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Andrew Lloyd Webber Nostalgia
Over this past weekend, I experienced a healthy dose of Andrew Lloyd Webber nostalgia, attending The Phantom of the Opera (now in its 28th year at Her Majesty’s Theatre) on the Friday night and the final performance of Bill Kenwright’s production of Evita at the Dominion Theatre on the Saturday night.
And what with the London Palladium soon becoming home to CATS for a limited run, with former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger starring as Grizabella, and the rumour mill running rampant about a possible film adaptation of Sunset Boulevard in the works (or should we say a movie-to-stage-to-movie adaptation?), I began to wonder why the last huge hit from the musical mind of the Lord was over 20 years ago…
After 1993’s offering of Sunset Boulevard, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End ventures have only earned at best mediocre, at worst pitiful, receptions among audiences and theatre critics alike. Interestingly though, everyone still waits with baited breath for the next Webber project, despite his previous track record.
The question remains how long can he keep reviving his hits from the 70s to the early 90s before audiences tire of those too? Will audiences ever tire of them? Will Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and CATS appeal as much to future generations as they have done to previous ones? Could this year’s cancellation of the North American leg of the Arena Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar be a sign of the tide?
It seems as though Lloyd Webber may be becoming more of a trend follower nowadays with his next project being a Broadway musical adaptation of the Jack Black 2003 film School of Rock. Of course, it isn’t the first time he has adapted a movie into a musical, but this choice seems a little unoriginal.
I was reminded over the weekend of Lloyd Webber’s skill of infusing our minds with those magnificent melodies. In Evita and The Phantom of the Opera, the melodies of the most famous songs are constantly repeated during breaks between the big numbers. Reprises galore! This makes it near impossible to leave the theatre without humming at least one or two of the catchy tunes to yourself. This tactic seems to have vanished in the more recents musicals, such as Stephen Ward or Love Never Dies. I wonder why?
As I am not a songwriter myself, I also find it difficult to understand how someone can pack six or seven instant hits into a musical twenty years ago, but is fortunate to write even one memorable track for a new musical. Do composers just lose their creative magic over time?
I still enjoy a good dose of Andrew Lloyd Webber nostalgia every now and again, but a new hit would be equally welcomed. And if a new British musical composer could crash onto the scene, and deliver even half the impact the Lord did in past decades, we would be truly blessed once again.
Sub-Editor at Londontheatre.co.uk & NewYorktheatreguide.com
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