LONDON — He’s done the Bible, felines, operatic phantoms and Argentine politics. So what is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical about?
Sex – as well as politics, spying, social revolution and the Cold War.
“Stephen Ward” centers on a sensational real-life scandal, the 1963 revelation that Britain’s war secretary, John Profumo, was involved with model Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Soviet naval attache. If, as poet Philip Larkin once said, sex began in 1963, the “Profumo affair” was the Big Bang.
With its collision of sex, wealth and national security, the Profumo affair rattled Britain’s Establishment, came close to toppling the government, and fascinated the nation.
But Lloyd Webber says his musical, which opens in London in December, is about more than the scandal – it’s a portrait of a “febrile time” of tumultuous social change.
“The Profumo affair takes up three minutes of stage time,” the composer said Monday at a preview of songs from the show. But the ripples are still being felt. “It’s just extraordinary, really, the ramifications of what went on.”
Lloyd Webber said he grew fascinated by Stephen Ward, who had a knack for bringing together the powerful, the beautiful and the sexually adventurous. It was Ward who introduced Keeler to Profumo. After the scandal erupted he was arrested, accused of pimping, and convicted of living off “immoral earnings.” He died from an overdose of sleeping pills before he could be jailed.