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Webber, Andrew Lloyd - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Andrew Lloyd Webber

musical london production cats

(1948-)
Really Useful Group

Overview

Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most popular and successful composers of modern theatre. He has been the one at the forefront of the creation of the super-show, complete with big budgets, large casts, and elaborate productions. In the theatre worlds of London, New York, and around the world, Lloyd Webber has been associated with some of the most popular, longest-running shows ever. While his critics complain that he often depends too heavily on overdone glitz and glamour, his fans love his fusion of various music styles, including rock and roll, jazz, and classical. No one, however, can deny his impact on theatre ever since Jesus Christ Superstar hit the stage in 1971.

Personal Life

Andrew Lloyd Webber was born on March 22, 1948, in London, England, to William Southcombe Lloyd Webber, a composer and director of the London College of Music, and Jean (Johnstone) Hermione Southcombe Lloyd Webber, a piano teacher. As a child, Lloyd Webber took lessons in violin, piano, and French horn. Lloyd Webber’s brother, Julian, actually became a world-renowned cellist. At a very early age, Lloyd Webber became fascinated by musical theatre and made stage models with puppets. At the age of nine, he wrote his first musical based on Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. At age 12, Lloyd Webber wrote a fan letter to famed musical composer Richard Rodgers and was invited to meet him. Around the same time, he won a scholarship to Westminster School in London, where he continued writing musicals. Lloyd Webber was also extremely interested in architecture, and so in 1965 he entered Oxford as a history major.

Lloyd Webber married Sarah Jane Tudor Hugill, a singer and musician, in 1971. They had one daughter, Imogen, before divorcing in 1983. A year later, Lloyd Webber married Sarah Brightman, a cast member in his musical Cats. They divorced in 1990. Lloyd Webber married for a third time in 1991, this time to Madeleine Gurdon. They have two sons and a daughter.

Lloyd Webber was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 for his service to the arts, and in 1997 became Lord Lloyd Webber of Sydmonton when he was elevated to Britain’s House of Lords.

Career Details

After only one term at Oxford, Lloyd Webber withdrew from school and returned to London. He composed, with lyricist Tim Rice, The Likes of Us, a never-to-beproduced musical based on the life of British orphanage founder Dr. Thomas Barnardo. Lloyd Webber and Rice ultimately staged their first production after a local schoolmaster commissioned them to create a musical play for his students to produce. The result was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, based on the biblical story of Joseph, a boy sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, who uses his ability to interpret dreams to overcome the bonds of his captivity. The musical, with its fusion of numerous musical styles, including rock, country, and jazz, proved to be so popular that it was also produced at the Central Hall in Westminster where it received rave reviews.

Riding on their success, Lloyd Webber and Rice teamed up again to create another musical based on a biblical story, Jesus Christ Superstar. When they could not obtain funding to produce the musical, they released an album of songs they had written for it. The album was a success in both Great Britain and the United States, selling more than 3 million copies. The theatrical production, which finally came to the stage in 1971, was a huge success, running in London for a total of 3,357 performances. Along with success, the musical also brought controversy. Some Christian groups, who often protested outside the theater, were upset both with the portrayal of Jesus as a sometimes troubled human being and with the fact that Lloyd Webber and Rice left out the resurrection, choosing to end the story with Jesus’ death on the cross. Despite the controversy, Jesus Christ Superstar won the 1971 Drama Desk Award.

After Rice backed out of their next project, Lloyd Webber teamed up with British playwright Alan Ayck-bourn to finish the musical Jeeves. It was Lloyd Webber’s first real failure. During this time, Lloyd Webber also composed the film scores for Gumshoe (1971) and The Odessa File (1973).

Lloyd Webber teamed with Rice again in 1978 to produce Evita, the story of Argentine dictator Juan Peron’s first wife, Eva. The musical follows Eva Peron from her life as a child in a small town to her marriage and overwhelming popularity with the Argentine people, and ends with her death from cancer while she was still in her 30s. Once again, Lloyd Webber received mixed reviews, but Evita was a popular success and won two Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards in 1980. As with Jesus Christ Superstar, Lloyd Webber and Rice released a soundtrack album that became popular before the show opened. Evita ran for 3,176 performances in London and for 1,567 performances in New York on Broadway.

Around the same time, Lloyd Webber formed The Really Useful Theatre Company, which later became The Really Useful Group (RUG). Through RUG he was able to produce other authors’ plays. Lloyd Webber also purchased the Palace Theatre in London.

In 1981, Lloyd Webber took the theatre by storm with his extravagant musical production Cats. Based on poet T.S. Eliot’s collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the production was the longest-running musical in both London and New York. Cats premiered in London, then found its place in New York, and has also been produced on tour in many different countries. Initially, Lloyd Webber had difficulty obtaining funding for the project. Backers were skeptical about a dance musical based on poems about cats. When Warner Brothers dropped its support, Backstage quotes Lloyd Webber as telling the company, “Just remember, 50 percent of the world hates cats and 50 percent loves them. I’ll go happily with the 50 percent who loves them.” The musical earned two Tony awards, and proved to be so popular that Lloyd Webber wrote a companion book, Cats: The Book of the Musical.

In 1984, Lloyd Webber teamed with Richard Stilgoe to bring Starlight Express to stage. In 1986, Lloyd Webber found even more success with Stilgoe, along with Charles Hart, when they created The Phantom of the Opera. Set in 1910, the story revolves around a severely disfigured man who, while hiding out beneath the Paris Opera House, falls in love with a beautiful singer. A popular success, the spectacularly staged Phantom also received critical acclaim, winning a total of seven Tony awards.

In 1989 Lloyd Webber departed from his usual big production musicals to bring Aspects of Love to stage. It is a love story based on the interwoven relationships among five people. Called Lloyd Webber’s most personal work, its success was marginal at best. In a question-and-answer session recounted in Backstage, Lloyd Webber admitted the musical was his personal favorite, “But I don’t think we quite got it right. Christopher Hampton [a writer] told me that if I ever do a movie of Aspects, it should be a bit sharper, sexier, and funnier. That’s probably it.” While the musical failed to attract large audiences, a less elaborate production was quite successful in Australia.

Lloyd Webber used Billy Wilder’s 1950 film Sunset Boulevard for his next musical. It opened first in London in 1993, then in Los Angeles and New York during 1994. Sunset Boulevard tells the story of Norma Desmond, a fictional former silent screen star displaced by the introduction of sound to the movie business. Once again, some critics praised it and others panned it. Sunset Boulevard won a Tony award for Best Score and Best Musical in 1995.

Sunset Boulevard received most of its publicity from the controversy that arose when Lloyd Webber fired actress Faye Dunaway and replaced her with Glenn Close. The production was nearing opening day when Lloyd Webber removed Dunaway from the leading role. According to New York, Lloyd Webber discovered that Dunaway could not sing and could not be taught to sing. Lloyd Webber wrote a letter to Dunaway explaining that he released her to avoid “extreme embarrassment.” Dunaway sued Lloyd Webber and reportedly received $1.5 million from Lloyd Webber to settle the wrongful termination suit.

Lloyd Webber’s next project was Whistle Down the Wind, which was unveiled in Washington, D.C., at the end of 1996. The musical is based on a 1961 film by the same name. Set in Louisiana in the 1950s, the story is about a young girl who finds a man in her barn and thinks he is Jesus Christ. Like Aspects of Love, Whistle was a departure from Lloyd Webber’s typical “megamusical.” It was the first musical to premiere in the United States without the preliminary release of an accompanying album, and the production featured no established stars in its cast. Finally, over half the cast was under the age of 18, and Lloyd Webber’s intended audience was a younger crowd than typical for his efforts. However, Lloyd Webber’s attempted departure from his previous musicals was not successful, and the show closed quickly.

Social and Economic Impact

Lloyd Webber helped change the face of theatre in both London and New York, the two centers of most major theatrical productions. Starting with Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971 and culminating with Phantom of the Opera in 1986, Lloyd Webber perfected the megamusical so that the show itself, separate from the story it told, was worth the price of a ticket.

Lloyd Webber was also innovative in his choice of material. According to Entertainment Weekly magazine, “Webber reflected onto the stage the political cynicism of the ’70s ( Superstar, Evita ) and the excess of the ’80s ( Cats, Phantom, and the roller-skating Starlight Express ) With musical theater taking the next step forward with shows like Rent, Webber may be pressed to prove he can evolve. In the end, the audiences will decide.”

Chronology: Andrew Lloyd Webber

1948: Born.

1968: Staged Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

1971: Created Jesus Christ Superstar.

1976: Created Evita.

1981: Created Cats.

1986: Created Phantom of the Opera.

1992: Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

1993: Created Sunset Boulevard (London).

1994: Created Sunset Boulevard (United States).

1996: Created Whistle Down the Wind.

Whether or not Lloyd Webber can produce another mega-hit is yet to be seen. He has not had a money making production since 1986’s Phantom of the Opera. Aspects of Love lost over $8 million, Whistle Down the Wind lost an estimated $15 million, and although Sunset Boulevard has been more financially solvent, it has not covered its production costs. RUG, which reported profits of over $100 million between 1994 and 1996, showed a loss of over $10 million for 1997.

Lloyd Webber has responded to these losses. He has turned to reinventing his successes in various formats. Several of his hits have reentered the theatre to find new and renewed fans. His 1975 flop Jeeves opened with new songs as By Jeeves in regional theaters. “We got it wrong 20 years ago,” Lloyd Webber told Entertainment Weekly, “Now I think we’ve got it right.” Using the same idea, Lloyd Webber released Whistle Down the Wind, in a smaller, less expensive theatere production where he hopes it will recoup some of its losses. Jesus Christ Superstar has also been revived. He is working to turn out video productions of Cats and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and movie versions of several of his stage productions. He has also been working with the idea of creating a sequel to Phantom of the Opera.

Lloyd Webber, who previously turned over much of his control of RUG to others, has recently become more active in the everyday running of the company. “I don’t want to be an entrepreneur, but it’s unrealistic to say I shouldn’t be,” he told Matt Wolf of Variety magazine in 1997. “I hate being a producer, because music is really what I’m about; but it’s also unrealistic to think I can’t do it.”

Lloyd Webber, whose estimated worth is over $500 million, is a major art collector, having a particular interest in pre-Raphaelite works. He is also a major supporter of the arts and other causes. Using an opening preview of Sunset Boulevard in 1993 as the forum, he raised $1.7 million for the Children’s Diabetes Foundation.

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over 6 years ago

Hello Lord Lloyd Webber



My son Paul, who is 19 years of age has achieved a place on a B.A. Honours course in Performance at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.



The fees are at least £11,850 per year for the three year course and we are hoping to obtain some help to enable us to fund his study since he is VERY keen to attend the course.



I’d be very grateful if you could advise me what I should do to apply for a grant.



Yours faithfully



Lynne Robson



Lynne Robson

35 Hutton Ave

Hartlepool

TS26 9PW



Tel : 01429 866513



Paul’s mobile number: 07988691322

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over 5 years ago

Dear Lord Arew LOYD Webber

I was a WO2 in the RCT in Malya from168 to 1970 were one of my solders weas named Adrew Ball
he produced oliver twist,robin hood
and manry more all the actors were sevice personal in the British, Austrailian,And New Zeland