A musical about Silvio Berlusconi that is described as “Evita on acid”, written by two former Grange Hill stars and features a song called My Weekend With Vladimir is to be staged in London next year.
Entitled Berlusconi, it is 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 Italian PM on the eve of the verdict in his trial for tax fraud as he looks back on his rise and fall and resolves to write an autobiographical opera. His story is then told through the eyes of three women: Ilda Boccassini, the Milan magistrate known as Ilda the Red who investigated him; Berlusconi’s second wife, the actor Veronica Lario, who left him in 2009 after nearly 20 years of marriage; and the character of a journalist who is based on real people. “It places a fierce feminist lens on him,” said Moody of the musical. “These women are telling their story.”
The show will explore Berlusconi’s charisma, the way he held power “with a smile and a wink” and how he “set the rulebook” for a certain populist leadership style, said Moody, drawing some parallels with Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. The producer added that Berlusconi would be represented “as a real person, not a cartoonish figure”.
Promising a “soaring pop score, beats and Eurotrash-style 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 pair met as child actors on the set of Grange Hill; Simmonds played Ant Jones on the BBC TV school series while Vaughan had the role of Freddie Mainwaring.
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 has written a number of sentimental love songs with the composer, singer and guitarist Mariano Apicella.
There’s no shortage of material for plot from the life of the politician, billionaire media magnate 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 fraud in 2015, and has been at the centre 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 comical musical – which will be staged as Italy adjusts to its most rightwing government since the second world war – will also have a serious and “incisive” approach, stressed Moody. “So much of the way he behaved is confounding and ridiculous – it’s easy to satirise that.” The result, she said, is a political musical that provides “a good night out – but you leave the theatre feeling quite strange about how much you’ve been entertained by it”.
Berlusconi, based on an original idea by Alan Hayling and directed by James Grieve, will open at Southwark Playhouse’s new theatre in Elephant and Castle, south London, in spring. Audiences will hear musical numbers including For Italy, Bunga Bunga, Thank Goodness for Silvio and My Weekend with Vladimir. Berlusconi, 86, said last month that he and the Russian president Vladimir Putin had re-established relations and that Putin had sent him 20 bottles of vodka as a birthday present, along with a “very sweet letter”.