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Andrew Lloyd Webber volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine study ‘to prove theatres can re-open safely’

Andrew Lloyd Webber is set to receive an experimental coronavirus vaccine as part of an Oxford trial as he says he’ll ‘do anything to prove theatres can re-open safely’

On Wednesday, the world-renowned composer, 72, took to social media and talked a about the motives behind his decision to take part. 

He said: ‘I am excited that tomorrow I am going to be vaccinated for the Oxford Covid 19 trial. I’ll do anything to prove that theatres can re-open safely.’

The University of Oxford and the drug company AstraZeneca are working on the development of the experimental vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. 

Thousands of people the UK, United States, Brazil and South Africa have volunteered to take part in clinical trials.

As recently as July 20, researchers announced the initial results of 1,077 people were promising, suggesting that the vaccine is both safe and triggers an immune response, according to the .    

The next step in the study involves expanding the trial at a higher dose to thousands more people, which is likely where Webber will come into the play.

A slew of people took to Twitter to applaud the Cats composer’s willingness to get involved in finding a cure or treatment for the virus.

‘Bravo’, ‘Godspeed to you sir’ and ‘Thank you for your dedication’ where among the many sentiments from followers and fans.

‘I really admire how you actually act in order to support what you believe. Most of the people only talk much but do little. Keep my fingers crossed that the vaccine works. Stay safe,’ another person tweeted out in support. 

New York City’s Broadway and London’s West End are among the theater districts and venues that have been closed since March due to the pandemic.  

In recent months, both Webber and his longtime producer Cameron Mackintosh have been very vocal about what they say is the UK government’s weak response to help the theater industry during the crisis.

Mackintosh contends that the UK government’s $1.9 billion arts lifeline, which includes $647.3 million for Arts Council England to support theaters, music and comedy venues and museums, ‘still hasn’t materialized,’ according to  

When the pandemic hit, Mackintosh was forced to shut down all eight of his West End properties, which were running to full houses at the time.

Webber’s illustrious career as a composer includes Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968), Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), Evita (1976), Cats (1981), The Phantom Of The Opera (1986) and School Of Rock (2015).

Webber has been trialling measures at the London Palladium that could allow the theatre business to get back up and running after Phantom Of The Opera continued in South Korea with strict hygiene measures and no social distancing.

The composer hosted a pilot performance by Beverley Knight at the London Palladium, which had strict social distancing measures in place and was at 30 per cent capacity.

It is one of a number of events to gauge the viability of live entertainment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Audience members were given an assigned arrival time and spread sparsely across the auditorium, with some rows left completely empty.

Speaking after the performance, Rebecca Kane Burton, chief executive of LW Theatres – the venue’s owner – said it was a ‘relief’ to reopen the doors.

She added: ‘I want to get this place back open, no social distancing.

‘And hopefully today has demonstrated that we run a tight ship, we know how to manage things, we have the right mitigations in place, and people just need this back in their lives.

‘Beverley needs it, the freelancers need it, the 290,000 in our industry – they need to get back into work. We are not a risk. We know how to do things properly. I’m excited.’

She added: ‘Hopefully today is the first step in showing the world, Public Health England, DCMS, whoever needs to see the evidence, we manage a tight ship.’ 

Last month, Webber said that Chinese investors could be set to buy up London’s West End theatres.

The composer told the Daily Telegraph that overseas buyers could take advantage of the precarious financial position that UK theatres find themselves in.

‘There are major buyers circling around who are not British and would like to own West End theatres,’ he said.

He said that during the recent sale of the Theatre Royal Haymarket the price was inflated by a Chinese bidder.

The theatre was bought for a reported £45 million, paid by the billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik in 2018.

This far exceeded other price tags for London theatres, including the Victoria Palace, which Cameron Mackintosh bought for about £26 million in 2014, and the Palace Theatre, in 2012. 

He said the sector had received ‘no clarity’ from the Government about how its £1.57 billion support package for the arts will be distributed.

Lord Lloyd Webber warned that without urgent funds and a clear timeline for reopening, theatre owners will be forced to put the buildings up for sale.  

Following government advice, theatres have been closed since 16 March to help slow the spread of Coronavirus, with many warning that they will go out of business in the coming months without support.

The National Theatre told their 400 members of casual staff that they will lose their jobs in a move it described as unavoidable due to the Covid-19 crisis. 

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