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Andrew Lloyd Webber hits to be performed in space by West End stars

Andrew Lloyd Webber Andrew Lloyd Webber. Photo: John Swannell
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Andrew Lloyd Webber will become the first living composer to have musical-theatre songs performed live in space when he helps to launch Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic later this year, The Stage can reveal.

The first commercial spaceline is understood to be nearing completion, with Lloyd Webber having signed a deal with Branson to send a team of West End stars into space on the first flight.

They will sing a number of tunes from Lloyd Webber’s back catalogue but will focus predominantly on his songs from Starlight Express, which includes the numbers I Am the Starlight and the title track, Starlight Express.

Performers have not yet been confirmed, though it is understood talks have been taking place with Lloyd Webber favourites Elaine Paige, Michael Crawford and Ben Forster.

A spokeswoman for Lloyd Webber confirmed talks had taken place, and said: “As the world’s leading composer of musical theatre songs, it seems only fitting that Andrew should become the first musical-theatre composer to have his songs performed live in space. Andrew has been working closely with Branson on finalising a set list that will really make the first flight a memorable one. We’re all excited and it is poignant that it will take place in the same year Lloyd Webber turned 70.”

Arlene Phillips, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Starlight Express' Stephanie Lawrence in 1984. Photo: Clive Dixon/Rex
Arlene Phillips, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Starlight Express’ Stephanie Lawrence in 1984. Photo: Clive Dixon/Rex

Virgin Galactic confirmed it was working with a “number of high-profile West End stars” to prepare them for a journey in space, including training in weightlessness and controlling their vocals in unusual conditions.

In addition, choreographer Arlene Phillips has been working with an ensemble of performers, who will be on the first flight, to give the performance more gravitas.

She told The Stage she had been working with the actors to choreograph some space-appropriate routines to accompany the vocal performances.

“I want the performers to move with purpose and finesse, though I understand space is not the same as a West End stage. The demands are going to be much higher and so all of the performers are being physically and mentally prepared for what promises to be a truly memorable and historic occasion,” she said.

Lloyd Webber himself will not be going on the flight, which is expected to take place in the summer.

Virgin Galactic completed a successful test flight, above the Mojave Desert in California, using its VSS Unity craft in early January.

This story was published on April 1 as an April Fools.

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