- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

LONDON — Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical, "The Beautiful Game," will leave London's West End on Sept. 1 with a loss of about $4 million from its yearlong run.
The award-winning composer is looking ahead to his next show, though.
"All I do know is that I want to continue writing," says Mr. Lloyd Webber, whose mammoth hits include "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera."
Mr. Lloyd Webber, 53, says it was a difficult decision to close the show, a particularly ambitious project set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland's "troubles."
Although "The Beautiful Game" was that rare Lloyd Webber entry to win a London Critics' Circle Theatre Award as best musical, Canadian director Robert Carsen's production at the Cambridge Theatre was shut out of the Olivier Awards — London's equivalent of the Tonys — and never caught fire with the public.
In recent weeks, the musical about a Belfast soccer team comprising both Catholics and Protestants played to only 45 percent capacity in a 1,250-seat house.
The composer-producer's shows usually run several seasons or more in London before landing on Broadway for equally long runs.
"Cats," "Starlight Express" and "Phantom" all are still playing in the West End, having opened in 1981, 1984 and 1986, respectively. Mr. Lloyd Webber's "Whistle Down the Wind" closed in January.
Part of the problem with "The Beautiful Game," he says, was the slump in tourism, which resulted in losses of more than $1 million in potential sales to overseas ticket buyers.
Then there's the heaviness of the subject matter at a time when the public apparently has an appetite for musical comedies, such as Broadway's "The Producers," and well-known shows such as the London revival of Lerner and Loewe's classic "My Fair Lady."
"My Fair Lady" has an advance sale of $14 million, compared with $560,000 for "The Beautiful Game."
In September, Mr. Lloyd Webber's touring show, "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber," travels to China with British star Elaine Paige heading the cast."By Jeeves," his intimate comic musical, is expected at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre in November.
Mr. Lloyd Webber later will produce — but not write — a $6 million West End show, "Bombay Dreams," due in London in May. That one has a score by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, who is based in Madras.
The book has not been closed on "The Beautiful Game," though. A Canadian premiere is planned for autumn 2002 at Toronto's Canon Theatre, followed by a U.S. tour of five or six cities, excluding New York.
Whatever the popular appetite for the show, which features a book and lyrics by British comedian Ben Elton, Mr. Lloyd Webber says he is pleased to have done it.
"The point is, this piece isn't really about the Irish problem, but about the futility of these conflicts the world over and how they keep repeating themselves," he says.

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