Previewed 3 December 2013, Opened 19 December 2013, Closed 29 March 2014 at the Aldwych Theatre in London
Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Stephen Ward in London directed by Sir Richard Eyre.
1963. The Profumo Affair. The scandal that shocked Britsh society. At the height of the Cold War, the British Secretary of State for War (AKA Minister for Defence), John Profumo, was found to be having an affair with Christine Keeler, the reputed mistress of an alleged Soviet spy. Following John Profumo lying in the House of Commons when he was questioned about it, he was forced to resign from Harold Macmillan's Conservation Government. While the scandal was called 'The Profumo Affair' it was actually the society osteopath, portrait painter and friend of the Royal family, Stephen Ward - who introduced Christine Keeler (lover of a Russian naval attaché) to John Profumo - that many now regard as being the real victim of the scandal. Accused of living off immoral earnings, many now regard the evidence against him as looking contrived while the judge's summing up also is considered by many historians to have been biased.
Stephen Ward the Musical features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. It is directed by Richard Eyre with choreography by Stephen Mear, designs by Rob Howell, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Paul Groothuis. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christopher Hampton and Don Black have previously collaborated on the musical Sunset Boulevard. In addition Don Black has provided lyrics to Lloyd Webber's musicals Tell Me On A Sunday and Bombay Dreams.
"This musical take on the Profumo affair is not subtle. When Mandy Rice-Davies asks Stephen Ward what an osteopath is, he sings: 'Manipulation is what I do.' The pair then duet on how 'manipulation' is what everyone around them does... Richard Eyre's direction is precise, although minor characters are caricatures... The music is best when pastiching doo-wop or soul, but melodic highs are low. The lyrics are bludgeonly expository. Central to the ho-hum feel of it all is that Ward does not seem interesting or nuanced enough to sustain an evening of theatre; his description of himself as a 'human sacrifice' fails to hit any tragic note." The Sunday Times
"Jolly threesomes in Belgravia' rhymes with 'assorted misbehaviour' in Stephen Ward, capturing in a lyrically neat nutshell the content of Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest funny, tuneful, touching musical about sex and scandal in smart places... The characters are shallow and the seedy side of introducing teenagers to middle-aged men for sex is underplayed, but perhaps that's the point. In the simple song He Sees Something In Me, Charlotte Spencer's unsophisticated, dim-witted Christine Keeler suggests that Ward made her feel special. He didn't want to sleep with her, preferring to hear about her sexploits with others... Fun was certainly had if the rollicking orgy scene is to be believed, in which a troop of old codgers in their vests are spanked by young lovelies in corsets. It begins as a syncopated gavotte in which lyricist Don Black cleverly chases Harold Macmillan' saying of the time 'You've never had it so good' with the legendary Private Eye headline it prompted: 'You've never had it so often.' Then it gets whipped up into a rousing anthem, complete with trumpets and whistles. The sound is terrific, all that's missing is the fury." The Mail on Sunday
"Lloyd Webber is a great composer, but I wonder what music he could have expected to find in Stephen Ward's life... A big story in its day, but Ward is hardly up there with Joseph and Jesus when it comes to charisma. I think Don Black, the show's lyricist, faced a task every bit as impossible as Lloyd Webber. "Friendly osteopath" is not a phrase that it is easy to work into a big opening number, but Black must have felt that he had no alternative, as that was what Ward did for a living... Overall Stephen Ward has about it the same self-indulgent and decadent feel as Lloyd Webber's last big work, Love Never Dies." The Sunday Telegraph
"The show, named after the playboy osteopath who became an Establishment fall guy, is mediocre at best, and at worst, stultifying. Lloyd Webber's thin, anodyne score, with its flirtation with tinny synths, often sounds more 1980s than 1960s. And while Richard Eyre's production is efficient, the book and lyrics, by Christopher Hampton and Don Black, are woefully leaden. We meet our tragic, sharp-suited hero, smoothly played and richly sung by Alexander Hanson, in a Blackpool waxworks, where his effigy has been slotted in next to Hitler and Genghis Khan. The dummy comes to life to regale us with his stories of his time as an avid onlooker at the dawn of a permissive new age... Rob Howell's set, with its concentric spangled curtains, is suitably tawdry but desperately ugly." The Metro
On Wednesday 31 July 1963, the last day of the trial, while on bail staying at the Chelsea flat of a friend, Noel Howard=-Jones, he took a massive overdose of the drug Nembutal. Leaving a note to Howard-Jones saying: Dear Noel, I'm sorry I had to do this here! It's really more that I can stand the horror, day after day at the court and in the streets - it's not only fear - it's a wish not to let them get me. I'd rather get myself. I do hope I haven't let people down too much. I tried to do my stuff, but after [Judge] Marshalll's summing up I've given up all hope. The car needs oil in the gear box, by the way, be happy in it. Incidentally it was surprisingly easy and required no guts. I'm sorry to disappoint the vultures - I only hope this has done the job, delay resuscitation as long as possible."
On that day, while Stephen Ward laid in a hospital bed, an Old Bailey jury found him guilty of two charges, that of living of the earnings of the prostitution of Christine Keeler, Marilyn 'Mandy' Rice-Davies and other women with sentencing delayed until he could return to the court. Ward never recovered and died in hospital on Saturday 3 August 1963.
His funeral was held the following week on Friday 9 August 1963. Amongst the wreaths was one dedicated "To Stephen Ward - A victim of British hypocrisy" which was signed by 19 British writers and artists: the novelist Ted Allan; the artist Peter Blake; the physician and author Alex Comfort; the playwright Clive Exton (Barking in Essex); the actress Fenella Fielding; the novelist Penelope Gilliatt; the film director Ted Kotcheff; the novelist Doris Lessing; the theatre director Joan Littlewood; the post Christopher Logue; the jazz musician George Melly; the poet and novelist Adrian Mitchell; the film composer Stanley Myers; the novelist Edna O'Brien; the playwright John Osborne (The Entertainer and Epitaph for George Dillon); the jazz singer Annie Ross; the writer Alan Sillitoe; the novelist and biographer Andrew Sinclair; the theatre critic and writer Kenneth Tynan; the playwright Arnold Wesker; and the novelist Angus Wilson.
Andrew Lloyd Webber says: "How could it be that a man who was the most popular dinner guest in London, friend of the Royal family, a fine portrait painter, and successful osteopath, ends up as a waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds? He was a scapegoat. They had to find a crime to fit him. And since MI6 said there was no security risk, why is it a closed file till 2046?"
The musical Stephen Ward in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 3 December 2013 and opened on 19 December 2013.