book and lyrics by Christopher Hampton and Don Black music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Aldwych Theatre 49 Aldwych WC2 4DF To 1 March 2014.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30 pm (Over Christmas and New Year – 24, 26, 31 December 2.30 pm. 1 Jan 7.30 pm)
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS:0844 847 1712.
Review: William Russell 20 December.
Not a bad show; but certainly not a good one.
StephenWard is not a wholly bad show so much as a boring, ill-conceived and pointless one. Andrew Lloyd Webber believes Ward, the society osteopath involved in a dreary sex scandal, was the sacrificial victim of an Establishment determined someone else pay for its sins.
As well as manipulating posh clients, Ward ran a stable of young girls collected round London. The accusation was he lived off immoral earnings. His ill-luck was introducing Christine Keeler to John Profumo, Minister for War, at the same time as to Russian naval attaché, Yevgeny Ivanov.
The resulting affairs were brief; Keeler moved on to West Indians, one of whom shot up Ward’s flat, where she was living, in a jealous rage. The Cold War was raging, Fleet Street started looking into things and a full-scale British sex scandal erupted. Profumo denied the affair to the Commons and was proved to have lied.
Lloyd Webber’s score is nicely sixties without hitting any great heights, but Christopher Hampton and Don Black’s book has nothing new to tell, and they fail to make a case for Ward as tragic hero.
Alexander Hanson works manfully as Ward, narrating his own story, and Charlotte Spencer and Charlotte Blackledge as Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies are perfectly cast as nice girls out of their depth.
There is a witty number, ‘We Never Had It So Good – We Never had it So Often’ performed at a dinner party where everyone gets naked and a dominatrix does her stuff. Significantly it did not stop the show and belongs to some sixties satirical review, not a 21st Century musical.
Victim or not, Ward was a pimp who groomed young women to service his clients. He died because his way of life had been taken from him. That was bad luck, not tragedy.
His story simply does not lend itself to such treatment and things are not helped by the production. The sets, swirling curtains and grainy back-projections are tacky, the songs, with one exception, unmemorable and Richard Eyre’s direction lamentably ponderous.
The result is boring as turkey without cranberry sauce and all the trimmings.
Stephen Ward: Alexander Hanson.
Christine Keeler: Charlotte Spencer.
Mandy Rice-Davies: Charlotte Blackledge.
Lord Astor/Griffith-Jones: Anthony Calf.
Rachman/Journalist 3: Martin Callaghan.
Lucky Gordon: Richard Coke-Thomas.
Yevgeny Ivanov/Journalist 1/Herbert: Ian Conningham.
Murray’s Girl/Rona: Kate Coysten.
President Ayub Khann/ Male Ensemble: Jason Denton.
Profumo/Reg Kray/Judge: Daniel Flynn.
Man in mask/Brooke/Clore/Burge/Rawlinson: Julian Forsyth.
Murray’s girl/Bronwen/Vickie: Amy Griffiths.
Murray/Journalist 2/Diggs: Christopher Howell.
Murray’s Girl/Mariella: Emma Kate Nelson.
Redmayne/Hollis/Ron Kray: Paul Kemble.
Valerie Hobson/ Mrs Huish: Joanna Riding.
Johnny Edgcombe/ Wayne Robinson.
Male Ensemble: Carl Sanderson.
HOD/Boothby/Hobson/Simpson: John Stacey.
Murray’s Girl/Female Ensemble: Emily Squibb.
Murray’s Girl/Dance Captain: Helen Ternent.
Murray’s Singer/Male Ensemble: Tim Walton.
Director: Richard Eyre.
Designer/Costume: Rob Howell.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Video/Projections: Jon Driscoll.
Musical Supervisor/Director: Graham Hurman.
Choreographer: Stephen Mear.