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Andrew Lloyd Webber, Theater Industry Sue U.K. Government to Reveal COVID-19 Events Research Results

Super-producer and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has joined his fellow artists working in the beleaguered theater and music industries in taking legal steps to get the U.K. government to release results of its ongoing Events Research Program.

The program was set up to examine the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from attendance at events and explore ways to enable people to attend a range of events safely. To achieve this, the program, the first phase of which ran over April and May, explored how a combination of testing and non-pharmaceutical interventions could inform decisions on safely lifting restrictions at events.

However, the government has failed to reveal its findings so far. The U.K. was due to reopen fully on June 21 after a crippling series of COVID-19 induced lockdowns over the past 15 months, but this has been pushed back to July 19, due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the virus. Thanks to this, theaters, cinemas, live sporting events and concerts have been forced to continue to operate at vastly reduced capacities, resulting in debilitating losses.

Webber’s first new West End show in five years, the £6 million ($8.5 million) budgeted “Cinderella,” with a script by white hot “Promising Young Woman” writer-director Emerald Fennell, is due to open for previews at London’s Gillian Lynne theater June 25, followed by a world premiere July 14. Reduced capacity would seriously affect its box office.

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The composer turned down a last minute offer to make “Cinderella” a part of the Events Research Program. On Thursday, his Really Useful Group, theater impresario Cameron Mackintosh, music industry body LIVE and other leading figures from the entertainment world have instigated legal proceedings to force government ministers to release the findings of phase one of the program.

“Last week I rejected the government’s invitation for ‘Cinderella’ to be singled out as a last-minute part of the Events Research Program,” said Webber. “Today, with a range of voices from across the theater and live entertainment industries, we are forced to take it further. We simply must now see the data that is being used to strangle our industry so unfairly.”

“The government’s actions are forcing theater and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead. The situation is beyond urgent,” the “Cats” composer added.

Some 45,000 fans in attendance at Wembley for the climax of the Euro 2020 soccer championship while tennis tournament Wimbledon’s men’s and women’s finals will be played to full houses as these have been given test event status under the Events Research Program.

Earlier this month, Webber had said that he was willing to court arrest if there was any delay in fully reopening theaters.

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