A complete guide to Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals
Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the world’s best celebrated musical theatre composers, with a career spanning over 50 years since 1965. Creating some of the most recognisable show tunes, his work includes Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Sunset Boulevard, and he was named “the most commercially successful composer in history” by the New York Times.
Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals
Throughout Andrew Lloyd Webber's career, the impersario has won 43 awards including Tonys, Golden Globes, and Oliviers. In 1993, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for services to theatre and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Learn more about Andrew Lloyd Webber below, with our guide to all of his shows.
The Likes of Us (1965)
A jaunty production based on the story of Thomas John Barnardo, The Likes of Us dramatises how the charity Barnardo’s came into existence, In the show, Barnardo feels lonely as he collects money for charity, which angers the locals. Aided by Lord Shaftesbury and his wife Syrie, Barnardo’s charitable impulses are supported but this does not stop the East End holding an anti-Barnardo demonstration.
Written in 1965, this heartwarming musical was not produced until 2005, as it failed to find backing. However, it is now available for rights purchases, with amateur theatre companies regularly putting on the production.
The story of Joseph and his famous coat of many colours has recognisable hits such as “Any Dream Will Do” and “Go Go Go Joseph!” The musical follows Joseph’s story, from how he is thrown in jail to donning the coloured coat once again.
Meeting “Jacob and Sons,” it’s clear that Joseph has a little bit more than his brothers, leaving them bitter. But when they think Joseph has died, it’s clear that selflessness will get them further than any possession could. With nods to Elvis Presley, the musical’s full of good heart with Biblical assistance at the core.
The show was first performed at a school, and the moved to churches before being produced at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Joseph subsequently played on Broadway and in the West End.
Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)
Beginning life as a rock opera concept album, Jesus Christ Superstar was written by Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and is based around the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’s life. Orienting a musical around religion was met with anger, particularly by the British National Secular Society who picketed the show’s opening night on the West End. The production fuses religious stories with modern referencing to illustrate Jesus as a well-doing rock figure. When looking at Lloyd Webber’s early productions, it is no surprise they follow a religious note as he had a Christian upbringing.
The show opened on Broadway in 1971, amid controversy from religious groups, before opening at the Palace Theatre in the West End in 1972.
Based on the PG Wodehouse books, Jeeves is regarded as the musical theatre titan’s only flop. It only ran for 38 performances at Her Majesty’s Theatre. It was rewritten into the show By Jeeves, which opened in 1996. The rewritten show did better, lasting for nine months. Lloyd Webber created the production with Alan Ayckbourn, who both wanted to bring the characteristics of the Wodehouse novels to the stage.
Centered on Argentinean leader Eva Peron, Evita dramatises her rag-to-riches life, in particular, her charity work and relationship to husband Juan Peron. Events in Peron’s life are underscored by a soundtrack including “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Buenos Aires.” Winning best new musical at the 1978 Olivier awards, the production is packed with political punch.
Like Jesus Christ Superstar, the musical began as a rock opera concept album before opening in the West End in 1978 and on Broadway in 1979.
Tell Me on a Sunday (1978)
A one-woman show, Tell Me On A Sunday was originally planned to be a television series created by Lloyd Webber and Rice. When Emma arrives in New York, she learns that her partner is cheating on her. When she meets Sheldon Bloom, their relationship grows, yet it’s not what it’s originally conceived to be, leaving Emma to return to Manhattan. Over the years, it’s been performed by Marti Webb, Denise van Outen, and Jodie Prenger, who all play the ordinary girl with an extraordinary story.
Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Cats is a sung-through musical following the lives of numerous felines on the night of the Jellicle Ball. As each character tells their story, we learn all about the way of the cat from the confident Macavity and Mr. Mistoffelees to Grizabella, an older feline who longs for the days when she was adored by everyone. With a soundtrack including “Memory” and “The Jellicle Ball,” Cats is an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular which last played in the West End in 2015.
Song and Dance (1982)
With one act sung-through and the other told entirely through interpretive dance, Song and Dance is a unique musical. The plot of Song and Dance concerns the story of a woman who finds herself torn between Sheldon Bloom, a Hollywood producer and a man who she meets while roaming around the streets of New York. The dance part explores the younger man with his relationships and commitment issues told through movement. Marti Webb and Wayne Sleep starred in the West End premiere in 1982, with the production later nominated for outstanding achievement in a musical at the 1982 Olivier Awards.
Starlight Express (1984)
First performed in the West End in 1984, Starlight Express went on to become one of the longest-running musicals in history, playing for the last time in 2002 after 7,409 performances. With cast members becoming steam engines, the show tells the story of Rusty, a young, weaker steam engine who wants to prove his might and charm Pearl, the first-class carriage.
The Apollo Victoria was renovated with a made-to-measure rollerskating rink, with a cast including Stephanie Lawrence and Frances Ruffelle. Starlight Express is currently the longest-running show in Germany, hosted in a purpose-built theatre.
The Phantom of the Opera (1986)
The Phantom of the Opera is the West End’s second longest-running musical, first performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 9th October 1986. Audiences will meet the Phantom who becomes obsessed with new soprano, Christine Daaé. As his adoration grows, he becomes overly protective, leaving Christine in an underground lair.
As the story progresses, audiences will then learn what lurks underneath the mask in this hauntingly beautiful tale. With a soundtrack including “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask,” The Phantom of the Opera has become an iconic musical in the West End and on Broadway.
Aspects of Love (1989)
Best known for the song “Love Changes Everything,” Aspects of Love premiered in the West End in 1989 at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Dramatising different forms of love, the show focuses around Rose Vibert, an actress who becomes close to a fan, Alex Dillingham.
Over the course of 17 years, we see into their love lives, featuring Alex’s family members and Giulietta Trapani, a sculptor who is attracted to the same sex. Aspects of Love ran for 1,325 performances in the West End, however, its Broadway run in 1991 only played 377 performances.
Sunset Boulevard (1993)
Inspired by the 1950 film of the same name, Sunset Boulevard combined romance and tragedy into a thrilling musical which was nominated for best new musical at the 1994 Olivier Awards. When screenwriter Joe Gillis tries to make it big in Hollywood, he stumbles into Norma Desmond, a film star who is looking for her next big break.
The pair grow infatuated with each other, yet tensions rise into a climactic ending where the pair will never see each other again. The West End premiere starred Patti LuPone as Norma Desmond and Kevin Anderson as Joe Gillis, and was recently revived in 2016 at the London Coliseum, starring Glenn Close, who originated the role in the Broadway production.
Whistle Down the Wind (1998)
After initial success in Washington D.C. 1996 and a 1998 concept album, Whistle Down the Wind made its West End premiere at the Aldwych Theatre in 1998, playing for over 1,000 performances. Set in Louisiana, the show follows Boone and his three children who have just lost their mother and wife.
As the children try to make the most of their situation, they enter a run-down barn and find a prisoner on the run, with Swallow believing that he has found the Messiah. In an emotional story, the family come together to not hurt “The Man,” yet disastrous consequences mean The Man is never seen again.
The Beautiful Game (2000)
Combining The Troubles in Northern Ireland with football and religion may not sound like the basis for a hit musical, yet this 2000 production played for 11 months at the Cambridge Theatre. With one atheist player in the Catholic team, the local football team have to deal with their social and political differences on and of the pitch.
The cast recording dramatises the works of IRA volunteers as well as political messages, “Let Us Love In Peace” was later sang at a memorial service for those who lost their lives in 9/11.
The Woman in White (2004)
Opening in the West End in 2004, The Woman in White is based on the Wilkie Collins novel of the same name, and features the emotional ballad “I Believe My Heart” as audiences travel to Limmeridge House with Walter, a new teacher for Marian and Laura. As the three become tied in a love triangle, Walter learns of a strange woman dressed entirely in white.
The West End premiere starred Maria Friedman and Michael Ball in the lead roles, who were both recognised for their performances at the 2005 Olivier Awards.
Love Never Dies (2010)
A musical sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies first played in 2010, led by Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, we meet the dynamic pair 10 years after the Paris Opera House.
When Christine performs at a new attraction in New York, she finds out after a long time that the Phantom arranged her appearance, longing to become close to her again. Love Never Dies went on to run at the Adelphi Theatre for under 18 months.
The Wizard of Oz (2011)
After the television show “Over the Rainbow” successfully scouted Danielle Hope to play Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz opened at the London Palladium in 2011. Bringing the 1939 film to the stage, audiences saw Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man reunited once more as they tried to get Dorothy back to her home in Kansas.
Even though the show received strong reviews, The Wizard of Oz wasn’t able to find its home in the West End, only playing to audiences for just over a year.
Stephen Ward The Musical (2013)
Andrew Lloyd Webber created the music for the world premiere of Stephen Ward The Musical, which did not play well to West End audiences, only running for four months from December 2013. The musical was based on the hard-hitting Profumo affair, a government scandal which took place in the 1960s, changing the nature of British politics for the two leading parties.
School of Rock (2015)
School of Rock premiered on Broadway in 2015 before opening at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in 2016. Based on the 2003 film, the musical follows the kids of Horace Green as they prepare for Battle of the Bands led by their substitute teacher Ned Schneebly. When they realise Ned Schneebly is Dewey Finn, everyone is outraged. However, the substitute teacher is able to bring everyone together through music and sticking it to the man!
Carrie Hope Fletcher stars as the titular princess in the world premiere of Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. The musical was first performed at three workshop performances at The Other Palace. Oscar nominee Emerald Fennell wrote the musical’s book.
Photo credit: The Phantom of the Opera (Photo courtesy of The Phantom of the Opera)