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18 May 2021, 10:56 | Updated: 18 May 2021, 11:16
Andrew Lloyd Webber has likened those refusing the coronavirus vaccine to drink-drivers, as theatres struggle to reopen.
Musicals composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has called people turning down the coronavirus vaccine “selfish” and said they are affecting “an enormous number of people’s jobs and livelihoods”.
The theatre impresario compared such individuals to “drink-drivers” and said they are putting the government’s roadmap out of lockdown at risk.
Speaking to radio programme World At One he said: “Look at it this way. You could just say ‘I would like to go out and have a drink tonight and drive home and accidentally I kill somebody’.
“Now it seems to be that nobody’s going to go out and deliberately infect anybody with Covid but it’s completely wrong if we know the science.”
While restrictions on indoor live performance lifted yesterday, 17 May, the composer said he will not be opening productions in his theatre venues until after 21 June. The 73-year-old said it is “too costly” to put on shows with reduced audiences.
Read more: West End musicals: full list and dates of all shows reopening including Phantom
Last year, Lloyd Webber emphasised theatres “cannot run” with social distancing because it is “not economically possible” for productions to operate.
Speaking on the radio show, Lord Lloyd-Webber continued: “We know that the vaccines are very effective and we know that they are really broadly speaking unbelievably safe.
“I think the Queen put it rather well when she said we had to think of other people in all of this.”
Lloyd Webber said the country’s planned 21 June reopening is “absolutely critical” to many industries, not least the arts.
The composer previously told The Guardian: “If we had to close down again, we couldn’t survive”.
His fears come as the government has warned the spread of the Indian Covid variant “could pose a threat” to the planned lifting of all restrictions.
Read more: Musicians still ‘falling through the gaps’ as £400m announced for arts sector
“It has been such a devastating time for everybody,” Lloyd Webber added.
“I just feel so strongly at the moment, particularly the people who are not getting vaccinated and everything, just how selfish it is, because so many people depend on this June 21 date, they really depend on it.”
His new musical Cinderella, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, is slated to have its world premiere at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London’s West End on 14 July 2021, its opening having been delayed from August 2020.
Other Lloyd Webber musicals are also expected to reopen this summer, including Phantom of the Opera on 21 July and Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat on 1 July.
Read more: Phantom of the Opera cuts orchestra in half, leaving musicians without a job
Despite promises the full productions will return, Phantom will have its orchestra cut in half when it returns to the West End. Once celebrated for having the largest orchestra in London’s theatre district, the show will now have 14 players in the pit, rather than 27.