Thursday 22 May 2008

Musical Theatre Review – Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Musical

The career of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has been an incredible success story, with many of his musicals running for years in the West End and on Broadway. He has placed in the Sunday Times Rich List of the top 100 wealthiest people in England for several years, and he has been both knighted and made a life peer. The one thing missing from this prolific musician and composer’s résumé is a stage musical about his life. Until now.

Written by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Musical follows the life and times of the great man, from his promising school days through all three of his marriages and the success of his many musicals, including Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and The Beautiful Game. Webber’s fans will be ecstatic to discover that he has revisited many of his old songs, updating the lyrics to reflect the points in his own life.

There are times when these new songs work very well, such as when a popular song from Joseph is rewritten for the birth of his children (Webber and Sons), and when one his best-known songs illustrates his rise to fame (“Lloyd Webber/Superstar/Written some songs now he can buy a car/Lloyd Webber/Superstar/We always knew that you’d go far”). At other times, unfortunately, this technique seems to limit the composer, and the songs seem to fall flat. This is particularly evident when the famed Evita anthem is rewritten for Lloyd Webber’s first divorce (Don’t Cry for me Andrew Lloyd Webber). While this was being sung I noticed a lot of awkward shuffling in the seats around me.

Another quibble I would have with the production is the set. For much of the play this is a realistic representation of Lloyd Webber’s surroundings, but at the end, when the composer has become famous, a giant replica of his head comes down from the rafters, almost filling the stage. I was terrified by this apparition, so what the children in the audience made of the grotesque spectacle, I can only imagine.

The music is as good as you’d expect from such a production, and Gareth Mead shines as the eponymous musical genius. (His performance is even more amazing when you consider that he was selected through a reality show, Who Wants to be Andrew Lloyd Webber?) It’s also nice to see that Lloyd Webber, fearing accusations of egotism, changed the titled from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Musical, to remove the mention of his knighthood. The man doesn’t have an egocentric bone in his body!

All in all, this is a good, if slightly flawed production, but one that is sure to please Webber’s many gibbering, Cats-t-shirt-wearing fans. As the song goes, never has there ever been a composer so clever as Magical Mr. Lloyd Webber!


Anonymous said...

Firstly, excellent review.

Secondly, don't you think musicals are complete balderdash? I mean they are full of words that are only supposed to be acted/spoken not sung!!! You can make anything sound musical: "Shall i fetch you a cup of beans my darling, i fear you haven't had your correct intake of protein and carbohydrate today!" Just sing that to the tune of "On My Own" from Les Miserables and nobody would know the difference.

Also there are not enough cylindrical, pork based products in musicals.

Love you, you big lovely Imaginary Reviewer. x

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Your Lordship, once again it is a pleasure to read your erudite comments. I will admit that I have never been a fan of musicals per se, with the exception of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, as a critic I must put personal feelings aside and judge each art form on its own merits, rather than any personal grudges I may have.

As per your comments on cylindrical, pork based products in musicals, I must concur. To my mind, only the Rogers and Hammerstein classic Full English has any reference to sausages (yes, I did get your somewhat cryptic reference!), and even then it's in a song that's singing the praises of black puddings.

Maybe you should write one yourself! Ha ha!

But seriously, thanks for the comments.