Andrew Lloyd Webber halves his West End orchestra

Andrew Lloyd Webber halves his West End orchestra


norman lebrecht

April 14, 2021

There will be just 14 players in The Phantom of the Opera pit instead of 27 when it reopens in the West End in June.

The entire orchestra was released from its contracts at the start of the pandemic.

‘These orchestrations are just as thrilling and rich as the original, said Cameron Mackintosh Ltd and ALW’s Really Useful Group.

Of course. The fewer the players the richer the sound.




  • Phillip says:

    I think ‘richness’ refers to a never satisfied hunger on the part of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Cameron Macintosh.

    • James says:

      That’s not fair. This decision is highly regrettable, but both CM and ALW have put large amounts of their own money into helping musicians/singers/composers and maintaining great theatres over the years. And they have also, of course provided employment for a large chunk of the theatre industry and its associated industries.

      • Dave says:

        If they had put all staff on furlough (which they chose not to do) and then done this, it might have been different. But they didn’t. Every single other London West End show is going back to how it was. Same players. Same conditions. Even Phantom cast were told to re-audition and not a single actor/actress won their job back. Call me cynical but I am fairly sure that CM and ALW could have handled the situation better and with more propriety. Penny pinching at its worst.

        • Colin says:

          Wasn’t furlough only available for permanent employees? Were the orchestra members or cast members such permanent employees or self-employed, which doesn’t qualify.

          Also, after a year’s inactivity, I would re-audition all the cast (and musicians), too.

  • Dave says:

    An utter disgrace. Not surprised at Cameron Mackintosh as his reputation precedes him but ALW? Extremely disappointed. He could have easily stopped this from happening. Another sub-human Covid response.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Spot on concerning Mackintosh but I thought ALW was better than that.

      • Robert Roy says:

        ALW is a man who flew first class from the USA to London to vote in the House of Lords to prevent funding for poor children to continue having free school meals during school closures.

  • West End Wendy says:

    This is a travesty when the title of the show is P of the OPERA and should be accompanied by a full sounding orchestra and not a touring band with keyboards replacing half the original orchestra.
    Considering both Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber are two of the richest business men in entertainment, it is an insult, not only to the other half of the orchestra who are now redundant, but to the audiences who pay high prices to see the PoftheOPERA!
    Shame on both impressarios (and multi billionaires) who clearly don’t respect the musical content or standard of their shows, particularly when they can easily afford to maintain them.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Ah – who cares ? Like almost all of ALW it’s thin music. The reduced band will probably emphasise what gruel it is

  • George says:

    But surely money cannot be the reason. is it maybe space / distancing? Which composer wants his music performed with only half the orchestra?

    • SR says:

      Nothing to do with social distancing. This is a permanent decision and the orchestra pit size has been reduced to fit a row of seats in

  • SR says:

    They are also taking an axe to Maria Björnson’s designs and scaling them down.

    • Nick2 says:

      I wonder what rights Maria Bjornson would have over her designs. Sadly she died much too young but I assume her estate must have something to say. She was a very particular and brilliant designer.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    I guess that means 13 musicians will have to stay home with their wives to Make The Music of the Night rather than get a paycheck.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    I wonder how the 14 are feeling. Presumably some (?most) of them showed talent at a young age, perhaps went to music school with greater ambitions than ending up in a half-sized band playing AL-W night after night after night.

    On the other hand, perhaps they’re thinking “Lucky me! If I’d joined the Met as I once hoped to, I’d now be reciting ‘Fries with that?’ in the early hours of the morning for minimum wage.”

  • Wayne says:

    Very sad , with all being cut , would this fantastic show end up sounding and perhaps who knows what will be axed next , like an end of the pier show !
    When you haveca good production , never change the formula