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Fleabag producer brings Berlusconi’s musical to the London stage | Theater

A musical about Silvio Berlusconi described as ‘Evita on acid’, written by two former Grange Hill stars and featuring a song called My Weekend With Vladimir is due to be staged in London next year.

Titled Berlusconi, it’s billed as an “almost true story” and produced by Francesca Moody who is best known for her success with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. The musical depicts the three-time former Prime Minister of Italy on the eve of the verdict of his tax evasion trial as he reflects on his rise and fall and decides to write an autobiographical opera. His story is then told through the eyes of three women: Ilda Boccassini, the Milanese magistrate known as Ilda the Red who investigated him; Berlusconi’s second wife, actress Veronica Lario, who left him in 2009 after nearly 20 years of marriage; and the character of a journalist based on real people. “It puts a fierce feminist lens on him,” Moody said of the musical. “These women tell their story.”

The show will explore Berlusconi’s charisma, how he wielded power “with a smile and a wink” and how he “set the rules” for a certain style of populist leadership, Moody said. drawing parallels with Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. The producer added that Berlusconi would be portrayed “like a real person, not a cartoon character.”

Promising a “soaring pop score, Eurotrash-style beats and songs”, Berlusconi is described by Moody as “Evita on acid”. The book, music and lyrics are by Ricky Simmonds and Simon Vaughan who have been writing musicals together for years. The couple met as child actors on the set of Grange Hill; Simmonds played Ant Jones in the BBC TV school series while Vaughan had the role of Freddie Mainwaring.

Producer Francesca Moody’s hits include Fleabag. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Berlusconi was recently the subject of a biopic, Loro, directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The musical genre is a fitting choice for the plutocrat who was once a cruise ship crooner and wrote a number of sentimental love songs with composer, singer and guitarist Mariano Apicella.

There is no shortage of material for the intrigue of the life of the politician, billionaire media mogul and host of “bunga bunga” sex parties who led three Italian governments between 1994 and 2011, earning the nickname “the immortal”. He served a community service order for corporate tax evasion in 2015 and has been at the center of legal proceedings including a conviction overturned on appeal for paying an underage woman for sex.

In September, a coalition including Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party won the general election. The comedy musical – which will be staged as Italy adjusts to its most right-wing government since World War II – will also have a serious and “incisive” approach, Moody stressed. “Much of the way he behaved is confusing and ridiculous – easy to satirize.” The result, she said, is a political musical that offers “a great night out – but you leave the theater with a rather strange feeling at how much fun it has given you”.

Berlusconi, based on an original idea by Alan Hayling and directed by James Grieve, will open at the new Southwark Playhouse theater in Elephant and Castle, south London, in the spring. Audiences will hear musical numbers such as For Italy, Bunga Bunga, Thank Goodness for Silvio and My Weekend with Vladimir. Berlusconi, 86, said last month that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had restored relations and that Putin had sent him 20 bottles of vodka as a birthday present, along with a “very sweet letter”.