Preview: Stephen Ward The Musical

“I invented a new way of lie, some might call it unconventional,
All that stuffy post-war Englishness, I liked something more consensual”

With such a busy couple of weeks, I’ve only just gotten round to having a listen of the sneak preview of four songs offered at the launch of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s new musical Stephen Ward. I was prompted by an offer to download two of them for free (for a limited time only) but you can also listen to them online and/or watch the videos below. The story is undoubtedly a little niche, exploring the 1963 Profumo scandal from the point of view of Ward who was smack bang in the middle of it, he being the one who introduced MP John Profumo to Christine Keeler and setting in motion events that rocked the government.

As for the music, there’s something rather endearing about Lloyd-Webber’s continued contributions to British musical theatre, he could so easily have decided to retire yet he carries on writing to the beat of his own drum, safe in the knowledge that a devoted fanbase will lap it up. Unsurprisingly, the four songs previewed do not reveal any major change in direction and so it will be interesting to see if the show is able to transcend the attentions of musical theatre devotees and appeal to a wider audience. Joanna Riding’s simple ballad ‘Hopeless When It Comes To You’ is the pick of the bunch but Alex Hanson, playing Ward himself, runs her close with the sinuous storytelling of ‘Human Sacrifice’.

The duet ‘This Side of the Sky’ feels a little lacklustre to me, the song seeming to suffer from its lack of context and also not making the most of the dual voices for my liking. But ensemble number ‘You’ve Never Had It So Good’ smacks of Lloyd-Webber of old, calling to mind songs from Cats, Evita and going further afield, even a touch of My Fair Lady. I like the way that the production is previewing material this way and attempting to build connections with social media platforms rather than casting them as the devil’s work. After all, these are all potential audience members and reaching out to as many of them as possible in as many ways as possible is the name of the game these days. And for me, I have to say it is definitely piqued my interest in the show, not that there was any doubt that I was going.


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