Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical, The Beautiful Game, has posted early closing notices at the West End's Cambridge Theatre. The musical had been booking up to 30 March 2002 and was said to be auditioning for a new cast. It will now have its last performance on 1 September 2001, just under a year since its world premiere on 26 September 2000 (previews from 5 September).

The collaboration with playwright-comedian-novelist Ben Elton initially received mixed reviews but later appeared to win over critics who gave the production the Critics Circle Award for Best New Musical in January of this year. Despite this accolade, the musical seemed to have trouble winning over audiences. There had been whispers of severely depleted houses in recent months, further fuelled by an article in the Evening Standard in June which said that The Beautiful Game - along with The Witches of Eastwick and Notre Dame de Paris - were on the verge of closure.

While no announcements have been made about Notre Dame de Paris or The Witches of Eastwick (reinvigorated by a new cast featuring Clarke Peters and Josefina Gabrielle), the Really Useful Theatres' box office today confirmed that The Beautiful Game would indeed be closing and that there were currently no plans for it to transfer or tour elsewhere.

The musical, which concerns the lives and loves of an amateur football team in Northern Ireland during the worst of the Troubles, marked a significant new direction for Lloyd Webber, particularly in respect to the collaboration. Elton is renowned for his risqué stand-up routines and comic writing on the Blackadder television series as much as for his popular plays-turned-novels, Popcorn and Blast from the Past. Lloyd Webber has said in the past that Elton's fresh perspective spurred him on creatively. The two are also reported to be working together on a screenplay for Lloyd Webber's most successful musical, The Phantom of the Opera.

The Beautiful Game features music by Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Elton. The musical is directed by Robert Carsen, choreographed by Meryl Tankard and designed by Michael Levine, with costumes by Joan Bergin, lighting by Jean Kalman, sound by Martin Levan, musical supervision by Simon Lee, musical direction by Kennedy Aitchison and orchestrations by Lloyd Webber and David Cullen.

- by Terri Paddock