The West End of the 1980s was nobody’s idea of a belle époque but it nevertheless had its own insane panache. The hits, from Cats to Miss Saigon, were routinely dismissed as crowd-pleasing pap, though there seemed nothing obviously crowd-pleasing about T. S. Eliot’s poems or Madame Butterfly moved to the Vietnam war or any of the other source material for the big blockbusters. By contrast, the Broadway flops of the period were all based on can’t-fail crowd-pleasers which turned out to please nobody.

It feels different now. Walking around Shaftesbury Avenue for the first time in over a year, I thought the old girl was faking it. There’s a natural progression, from book to play to movie. When you do it the other way round, when quite so many of your hits are based on films, it offends the natural order, and gives the project a whiff of desperation. I take the producers’ word for it...


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