they are also entered into a prize draw for the chance to win one of the new box sets. Five runners-up will also receive one album of their choice from his catalogue.

LINKS

Andrew Lloyd Webber 60 CD box set- fans questionnaire

Michael Grade turns attention to West End

September 6, 2010 

Michael Grade, of the legendary Grade and Delfont entertainment dynasty, is eyeing up the West End as his next conquest.

Should we be scared?

Michael Grade at ITV

Michael Grade at ITV

Andrew Lloyd Webber, who owns a number of London theatres and has recently talked about his keenness to divest of a few, is in talks to sell four venues: the New London, where War Horse is currently playing, the Palace (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), the Cambridge (Chicago) and Her Majesty’s (The Phantom of the Opera).

It is believed that the theatres would be bought for around £50 million by a consortium led by Grade, theatre agent Michael Linnit and financial backers.

The package of theatres doesn’t include the three flagship venues of the group: the Adelphi, currently home to Lloyd-Webber’s musical Love Never Dies, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the London Palladium.

Michael Grade’s family history is entwined with London theatre, with his uncle Lew Grade staging Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the 1950s and 60s for his ATV network. Michael has recently recorded a Radio 2 history of the venue timed for its centenary this December.

His uncle Bernard Delfont converted the London Hippodrome into the Talk of the Town restaurant in 1958, bringing in a host of entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt and Judy Garland, and staging the Folies Bergère. In the early 1990s Bernard Delfont struck a deal with Cameron Mackintosh to take on his Prince Edward and Prince of Wales theatres, creating the company Delfont Mackintosh, which today owns seven West End theatres.

But in the last few years Michael Grade’s ability to run leisure and entertainment companies has come under fierce criticism. He took over Bernard Delfont’s First Leisure Corporation, set up with Max Payne, in 1997, leaving in 1999 after a turbulent few years. He received harsh criticism from Delfont’s widow, Lady Delfont, who told the Daily Telegraph in 1999 that, “At no time did we understand that Michael Grade’s job was to asset-strip a thriving company.”

His recent tenure at ITV was largely believed to have been unsuccessful, and as Chairman of Pinewood Shepperton studios he is currently facing calls to step down by one of its leading investors, the funds group Crystal Amber, charged with an unconvincing performance since the company floated six years ago and a lack of adequate direction.

Lloyd Webber has been slowly divesting of his theatre assets. In 2005 Really Useful sold four theatres to Nimax Theatres – the Lyric, Apollo, Garrick and Duchess for £11.5 million. And in a frank interview with the Daily Mail in July, Lloyd Webber talked of the stress involved in keeping the theatres going and the large debt owed on them: “We’ve got an overdraft of about £100 million against the theatres, which is too much… it’s simply beyond me.”

Let’s hope these precious assets are not beyond Michael Grade.

Lloyd Webber launches musical

October 8, 2009 

loveneverdies

Today in London Andrew Lloyd Webber launched his new Phantom sequel Love Never Dies.

The brand new musical will star current London Phantom Ramin Karimloo and American actress Sierra Boggess as Christine.

At a launch event at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, current home of The Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber revealed how he struggled for years to find a suitable plot for the sequel. Despite working with novelist Frederick Forsythe on a follow-up story set in Manhattan, it was discussions with Ben Elton (We Will Rock You) that sparked the new plot for the show by suggesting that the sequel should follow the story’s original characters.

This long-awaited new show will have its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in London on Tuesday 9 March 2010 followed by a New York opening on 11 November and Australian debut in 2011.

The new musical is set 10 years after the first, and sees the Phantom move from the Paris Opera House to haunt the fairgrounds of Coney Island near New York, billed in its hay day as one of the great wonders of the world.

The original musical has been seen by over 100 million people worldwide and is billed by Lloyd Webber’s company the Really Useful Group as the single most successful entertainment entity in history.

Ramin Karimloo

Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom

At the launch event in London a full orchestra played the new show’s dramatic opening waltz set against a film that highlighted the significance of Coney Island at the time. Ramin Karimloo also sang a number from the show. The Iranian-Canadian actor became the West End’s youngest ever Phantom when he took on the role at Her Majesty’s theatre in 2007, aged 29.

Sierra Boggess, who was present at the launch but did not sing, was the original lead role in The Little Mermaid on Broadway and has played Christine in the Las Vegas production of Phantom.

The original cast album will be released on 11 March, a day after the world premiere in London.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music features lyrics by Glenn Slater, who penned the lyrics for current West End hit Sister Act, and will be choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Legally Blonde) and directed by Jack O’Brien (Hairspray).

button-booknow

Book tickets to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies at the Adelphi Theatre in London

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