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Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
Soccer musical has crowd on its feet
Lord Lloyd Weber and Ben Elton, and partners
Lloyd Weber and Ben Elton received a standing ovation
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton were given a standing ovation at the London premiere of their new musical The Beautiful Game.

It is the first collaboration between the world's most successful composer of musicals and one of Britain's most popular comedy writers and performers.

It tells the tale of a predominantly Catholic football team in Belfast in 1969, whose early successes are marred by sectarian violence off the pitch.

It's not so much about Northern Ireland as the whole needless destruction of young people's lives around the world

Lord Lloyd-Webber

The premiere attracted a sprinkling of celebrities, among them Sir Cliff Richard, Terry Wogan, former prime minister John Major, and former collaborators of both Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton, Sir Tim Rice and Richard Curtis.

At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour performance at the Cambridge Theatre, Lloyd Webber and Elton joined the cast on stage for the three-minute standing ovation.

The football team, under the watchful eye of their priest and coach, learn three things - that God is Irish, Catholic and a football fan.

Lord Lloyd-Webber said the musical had a universal theme despite the Northern Ireland backdrop.

'Better than sex'

"Our piece is really about the whole question of these conflicts and it's not so much about Northern Ireland as the whole needless destruction of young people's lives around the world," he said.

The cast sing about the joys of football - proclaiming it better than sex and beer.

The majority of the first-night audience gave the show an enthusiastic reception, often so essential to a new West End musical.

The cast tried their best but with dreadful material

Anonymous theatre producer

Rosalind Boutcher, from Caterham in Surrey, said: "It is so unusual to hear something totally new but I am not sure how well the politics worked - you have really got to concentrate."

David Morgan, from London, said: "I really enjoyed it, I could not really fault it. It was very much better than I thought it would be."

But one former theatre producer, who did not wish to give her name, described the musical as "the most uninspiring night I have spent in a theatre for years"

She added: "If it had not been a first night I would have left.

"The music was a complete rip-off from Riverdance. The cast tried their best but with dreadful material."

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Musical premiere boosts Omagh fund
01 Jun 00 | Entertainment
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