Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber is widely known for his musical theatre compositions where he has achieved acclaim over time for his success. In some quarters, Andrew Lloyd Weber who was born on March 22nd 1948 has been branded as one of the most successful (commercially speaking) composer of all time. To offer a brief glimpse to his success, a number of Weber’s musicals have run for more than ten years on both Broadway as well as West End. For his feats in theatre, songwriting as well as composing, Andrew Lloyd Weber has received a number of awards as well as honors including but not limited to a 1992 Knighthood, a 1996 Kennedy Centre Honors, a Golden Globe Award, an Academy award as well as British Government peerage.
Andrew Lloyd Weber childhood and early life
Having been born in March 22nd, 1948, Andrew Lloyd Weber was immediately inclined into music as his mother Joan Hermione was teaching piano at the time while has dad, William was the London College of Music director. This probably explains why Andrew Lloyd Weber developed a soft spot for music at quite an early age and went ahead to nature the same as he grew up. Julian Lloyd Webber, Weber’s younger brother has also excelled to a great extent as a cellist (solo).
At the age of nine, the talent Andrew Lloyd Weber had in music composition was brought out when he wrote his first published six piece suit. Singer (2004) notes that Andrew Lloyd Weber’s interest in musical theatre may have been stimulated as he grew up as he used to accompany his aunt Viola to quite a number of her shows. However, as a child, music was not all that Webber wanted to do. He dreamt of becoming ancient monuments chief inspector and this is probably what inspired him to pursue a history major at OxfordUniversity in 1965 after winning a challenge scholarship. His stint at oxford was however short-lived when he opted out after only a single semester to pursue musical theatre at the Royal College of Music (Walsh 1997).
According to Citron (2001), Andrew Lloyd Weber also had a number of other past times during his childhood. At only 11 years old, Andrew Lloyd Weber already had a toy theatre that Friedwald (2010) describes as ‘elaborate’ for a child his age. He also had a well developed fascination with trains as was brought out in the 1984 Starlight Express.
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Professional Life
During his professional career, Webber had a number of collaborations with the likes of Alan Ayckbourn, a British playwright as well as Tim Rice who was a lyricist. The Likes of Us was the first Webber/Rice collaboration and it was essentially a musical founded on Thomas John’s true story. Singer (2004) notes that The Likes of Us tends to be different from the later works of Webber which in one way or the other appear to be through-composed wholly and seem to deviate significantly from Broadway musical and inclined more towards opera. Joseph and the amazing Technicolor dream coat was the next collaboration that Webber and rice engaged in. This was in 1968. Joseph and the amazing Technicolor dream coat was basically a retell of Joseph’s story (from the bible). This piece was fairy successful and it even went ahead to earn a review that was seen to be favorable from The Times.
It was in 1970 that Webber and Tim Rice partnered again to produce Jesus Christ Superstar which was their third musical. Citron (2001) notes that immediately after this third musical, Tim became irritated by a planned musical comedy that was founded on P.G. Wodehouse novels, Jeeves and Wooster. Tim choose to opt out of the project as he was not sure he would do justice to the Jeeves and Wooster novels which he was fond of. This essentially meant that Webber had to find another person to partner with on this project and this came to be Alan Ayckbourn who as stated earlier in this text was Alan Ayckbourn. However, at the box office, Jeeves did not make a lasting impact and its flame fizzled out after only three weeks. It is however important to note that in 1996 a rework of the original Jeeves was produced after a revision of the project by Ayckbourn and Webber. This new version labeled, by Jeeves, came to be more successful than the original Jeeves (Walsh 1997).
However, the collaboration between Rice and Webber was far from over and in 1976 they came together to write what they called Evita which was essentially a musical founded on Eva Peron’s life. On release, the part of Eva Peron in Evita was sung by Julie Covington but Patti LuPone became was the one who sung Eva Peron’s part on the initial NYC Broadway Eva Peron. For her stellar performance in this, Patti LuPone went ahead to receive a Tony award. However collaborations between Webber and Rice did not last very long and as Singer (2004) notes, it was soon after Evita that Webber and Rice went their separate ways.
Webber undertook ‘Variations’, a solo project in 1978 which was founded on Paganini’s 24th Caprice. This project in which Webber undertook with Julian, his solo cellist brother, was highly successful and it eventually became second in the United Kingdom pop album chart. To further project the success of ‘Variations’, the work was used as the South Bank Show theme tune for the entire life of the program.
In 1981, Webber undertook yet another project; Cats, which later on came to be London’s longest running musical. For this particular project, Webber preferred T.S. Elliot’s poetry and went ahead to work on the same without a lyricist. Cats went for 18 a record 18 years on Broadway but this record was to be dwarfed by the phantom of the opera, which was yet another musical by Webber. In 1884, Webber came up with the Starlight Express which was largely criticized by quite a number of critics but which nevertheless went ahead to win wide acclaim from the West End. Singer (2004) notes that since 1988, the show has been running fulltime in Germany in a theatre that is custom built.
It was in 1986 that Webber won a Grammy Award for a requiem mass he had dedicated to his dad who had passed on earlier in 1982. The requiem mass premiered on 1985 on February 25th at the New York’s St. Thomas Church. Though partly inspired by his dad, Webbers composition was also informed by the plight of orphans in Cambodia. It was however in 1986 that the Weber and Rice collaboration was rekindled when they came together to compose a short musical for the 60th birthday of Queen Elisabeth. The musical which was labeled Cricket was performed at first in Windsor castle. Later on n 1986, Webber was inspired by the Leroux Gaston novel to do the phantom of the opera which became an instant hit overtaking Cats on Broadway. The production of the phantom of the opera by Evita’s director Harold Prince with the phantom being played by Michael Crawford. Sarah Brightman, the then wife of Webber was also assigned a part in this widely acclaimed work (Walsh 1997).
It was soon after the phantom of the opera that Webber started working on a new musical, aspects of love. This musical was not very successful on Broadway considering that it closed after only one year as opposed to London where it went on for close to four years. The 80s also saw Webber give a substantial attention to Real Useful Theatre Group Inc which was his production company.
Come the 90s, Webber was instrumental for the composition of the Barcelona Olympics song in 1992. He however suffered a major setback when a musical he wrote based on Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder lost quite a substantial amount of money as its production turned out to be too expensive despite the popularity of the show. This highlights one of the failures that Webber encountered in his otherwise illustrious career. According to Singer (2004), Webber may have been successful on may fronts but his life also had some gapping failures as well. For instance, some of his works were widely acclaimed in some places while in others, they ended up loosing money badly. For instance, some of his musicals that were instant hits in London and especially did well there ended up loosing money in New York. This was especially than case for The woman in white, Starlight Express as well as Song and dance. However, others like Sunset Boulevard were widely acclaimed especially when it comes to Broadway. Sunset Boulevard went ahead to win seven Tony awards in addition to making history in Broadway in terms of opening with the largest advance. However, Singer (2004) notes that by the time Sunset Boulevard closed in 1997, it was still short of recouping its total investment of $13 million according to some reports.
Webber’s musicals have been adapted in films severally including the 1996 Evita, the 1973 Jesus Christ superstar as well as the recent Joel Schumacher’s The phantom of the opera. It is also important to note that Webber has been involved in a number ofproductions. For his works, Webber received the Kennedy Centre Honors together with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Dolly Patron as well as Zubin Mehta. As a television personality, Webber appeared on Grease: You are the One that I Want! where he was a judge. He was also a judge in the reality television show ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria’ which premiered on BBC. Webber was then to reappear on the BBC show that was involved with musical talent as a judge. The name of the show was ‘I’d do Anything’. It is also important to note that in early 2009, Webber managed the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest’s UK entry.
Most recently, the musical ‘Love Never Dies’ was launched by Webber on 8th Oct 2009. Her Majesties Theatre as the venue of Webber’s press conference which informed the launching of ‘Love Never Dies’ (Covach 2010) Webber made an appearance in Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, a program aired by BBC on 26th Feb 2010 for Love Never Dies promotion.
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s personal life
Webber had two children with his first wife, Sarah Hugill. Webber married his second wife, Sarah Brightman after divorcing Hugill in 1983 and this paved the way for Brightman to appear in Webber’s the phantom of the opera in a leading role. However, Webber’s marriage was not long lived and in 1990 he announced of his intention to end his relationship with Brightman. It was not however not until 1983 that Webber married Magdalene Gurdon who was essentially his third wife with whom he has 3 children.
In business, Webber has accomplished some major feats especially with his purchase of Stoll Moll in the year 2000. This single purchase made Webber one of the largest theatre owners in Landon. In 2006 he was ranked number 87 in terms of the richest people in Britain by the Sunday times. Friedwald (2010) also notes that art collection remains close to Weber’s heart with his most favored being Victorian art.
Arguably, Andrew Lloyd Webber remains to be one of the most gifted composers in history. Though best known for his musicals film adaptations of ‘the phantom of the opera, ‘Evita’ as well as ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, Webber previous musicals remain classicals in his otherwise illustrious musical career if the various awards and accolades he has won over time are anything to go by.
Covach, J. Sounding out Pop: Analytical Essays in Popular Music. University of Michigan Press, 2010
Citron, S. Sondheim and Lloyd-Webber: The New Musical. New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 2001
Friedwald, W. A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010
Singer, B. Ever After: The Last Years of Musical Theater and Beyond, Hal Leonard Corporation, 2004
Walsh, M. Andrew Lloyd Webber: His Life and Works: A Critical Biography. New York: Abrams, 1997.