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Silvio Berlusconi musical described as 'Evita on acid' to hit London stage

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 23/11/2022 Nick Squires
Forza Italia leader and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi holds his party's closing campaign rally ahead of the general election, in Milan, Italy, September 23, 2022. - Reuters © Reuters Forza Italia leader and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi holds his party's closing campaign rally ahead of the general election, in Milan, Italy, September 23, 2022. - Reuters

He's a born showman whose larger-than-life political career has veered from endless trials to "bunga bunga" sex scandals, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the life of Silvio Berlusconi has inspired a British musical.

The show features a set list including songs titled 'Thank Goodness for Silvio' and 'My Weekend with Vladimir', a nod to his long-running bromance with Russia’s president.

The friendship appears to have withstood the war in Ukraine, with Mr Berlusconi recently divulging that he had been sent a crate of vodka by the Russian president for his birthday.

Titled 'Berlusconi', the musical will open in London in the spring and has been written by two former stars of Grange Hill, Simon Vaughan and Ricky Simmonds, who met on the set of the long-running BBC drama as child actors.

Described as "Evita on acid", the musical will be produced by Francesca Moody, best known as the award-winning producer of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. It will open at Southwark Playhouse in London on March 25.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, presents a book about his rural lodge Zavidovo to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Zavidovo, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Moscow, Monday, Feb. 3, 2003. - AP © Provided by The Telegraph Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, presents a book about his rural lodge Zavidovo to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Zavidovo, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Moscow, Monday, Feb. 3, 2003. - AP

Although the musical will tell his story with humour, Mr Berlusconi will be portrayed "as a real person, not a cartoonish figure", Ms Moody said. 

"Berlusconi is an all too familiar story of outrageous corruption and grotesque male privilege allowed to run riot, indeed seemingly run a country," she said.

"Berlusconi upended Italian politics and it could not feel timelier, or more appropriate to be exploring this outrageous and almost true story with riotous comedy and sensational songs."

The musical will follow Mr Berlusconi during one of the most turbulent chapters of his rollercoaster political career – his trial for tax fraud. He was convicted in 2015 and had to do a period of community service.

His story will be recounted by three women – a female journalist; his second wife, Veronica Lario, who left him after complaining of his penchant for younger women; and Ilda Boccassini, a magistrate nicknamed 'Ilda the Red' for her supposed Left-wing leanings, who investigated Mr Berlusconi.

It will also explore how his rise to power and populist touch blazed a trail for the likes of Donald Trump.

The London theatre described the production as "a hilarious, naughty, noisy exposé of the original perma-tanned media mogul and populist politician".

"Berlusconi… is a modern-day cautionary tale, an urgent and prescient story about a brand of political leadership that has become all too familiar," it said. 

Silvio Berlusconi - Gregorio Borgia/AP © Provided by The Telegraph Silvio Berlusconi - Gregorio Borgia/AP

Mr Berlusconi recently turned 86 but is still at the forefront of politics – his conservative Forza Italia party is one of three that make up the hard-Right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, who came to power in September as Italy’s first female prime minister.

Nicknamed by Italians Il Cavaliere or The Knight, Mr Berlusconi is no stranger to the stage – as a young man he worked as a crooner on cruise ships and still has a penchant for belting out saccharine melodies around a piano.

Just this month he was acquitted of bribing a Neapolitan balladeer to give false testimony in court about the exact nature of his "bunga bunga" parties.

He had been accused of paying Mariano Apicella, one of his favourite pianists and singers, to lie for him in one of the trials that emerged from the scandal. Mr Berlusconi has always insisted the gatherings were elegant soirees.

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