Andrew Lloyd Webber has decided to shut down Cinderella, his latest musical, until February at the earliest, blaming "this wretched virus" for putting paid to "the joy of entertaining audiences".
Covid also forced the cancellation of the Royal Opera House’s Christmas ballet, Nutcracker, until the New Year, with reports suggesting half of West End shows had to be scrapped over the weekend because of staff and cast illness and isolation.
The omicron Covid variant is continuing to sweep the country, with many sectors hit by staff shortages as workers fall ill or self-isolate after testing positive.
Announcing his decision on Tuesday, Lord Lloyd Webber said: "I am absolutely devastated that Cinderella has to temporarily close. Once again this wretched virus has put paid to the joy of entertaining audiences, something that I hold so dear.
"Sadly, this is the right thing to do – not just for the safety of our cast, musicians and backstage crew, but for the quality of the show we give our audiences who travel long distances and make significant investments to come and see us.
"Rest assured, Cinderella will re-open as soon as this wave is licked and we know we can give our audiences the fantastic time they deserve."
In an official statement, Cinderella’s production company said the show would be cancelled until Feb 9 "at the earliest".
The Royal Opera House was forced to cancel all performances of the Nutcracker from Tuesday evening until Jan 3 "due to resource challenges caused by the omicron Covid-19 variant".
Almost half of London’s major theatres cancelled shows at the weekend as Covid cases soared in the capital. Hamilton, Maltida, Wicked, The Lion King, Cinderella, Cabaret and Come From Away were among those hit.
Producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh said it was "hugely disruptive" and the industry was in a "dreadful state", adding: "It’s literally day to day. We spend all morning trying to work out if we can do the show or not."
Bookings for the first part of 2022 are lower than expected, which Sir Cameron said was "really worrying for almost everybody across the business".
Thousands of people are also facing huge disruption to travel plans over Christmas, with rail firms and airlines blaming Covid-related staff shortages for widespread cancellations. Many operators are running reduced timetables as a result of staff being off sick or isolating.
LNER, the East Coast Main Line operator, has cancelled 16 trains a day until Christmas Eve between London, Lincoln and Leeds because of "an increased level of absence in drivers and train managers due to coronavirus".
Regional number of Omicron Covid cases in England [Map]
Major Royal Mail depots including Birmingham, Gatwick, Manchester, Nottingham. Southampton, Swindon and Warrington, are reporting delays in delivering items as a result of staff absences. Dozens of other local Royal Mail offices around the country have also been hit.
A Royal Mail spokesman said: "Deliveries are operating as normal across most of the country. We aim to deliver to all addresses we have mail for six days a week.
"In a small number of local offices this may temporarily not be possible due to local issues such as Covid-related self-isolation, higher than usual levels of sick absence, resourcing or other local factors."
Covid self-isolation rules have forced major UK attractions to shut temporarily, with Edinburgh Castle and the Natural History Museum closing their doors this week.