Friday, March 22, 8948

Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948)

Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. March 22, 1948, South Kensington, London, UK) is the son of Jean Hermione (Johnstone), a violinist and pianist, and William Lloyd Webber, a composer. His younger brother, Julian Lloyd Webber, is a cellist.

As a child, he could not bear noises made by others. At the age of three, when brought to his first day of pre-school at a school where his mother worked, he covered his ears when other children produced sounds with musical instruments. Lloyd Webber began writing his own music at a young age. He wrote his first published suite of six pieces at nine. He also put on "productions" with Julian and his Aunt Viola in his toy theatre, built at her suggestion. Later, he would be the owner of a number of West End theatres, including the Palace. Viola, an actress, took Lloyd Webber to see many of her shows and ushered him through the stage-door into the world of theatre.

Lloyd Webber was a Queen's Scholar at Westminster School and studied history for a time at Magdalen College, Oxford, although he abandoned the course to pursue his interest in musical theatre.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's first major collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice was The Likes of Us, a musical based on the true story of Thomas John Barnardo. It was not performed, however, until as recently as 2005 when a production was staged at Lloyd Webber's Sydmonton Festival. Stylistically, The Likes of Us is fashioned after the Broadway musical of the '40s and '50s; it opens with a traditional overture comprising a medley of tunes from the show, and the score reflects some of Lloyd Webber's early influences, particularly Richard Rodgers, Frederick Loewe, and Lionel Bart. In this respect, it is markedly different from the composer's later work which tends to be either predominantly or wholly through-composed and closer in form to opera than to the Broadway musical.

Around this time, Lloyd Webber and Rice also wrote a number of individual pop songs that were recorded as singles for record labels. Wes Sands, Ross Hannaman, Paul Raven, and Gary Bond are among the many artists to have recorded early Lloyd Webber/Rice tunes. A selection of these early recordings were re-released on the 5-CD compilation, Andrew Lloyd Webber: Now and Forever (2003).

In 1967, Lloyd Webber and Rice wrote a song for the Eurovision Song Contest called Try It and See, which was unsuccessful. The melody eventually became that of King Herod's Song in Jesus Christ Superstar.

In 1968, Lloyd Webber and Rice were commissioned to write a piece for Colet Court which resulted in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a retelling of the biblical story of Joseph in which Lloyd Webber and Rice humorously pastiche a number of musical styles such as Calypso and country music. The musical follows the light-hearted, irreverent tone of The Likes of Us with rock'n'roll influences. Lloyd Webber, a devoted admirer of Elvis Presley, based the character of Pharaoh on the singer, who in turn recorded It's Easy for You, one of Lloyd Webber's compositions during his last session on October 29, 1976, and featured as the last track on the Moody Blue album.

Joseph began life as a short cantata that gained some recognition on its second staging with a favourable review in The Times. For its subsequent performances, the show underwent a number of revisions by the composer and librettist with the inclusion of additional songs that expanded the musical to a more substantial length. This culminated in a two-hour production being staged in the West End on the back of the success of Jesus Christ Superstar (1970).

Superstar was released as a concept album starring Ian Gillan prior to being staged in the West End at the Lyceum Theatre. The opera, is a staged passion, i.e. based on the last days in the life of Jesus Christ. While Joseph was intended as a light-hearted family show, the music in Superstar is at times dark and unsettling, particularly in the scenes that deal with the conflict between Jesus and Judas, the plotting priests, and the crucifixion. While billed as a Rock Opera advancing on the more oratorio-like Tommy of The Who, much of the music is informed by classical genres, including the Sergei Prokofievian rondo of Hosanna, the music concrete of The Crucifixion, and the string writing of John Nineteen: Forty-One.



G: Sol La Sol Fa Sol Fa Mi Re Do Re Do
Do Re Me Re Do Do Sol Do

with its nice borrowings, a la Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf main theme, from the flat side of reality --


I V7 I bIII (V of vi) bVI

-- and even more interesting usages beyond, in evocations of Eb major and minor.


The film of Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) was directed by Norman Jewison,

The planned follow up to Jesus Christ Superstar was a musical comedy based on the Jeeves and Wooster novels by P. G. Wodehouse. Tim Rice was uncertain about this venture, partly because of his concern that he might not be able to do justice to the novels that he and Lloyd Webber so admired. After doing some initial work on the lyrics, he pulled out of the project and Lloyd Webber subsequently wrote the musical with Alan Ayckbourn who provided the book and lyrics. The musical, Jeeves, failed to make any impact at the box office and closed after a short run of only three weeks. Many years later Lloyd Webber and Ayckbourn revisited this project, producing a thoroughly reworked and more successful version of the musical entitled By Jeeves (1996). Only two of the songs from the original production remained (Half a Moment and Banjo Boy).

Lloyd Webber's first wife was Sarah Hugill, whom he married on July 24, 1972, having with her two children, Imogen (b. March 31, 1977) and Nicholas (b. July 2, 1979).

Lloyd Webber collaborated with Rice once again to write Evita (1976 in London/1979 in U.S.), a musical based on the life of Eva Peron. As with Jesus Christ Superstar, the work was released first as a concept album and featured Julie Covington singing the part of Eva Peron.

The song Don't Cry for Me Argentina became a hit single and the musical was staged at the Prince Edward Theatre in a production directed by Harold Prince and starring Elaine Paige in the title role. Again, Much of the music in Evita evokes various classical styles. The music drama was highly successful and ran for ten years in the West End, transferring to Broadway in 1979. Rice and Lloyd Webber parted ways soon after Evita. The film of the work (1996) was directed by Alan Parker

Lloyd Webber then embarked on a solo project, Variations, with his cellist brother Julian, based on the 24th Caprice by Paganini. It was a hit in the United Kingdom reaching number two in the pop album chart (1978). The main theme is still used tune for London Weekend Television's long-running South Bank Show.

The composer embarked on his next project without living lyricist, turning instead to the poetry of T. S. Eliot (September, 26, 1888 - January 4, 1965). Cats (1981) is a dance musical based on Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), which the composer recalled as having been a childhood favorite. The songs comprise Eliot's verse save the most famous song Memory, for which the lyrics were written by Trevor Nunn after an Eliot poem entitled Rhapsody on a Windy Night. A brief song entitled The Moments of Happiness was taken from a passage in Eliot's Four Quartets. An unusual musical in terms of its construction, the overture incorporates a fugue and there are occasions when the music accompanies spoken verse. The set, consisting of an oversized junk yard, remains the same throughout the show without any scene changes.

Cats was originally intended to be a song cycle but when Valerie Eliot provided some fragments of unpublished poetry by her late husband that included a character named Grizabella who is shunned by the tribe as well as the concept of a rebirth for a chosen Cat at the Jellicle Ball, it was apparent that there might be a story that could provide a possible framework for a music drama. It was to become the longest running musical on Broadway, spanning a reign of 18 years which later would be broken by another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Starlight Express, also directed by Trevor Nunn, is similar in its theatrical concept to Cats. However, unlike the former, the music is mostly in the realm of disco and pop with one or two pastiche songs, in some ways a return to the style of Joseph. Starlight Express was a commercial hit but received negative reviews. It enjoyed a record run in the West End, but ran for less than three years on Broadway.

After Lloyd Webber and Hugill were divorced in 1983, he married singer/dancer Sarah Brightman on March 22, 1984.

Lloyd Webber wrote a Requiem Mass which premiered in New York on February 25, 1985, at St. Thomas Church. This composition had been inspired the plight of Cambodian orphans, and was dedicated to his father, William Lloyd Webber, who had died in 1982. Church music had been a part of the composer's upbringing and he had on a number of occasions written sacred music for the annual Sydmonton festival. The Pie Jesu section of the Dies Irae achieved a high placing on the UK pop charts.

In 1986, Lloyd Webber premiered The Phantom of the Opera, inspired by the 1911 Gaston Leroux novel. He wrote the part of Christine for Brightman, who played the role in the original London and Broadway productions alongside Michael Crawford as the Phantom. The production was directed by Harold Prince, who had also earlier directed Evita. Charles Hart wrote the lyrics for the musical with some additional material provided by Richard Stilgoe, and Lloyd Webber co-wrote the musical's book with Stilgoe. Here, Lloyd Webber affectionately pastiches various styles from the grand operas of Mozart and Meyerbeer and the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Although the musical received mixed reviews from the critics, it became a phenomenal hit and is still running in both the West End and on Broadway; in January 2006 it overtook Cats as the longest running musical on Broadway.

Aspects of Love followed in 1989, a musical based on the story by David Garnett. The lyrics were by Don Black and Charles Hart and the original production was directed by Trevor Nunn. There was a noticeable shift of emphasis towards a quieter and more intimate theatrical experience; the staging and production values were less elaborate than Phantom of the Opera and Lloyd Webber chose to write for a smaller musical ensemble making the through composed score more akin to a chamber work. The musical had a successful run of four years in London but did not fare nearly as well on Broadway, where it closed after less than a year.

Lloyd Webber and Brightman divorced in 1990 but remained friends.

He married his third wife, Madeleine Gurdon, on February 9, 1991, and with her had three more children: Alastair (b. May 2, 1992), William (b. August 24, 1993), and Isabella (b. April 30, 1996).

Lloyd Webber was asked to write a song for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and composed Amigos Para Siempre - Friends for Life with lyrics by Don Black, performed by Sarah Brightman and Jose Carreras.

Knighted in 1992, Lloyd Webber was made a life peer in 1997 as Baron Lloyd-Webber, of Sydmonton in the County of Hampshire (his title is hyphenated but his surname is not).

Lloyd Webber had toyed with the idea of writing a musical based on Billy Wilder's critically acclaimed movie, Sunset Boulevard, since the early 1970's when he saw the film, but the project didn't come to fruition until after the completion of Aspects of Love when the composer finally managed to secure the rights from Paramount Pictures

The composer worked with two collaborators, as he had done on Aspects of Love; this time Christopher Hampton and Don Black shared equal credit for the book and lyrics. The show opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London on July 12, 1993, and ran for 1,529 performances. Patti LuPone, who had played the role of Eva Peron in the original Broadway production of Evita, was cast as Norma Desmond, a former silent film star who is shunned by Hollywood in the era of talking pictures. In spite of the show's popularity and extensive run in London's West End, it lost money due to the sheer expense of the production.

Lloyd Webber's many other musical theatre works include Whistle Down the Wind, Song and Dance, The Beautiful Game, and The Woman in White. While some of his works have had enormous commercial success, his career has not been without failures, especially in the United States. Song and Dance, Starlight Express, and Aspects of Love, all successes in London, did not meet the same reception in New York, and all lost money in short, critically panned runs.

In 1995, Sunset Boulevard became a very successful Broadway show, opening with the largest advance in Broadway history, and winning seven Tony Awards that year. However, owing to high weekly costs, it became the biggest economic musical failure in history, losing 25 million dollars. His subsequent shows (Whistle Down the Wind and The Beautiful Game) did not make it to Broadway, and his most recent musical The Woman in White closed after a very short run in New York. This closing is largely credited to many absences in the cast for many of the shows; only 39 of the 108 performances had the full cast. Maria Friedman and Michael Ball both missed shows frequently; the former was battling breast cancer and the latter suffered a throat infection.

Lord Lloyd-Webber is an art collector with a passion for Victorian art. An exhibition of works from his collection was presented at the Royal Academy in 2003 under the title Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters – The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. He is also a devoted supporter of Leyton Orient Football Club.

He also owns much of Watership Down, the grounds made famous by Richard Adams's novel of the same name. Politically, he has supported the UK's Conservative Party, allowing his song Take That Look Off Your Face to be used on a party promotional film seen by an estimated 1 million people in 80 cinemas before the 2005 UK General Election to accompany pictures of the country's Prime Minister Tony Blair allegedly "smirking," the party said.

In 2006 Sunday Times Rich List ranked him the 87th richest Briton with an estimated 700 million pounds. His wealth increased to 750 million in 2007, but in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007 he slipped to the 95th richest British person. Life does have it ups and downs....

His company, the Really Useful Group, is one of the largest theatre operators in London.

[8948 Eno / 8948 A.L. Webber / 8948 S. Schwartz]