|Photo by Nobby Clark|
The show is named after a historical character. Never heard of Ward? That's OK. He's a bit of a footnote, actually, but a titillating one. Ward was a society osteopath whose star rose and fell quite dramatically in Britain the early 60s. He was a key character in the Profumo Affair, a sex scandal that brought down the Conservative government of the time. Ward was later made a scapegoat and died in what was called a suicide on the last day of his trial, in which he was charged with procuring prostitutes for politicians.
Reviews of the production were mixed. A recurring theme was that, for a musical about a sex scandal, Stephen Ward wasn't very exciting.
"With such experienced heavy-hitters behind it, Stephen Ward is inevitably a handsomely mounted production that motors along with the fine-tuned precision of a vintage Bentley," wrote Hollywood Reporter. "Featuring a brief flash of female nudity, some four-letter lyrics and even a riotous orgy, the mise-en-scene is risque by Lloyd Webber's standards. But the show is otherwise fairly staid and conventional, relying heavily on stereotypical depictions of the uptight English, perennially obsessed with class and sex, fatally torn between prudishness and prurience. For these reasons, this polished mix of bedroom farce and courtroom tragedy may prove too parochial for foreign audiences and international transfers."
Variety asked, "Here's the mystery surrounding Andrew Lloyd Webber's new tuner 'Stephen Ward': How could the fallout from Britain's most notorious real-life sex-and-politics scandal have been turned into something so flaccid?" The Guardian, meanwhile, said, "Much as I admire the musical's good intentions and professional skill, Lloyd Webber's instinctive romanticism sits oddly with a social and political critique... if the show is intended as a blistering attack on the British Establishment's victimisation of Stephen Ward, it is only partly successful."
On the night Stephen Ward opened, another sort of drama was playing out elsewhere in the West End.
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