Entertainment & Arts

Lloyd Webber and Mandy Rice Davies launch Stephen Ward musical

Andrew Lloyd Webber (centre) with Mandy Rice-Davies (right) and Charlotte Blackledge (left), who plays Mandy Rice-Davies in the musical, Stephen Ward
Image caption Andrew Lloyd Webber with Mandy Rice-Davies (right) and Charlotte Blackledge (left), who plays Rice-Davies in the musical

Andrew Lloyd Webber has launched his new West End musical, saying it would show how the man involved in the 1960s Profumo Affair was made a "scapegoat" by the establishment.

The musical, Stephen Ward, opens at London's Aldwych Theatre in December.

Lord Lloyd-Webber said Ward's life was a "wonderful subject" for a composer.

Ward, an osteopath and socialite, was instrumental in the Profumo sex scandal, which threatened to topple the Conservative government in 1963.

It saw cabinet minister John Profumo forced to resign from the cabinet for lying to the House of Commons over his affair with showgirl Christine Keeler.

Ms Keeler had lived with Ward at his flat, and he introduced the pair in 1961.

Put on trial for living off immoral earnings, Ward took an overdose of tablets and died three days after being found guilty.

Former showgirl Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the witnesses in the trial, has been an adviser on Lloyd Webber's production.

Speaking at the launch event in Soho on Monday, Ms Rice-Davies revealed that she and Ms Keeler - who is not involved in the project - had not spoken since the 1980s.

"I don't think she likes me," she said.

Speaking to the BBC, Lord Lloyd-Webber stressed that Ward was the focus of his musical, and that the Profumo Affair itself only took up "three minutes of stage time".

"He became the scapegoat for a number of things," he said. "The police were instructed to get something on this man Ward to turn him into an apology for what went on."

Ms Rice-Davies, who was 18 at the time of the Stephen Ward trial, contacted Lloyd Webber after she heard him speaking about his idea for the musical on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.

She told the BBC that she thought the composer would be an "honest witness". The Stephen Ward musical would, she hoped, "fill in the gap between the myth and the man".

Four songs from the musical were performed at Monday's launch in a Soho club.

The show's opening number sung by Alexander Hanson, who plays Ward, is delivered from the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds waxworks in Blackpool - where Ward is displayed alongside Jack the Ripper and Hitler.

Image caption The Stephen Ward team: (from left) Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charlotte Blackledge (Mandy Rice-Davies), Alexander Hanson (Stephen Ward), Charlotte Spencer (Christine Keeler)and director Richard Eyre

The lyrics speak of how Ward "got up the nose of the establishment" and became "a human sacrifice".

Other cast members include Charlotte Spencer as Christine Keeler, Charlotte Blackledge as Mandy Rice Davies, Anthony Calf as Lord Astor, Daniel Flynn as John Profumo, and Joanna Riding as Profumo's wife Valerie Hobson.

Blackledge admitted it had been "surreal" to meet the real Rice-Davies for the first time at Monday's launch.

"Hopefully as the project develops I will get to see more of her and chat," she said.

The show's director, Sir Richard Eyre, said Ms Rice-Davies had been "part of the development process" over past year, but she was not involved in rehearsals.

"She forgets nothing and she regrets nothing," he said, "so she's a great storyteller and a lot of her information and knowledge has gone into the script.

"But the script is double-sourced and double-checked so it's not Mandy Rice Davies's point of view. It's very much [told by] the writers of the show."

Stephen Ward sees Lloyd Webber reunited with Sunset Boulevard writers Christopher Hampton and Don Black.

This is his first new musical since 2010's Love Never Dies.

His other shows include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita, Song & Dance, Cats, Starlight Express, The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love.

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