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Andrew Lloyd Webber has pulled his latest musical out of a government pilot scheme for live events because theatre had been treated as “an afterthought and undervalued”.

The composer’s decision to withdraw his production of Cinderella was “baffling” and left ministers “bemused,” a Whitehall source said on Friday.

The pandemic has had a catastrophic financial impact on the theatre industry and many have remained closed despite the ease in COVID-19 restrictions as it is not financially viable for them to open with reduced capacities.

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The peer, 73, had previously provisionally registered to take part in the plan and earlier this week Boris Johnson said they were having talks and would “do whatever we can to be helpful”.

Earlier on Friday, the prime minister said he was “very confident” lockdown easing could go ahead on 19 July, after the original 21 June date was delayed.

Lord Lloyd Webber said in a statement: “I have made it crystal clear that I would only be able to participate if others were involved and the rest of the industry – theatre and music – were treated equally. This has not been confirmed to me.

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“It has become clear that, while sporting events like Wimbledon had obviously been working with the government for some time on this pilot, and were even able to start selling tickets yesterday, the theatre industry and its audiences is, once again, an afterthought and undervalued.”

He said the production, which is being staged at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, would open on 25 June with the venue up to half-full.

The composer, who quit as a Conservative peer in 2017, previously warned he may have to sell his six West End venues if the government does not relax its restrictions as set out in its roadmap for England.

In addition, he said he would be prepared to be arrested in order to fully reopen his theatres on 21 June if the easing of lockdown restrictions was delayed.

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But on Friday he admitted such a move could leave cast, crew, orchestra, front and backstage staff, and even the audience facing fines of hundreds of pounds each which, he said “I couldn’t possibly risk”.

“If it were just me, I would happily risk arrest and fines to make a stand and lead the live music and theatre industry back to the full capacities we so desperately need.”

He said he would personally bear the losses until he can fully reopen the theatre at maximum capacity.

Cinderella “is the product of hundreds of people’s tireless effort for years”, he said, adding: “Win, lose or draw, we have to continue.”

A government source said: “We are bemused that Andrew Lloyd Webber has decided not to take part in the ERP (Events Research Programme).

“This would have given him the opportunity to have audiences at 100% for Cinderella and at the same time play a crucial part for his sector in the fuller reopening.

“It’s baffling that he’s pulled out and is instead opening his theatre at 50% given all the noise he’s been making about opening fully and threatening to sue.

“It’s completely false that the arts and culture sector hasn’t been part of the ERP programme.

“We tested an array of settings including festivals, club nights, the Brits and the Crucible Theatre and are now in discussions with other theatres as part of the next phase of the programme.”

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Taylor Swift’s dad accused of punching photographer in face after Sydney show

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Taylor Swift's dad accused of punching photographer in face after Sydney show

An Australian photographer claims he was punched by Taylor Swift’s dad in Sydney following the singer’s concert.

Ben McDonald said he told police the incident happened at Neutral Bay Wharf, where Swift and her dad had just come ashore from a yacht hours after the singer’s final show in the city.

While officers did not release names, police said they are investigating an alleged assault by a 71-year-old man on a 51-year-old man at 2.30am local time.

Swift’s representatives have not responded to a request for comment, but a spokesperson told Rolling Stone magazine two people were “aggressively pushing” to get to Swift.

They added that the people grabbed security and threatened a member of the singer’s staff.

Mr McDonald said media had been waiting to picture the star as she walked towards two cars.

“There were about four or five security there and at one point, one of the American security started shoving his umbrella into me and my camera and then Taylor got in her car,” he said.

“Someone else came running at me and punched me in the left side of my face.

“Initially, I thought it was an Australian security that was trying to be the hero of the moment in the front of the Americans, but as it turned out it was her father.”

Mr McDonald said he recognised Swift’s father, Scott Swift, from a picture online – adding that he doesn’t have any bruising and didn’t need any treatment.

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“In 23 years, I haven’t been assaulted and punched in the chops, particularly by the talent’s dad,” he said.

“We didn’t go rushing down the jetty. We didn’t go rushing to the back of the boat. We waited for her to come up. Kept it very civil.

“But no, they… put the umbrellas up and umbrellas over her and then shove the umbrellas into our faces and then make out that we’re the ones making contact with them.”

Swift left the country on Tuesday after more than 600,000 fans saw her Eras Tour performance across seven concerts.

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Matthew Perry’s X account ‘hacked by fraudsters’ urging donation to fake foundation

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Matthew Perry's X account 'hacked by fraudsters' urging donation to fake foundation

The X account of Matthew Perry has been targeted by hackers, according to reports.

A foundation set up in honour of the Friends star, who died last October, appeared to be the target of a link in a pinned post at the top of his profile urging people to donate.

However, the post actually linked to duplicate site.

An Instagram post from the Matthew Perry Foundation said: “We have received reports that Matthew’s official X page has been hacked and is directing users to a fraudulent site soliciting donations via cryptocurrency.

“Please do not donate to this site or share the fraudulent posts on social media.

“MatthewPerryFoundation.org is the only website associated with the Foundation, and we are only accepting donations through this site.”

A caption added: “This is the only official Matthew Perry Foundation Instagram account, and we will only ever post official Foundation communications.

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“Please report imposter accounts, and do not submit donations through any channel other than MatthewPerryFoundation.org. #MatthewPerry.”

The post was also flagged by X’s community notes feature saying that the account had been hacked and the link was fake.

Read more:
George Clooney says Perry’s Friends role ‘didn’t bring him happiness’
Perry wanted Zac Efron to play him in biopic

Perry’s death was ruled an accident from the “acute effects of ketamine”. The actor, was found “unresponsive in the pool at his residence” on 28 October last year.

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Remembering Matthew Perry

Most famous for playing Chandler Bing in hit US sitcom, Perry was open about his battle with addiction, setting up a sober living facility for men who were also struggling.

Following his death, the foundation was created in his name to help those struggling with addiction.

Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel Green in Friends, was among those who urged support of the foundation.

The actor was recently honoured during the in memoriam segment at the SAG Awards, after there was controversy at the BAFTAs following his omission from their remembrance roll call.

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Producer accuses Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs of forcing him to have sex with prostitutes

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Producer accuses Sean 'Diddy' Combs of forcing him to have sex with prostitutes

A music producer has accused Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs of sexually assaulting him and forcing him to have sex with prostitutes.

The suit, filed in New York, accuses the music mogul of repeated instances of unwanted groping and sexual touching.

It also says the music producer was forced to work in a bathroom while Combs showered and wandered around in the nude.

Combs’ lawyer, Shawn Holley, labelled the events described in the lawsuit “pure fiction”.

“We have overwhelming, indisputable proof that his claims are complete lies,” he said.

“We will address these outlandish allegations in court and take all appropriate action against those who make them.”

In the lawsuit, the producer claims Combs made him solicit sex workers and pressured him to sleep with them.

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It also described a time when the producer suspected he had been drugged after waking up in a bed with a pair of prostitutes.

New sexual assault claim against Gerard Depardieu

The claim is one of several sexual assault lawsuits filed against Combs in recent months, including a lawsuit from the R&B singer Cassie that was settled last year.

Another of Combs’ accusers is a woman who claims he raped her two decades ago when she was 17-years-old.

Combs has denied all the allegations.

In a statement in December, he described the claims as “sickening” and his accusers of “looking for a quick payday”.

“Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth,” he said.

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