Andrew Lloyd Webber has been left ‘devastated’ after his theatre production of Cinderella was postponed until February.
The theatre boss, who has ‘devoted’ his life to the stage, was forced to push performances back until next year ‘to avoid more disruption’ as the number of Covid-19 cases rise across the country.
Last week the production was axed due to “Covid-related absences”, alongside London productions of hit musicals Hamilton and The Lion King.
READ MORE: Live updates on Covid Omicron outbreak as post-Christmas lockdown ‘penciled in’
On Twitter, the stage legend wrote: “Once again, this wretched virus has put paid to the joy of entertaining audiences, something that I hold so dear.
“Sadly this is the right thing to do, not just for the safety of our cast, musicians and backstage crew, but for the quality of the show we give our audiences who travel long distances and make significant investments to come and see us.
“Rest assured, Cinderella will re-open as soon as this wave is licked and we know we can give our audiences the fantastic time they deserve.”
Writing in the Daily Mail last week, Lord Lloyd Webber said it is “simply heartbreaking” to see the theatre industry “decimated” by Omicron cancellations, adding “no one in the Government listens”.
The theatre legend said the whole industry is experiencing the “same nightmare” – from big West End shows to local pantomimes, as well as the restaurants, bars and hotels that benefit from theatregoers.
On Twitter, the team behind Cinderella said the cancellations have been “incredibly difficult.”
“The spread of the Omicron variant is devastating. Like so many theatres up and down the country, day after day we are forced to make decisions (often at short notice) based on the latest round of test results,” they added.
“To avoid more disruption, and to protect the quality of the show we give our audiences, we have no option but to suspend all performances of Cinderella until 9th February 2022.
“We are passionately committed to returning sooner if the circumstances improve and we will keep the situation under constant review,” they added.
The Treasury announced on Tuesday that cultural organisations in England can access a further £30 million funding during the winter via the culture recovery fund.
However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s newly-announced support for the arts has been widely criticised by the sector.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, described the support as “far too little”.
He said: “Businesses are failing, people are losing their livelihoods and the industry is crippled.
“Mixed messaging, coupled with additional restrictions, have had a catastrophic impact on our sector over the last two weeks.
“At this critical point, we need strong leadership and a clear pathway from Government with a long-term strategy for new Covid variants.”
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Meanwhile, the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) welcomed the announcement adding: “This is a clear signal that the Chancellor and HM Treasury understand the challenges facing our theatres and other cultural businesses.”
The announcement follows a string of cancelled theatre performances, with The Lion King and Life Of Pi among the West End shows having to dim their lights due to Covid-enforced staff shortages.
After calling on the Government to help an “already fragile industry,” Dame Rosemary Squire, Joint CEO of Trafalgar Entertainment, welcomed the funding, calling it an “immediate lifeline” for some Arts organisations.
She added: “However, although appreciated, we need to know of changes to the criteria for the fund, along with any planned further restrictions, before being able to gauge how helpful it is to the theatre sector, in particular commercial producers and productions.
“Many people are out of work now and productions are closing down in London and around the UK due to Omicron, so we urge the Government to reconsider an immediate return to 5% VAT on ticket sales, business rates relief on cultural buildings and the reintroduction of the furlough and job retention schemes.
“The road ahead is certainly not a clear one, and more long-term support and funding could be needed in the coming months.”
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