Les Misérables and Phantom among West End shows to stay closed until 2021

17 June 2020, 17:41

A deserted Coliseum Theatre in London’s West End theatre district
A deserted Coliseum Theatre in London’s West End theatre district. Picture: Getty

By Helena Asprou

As the curtain at UK theatres hangs heavy under coronavirus lockdown, it will be six months until we see some of the West End’s best-loved musicals again.

It has been announced today that Les Misérables, Mary Poppins, Hamilton and The Phantom of the Opera will not be returning to London’s West End before 2021.

The news was shared in a recent statement by musicals producer, Cameron Mackintosh: “This decision is heart-breaking for me, as I am sure it is for my employees, as everyone who has worked with me over the last 50 years, on or off the stage, knows how much I care about what I do and how I do it.

“Despite the government engaging with the desperate pleas from everyone in the theatre industry, so far there has been no tangible practical support beyond offers to go into debt which I don't want to do. Their inability to say when the impossible constraints of social distancing will be lifted makes it equally impossible for us to properly plan for whatever the new future is.

“This has forced me to take drastic steps to ensure that I have the resources for my business to survive and enable my shows and theatres to reopen next year when we are permitted to. I have no investors or venture capital backing, everything is funded by me personally and already my companies' considerable reserves have been massively reduced by the complete closure of our industry everywhere.”

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Describing the devastating financial impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on both him and his colleagues, the musicals mogul continued: “Everything I have made has come from the theatre and everything I have has gone back into these magnificent historic buildings that I have lovingly restored and the spectacular productions I have painstakingly insisted remain in tip top shape wherever they play in the world – resulting in my being one of the biggest employers in the theatre.

“The commercial theatre provides billions of pounds of revenue to the Economy. It is time this is recognised and the government takes action to ensure this priceless resource at which the British people excel is helped to survive. Without our theatres being ablaze with life, London cannot properly reopen as one of the world's greatest cities.”

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As for return dates of the productions – which have been enjoyed by thousands of theatre lovers worldwide – Mackintosh has said these will not be planned until early next year.

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For customers with show tickets already booked, they will now be offered a refund, or offered a credit voucher by the box office, or their point of purchase, which can be used for priority booking in 2021.

For West End performers, crew members, audiences and many more, these sudden closures mark yet another blow for the performing arts industries, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.