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Andrew Lloyd Webber

by Penny O’Conner


1. Introduction


2. Early Years and Education

            – The First Work

3. Career

            a) The First Biblical Shows

– 1970s

b) Failure (1980s)

c) New Turn (1990s)

World’s Recognition

                        – New Ideas

4. Conclusion

5. Works Cited

The glory of Broadway, or what little remained of it by 1980, was grabbed by the son of English church organist. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals allied simple-minded pop songs to household themes. His unoriginal for­mula was unerringly commercial; whether it has lasting artistic merit needs to be judged work by work. By now, Lloyd Webber is among the richest men in showbiz and could have rested on gold-encrusted laurels. Thesis Controversial and outstanding musical compositions and theatrical performance based on unique vision of reality and new methods of expression, make Lloyd Webber one of the most popular composers of our time. He describes his personal belief: “It’s always difficult for people to realize that a composer, especially one who has been as lucky and as successful as I have been, can have many sides” (Polkow, n.d.).

Andrew Lloyd Webber was born on 22 March 1948 inLondon. His father was Royal College of Music pro­fessor and teacher. From early years, he played the piano, violin and French horn. The, he entered MagdalenCollege, Oxford, where he wrote “The Likes Of Uswith lyricist Tim Rice. He has admired such composers as Ligeti, Hindemith, and Penderecki, this first attempts in composition bore resemblance with pop styles of these figures and their works.

In 1967 appeared ‘Joseph and The Amazing Ttechnocolor DreamCoat’, the reinterpretation of scriptures. In this composition, Lloyd Weber used musical methods from psychedelia and French chanson.  Critics admit that “From his teens, he had a passion for Giacomo Puccini and Richard Rodgers and wanted to emulate his heroes by writing music for the theater” (Covency, n.d.).

In the early 1970s, Lloyd Webber wrote for the stage and movies. First two films were ‘Gumshoe’ and ‘The Odessa File’. During this period of time, he worked in cooperation with his friend, Rice and produced the well-known “Jesus Christ Superstar”. This theatrical work provoked a series of religious protests against modern interpretation of the Christ and moral decay. This work showed that music is a highly complex subject which has an impact on culture in three different ways: socialization, influences which shape behavior in a particular social setting, will determine individual orientations to life. Also, Lloyd Webber initiated a new musical vision of reality utilizing pop and rock elements through the lens of religious and social problems. Some critics comment that ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ marked the “emergence of rock music culture” (Orlova, 1991, p. 66). The main actors of this musical work were vocalists Ian Gillan, Michael D’Abo, Yvonne Elliman and Paul Raven, accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Lloyd Weber comments: “With Superstar it was very clear where my own feelings as a composer lay, and the most successful music there in “pop” terms was the music sung by Judas” (Polkow, n.d.). The film version appeared in 1973, but it was not successful. Ideals of eternal love and forgiveness, inherited by popular singers, are nothing more than the main religious dogmas. This impact is subconscious, but it exists in all forms in Lloyd Webber’s music.

This period of time was marked by strong images coupled with many original compositions and unusual arrangements did much to spread the new theatrical style. For Lloyd Webber music was about peeling away the layers of artifice to get at what was. It might be ugly, it might be shameful, it might be beautiful, it might be revelatory, but all those things are true and part of the human experience. Since that time, Lloyd Webber is often called “the most commercially successful musical theatre composer of his generation” (LaChiusa, 2002, p. 64).

The middle of 1970s was marked by failures and acute critic of his works. “Evita” (1978) was paraded as an opera and der­ided accordingly, though its title song was the most memorable Lloyd Webber would ever write. Its story of the madonna-like wife of a corrupt Argentine dictator was emotionally flat and intellectually suspect. It ended his partnership with writer Tim Rice. The next three shows dispensed with a storyline. Two described childish fancies, the third was mere contrivance. “Cats(1981) was a plotless song-and-dance show of T. S. Eliot felici­ties. “Starlight Express” (1984) had roller-skaters simu­lating railway trains in an ‘awesomely awful’ presentation that lacked the faintest hint of a strong musical or cerebral idea. “Song and Dance(1982) exploited the brazenly banal Paganini Variations he had previously written for his brother Julian’s cello and rock ensemble, and sold as a theme for a long-running TV arts programme (LWT, South Bank Show). “Cats is the longest-running musical ever to play on Broadway, a record closely followed by his Phantom of the Opera” (LaChiusa, 2002, p. 64).

Elaine Paige, previously the star of “Evita”, and substitut­ing for the injured Judi Dench in the feline role, of Grizabella, took the song into the UK Top 10. Subsequently, it became pop­ular for Barbra Streisand, amongst others. With Song “And Dance” (1982), which consisted of an earlier piece, “Tell Me On Sunday, and Variations composed on a theme by Paganini for his cellist brother, Julian, Lloyd Webber became the only theatrical composer to have three works performed simultaneously in both the West End and, Broadway. Two items from Song And Dance, ‘Take That Look Off Your Face1 and ‘Tell Me On Sunday1 became hit singles for one of its stars, Marti Webb. “Its colorful collage of musical images coheres largely because of the work’s persistent overall theme of death. This theme is treated from a variety of perspectives — confusion and resistance, anger and bitterness, mourning and sadness, and a simple but profound proclamation — “perpetua” (Polkow, n.d.).

Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company, it was joined two years later by “Starlight Express”, a train epic with music which was nicknamed ‘Squeals On Wheels’ because the cast dashed around on roller skates pretending to be locomo­tives. Diversifying further into production, Lloyd Webber pre­sented the 1983 comedy “Daisy Pittts It Off”, followed by “The Hired Man”, “Lend Me A Tenor” and “Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s On Your Toes” atLondon’s Palace Theatre – of which he had become the new owner. New music reality created by Lloyd Webber has afforded us the opportunity to explore the sense of the national character and soul at its most profound center. Involved in that is a certain amount of risk and challenge, of tension and attention, a certain pres­ence that suggests how human beings might become as a people. “His method of working is a mixture of composing songs in a vacuum while striving to clamp them to the right dramatic moment” (Coveney, n.d). Even in rap and hip-hop, it si possible to find the influence of religious postulates on lyrics. Rock & Roll and rap are considered as a cultural phenomenon and social change agents brining novelty and new vision of cultural norms. They sing about angels and internal life, sufferings of a soul and forgiveness. “His musicals have all the virtues of a bridge by Isambard Kingdom Brunel – immaculately constructed, awesome edifices, and reassuringly solid” (There is no magic here, 2003).

Lloyd Webber indulged more person­al if lucrative artistic whims in such as “Requiem”, written for his father, which, along with Variations, became a best-selling album. A later set, “Premiere Collection”, went triple platinum. A spin-off from “Requiem”, “Pie Jesu” (1985), was a hit single for Paul Miles-Kington and Sarah “Brightman, the composer’s second wife. She received appraisal of critics with two numbers from Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom Of The Opera” duetting with Steve Harley on the title theme, and later with Cliff Richard on ‘All I Ask Of You. The original ‘Phantom’, Michael Crawford, had great success with his recording of another song hit from the show, The Music Of The Night’, Controversy followed, wm Lloyd Webber’s battle to ensure that Brightman re-created her role of Christine in the Broadway production in 1988. His investors capitulated, reasoning that future Lloyd Webber cre­ations were guaranteed box office smashes before their very conception. Following Greer (1999), it is possible to say that “the age demanded Lloyd Webber” (p. 98) and forced him to create outdating musical and theatrical performance unveiling social and moral decay of the society and separate individual.  “Aspects Of Love” which also starred Brightman failed, but at the end of 1991 it ran for more than 300 performances.

In general, Lloyd Webber music seemed to many people a template of change in an over-changing world and yet a repository of carefully conserved verities as old as the American promise of freedom. In clubs and on the concert stage, it has kept the message of liberation and freedom alive. New musicals culture involved not only low classes, but a lot of middle-class and high class families. “Lloyd Webber’s musicals are highly efficient cultural packages, theme park rides for grown-ups, and this exhibition suggests the same determination not just to have a few Victorian paintings but to put an entire age on display, with sound and smoke effects” (There is no magic here, 2003).

New success and stage in musical career came with “Sunset Boulevard”, a stage adaptation of Billy Wilder’s 1950Hollywood classic. “It opened in London on 12 July 1993 with Patti LuPone in the leading role of Norma Desmond, and had its American pre­miere in Los Angeles five months later, where Desmond was played by Glenn Close” (Hoagland, 1998, p. 55). This work can be considered as a cultural phenomenon and social change brining novelty and new vision of musical norms. Both of them created social  movements changing the attitudes of all involved: musicians, managers, record companies executives, critics and magazine editors included.

What drove him on was “a desire for serious recognition as a composer” (Hischak, 1993, p. 55), a frustration that embittered his lather, whose death he mourned in a Requiem that was derivative enough to sound like a synthesis of untraceable bars by Puccini and Faure. It was so sensually uninvolving as to raise questions about Lloyd Webber’s human feelings. These he addressed in the autobiographical next show, “Phantom of the Opera” an ugly composer who falls in love with a comely singer. His much-publicized mar­riage to its star, Sarah Brightman, lasted six years. His last musical, “Aspects of Love” (1989), was the ultimate bid to write an opera: composed throughout, with genuine arias and set-pieces that still, somehow, sounded as secondhand as Puccini in “The Girl of the Golden West” – a man who knew what he could do and per­sisted in trying to do something else. Shortly after the opening, Lloyd Webber, aged 41, announced on live television that he was giving up writing musicals and would concentrate on making movies. It is possible to define Lloyd Webber as “He’s an entertainment juggernaut; he’s a schlockmeister. He’s the most popular musical-theater composer ever; he hasn’t had an unqualified hit in a dozen years” (Pressley, 1997, p. 36.). Lloyd Webber’s music has affected all aspects of culture, including television and movie industry.

Like “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Operabefore it, the show won several Ibny Awards, including best musical, score and book. Lloyd Webber was living up to his rating as the most powerful person in the American theatre. Among his other show honors are: Drama Desk, Grammy, Laurence Olivier, and Ivor Novello Awards. Cats, together with “Starlight Express” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”, gave Lloyd Webber the three longest-running musi­cals in British theatre history for a time, before the latter show was overtaken by “Les Miserables”. “He is also the first person to have a trio of musicals running inLondon andNew York” (Millard, 2003, p. 63). Lloyd Webber himself appeared embarrassed at his own imaginative freedom, prefacing his works with statements which sought to legitimize the seductive appeal of fiction by appealing to some external authority.

His musical compositions seem to be hiding a number of constructors. Even though it looks almost impossible, he combines them in the same piece of music. She calls the concept of her musical creation spontaneous composition. He transforms such elements into any other musical form, although this transformation is distinctly independent, as she carries it out with her own artistry, full of dissonance, quick passages, percussive sound storms and unexpected calms. He has not merely accommodated elements of previous styles into his compositions, but has used the language as the launching-pad from which he has developed his own, entirely personal and utterly distinctive music. He joins three elements: contemporary jazz, classical music and free improvisation, which make his music marvelous.

At the end of 1990s, Lloyd Webber understood that the New Yorkand Londonproductions of “Sunset Boulevard” both failed. On the other hand, in January 1996 the West End production of his most enduring show, “Cats” took over from “A Chorus Line” as the longest-running musical of all time, and in June 1997, the show’s New York production replaced “A Chorus Line” as the longest-running show in Broadway history. In his music, the ensemble swings seamlessly between extended composition and free improvisation, touching on elements of rock, funk, classical music and modern theatre to achieve a remarkable synthesis between composition and improvisation. All of those experiences help mold his unique approach based on World Music influences and drawing on the trance inducing and spirit calling focus Indigenous approaches to music and theater” (West End Theatres in Major Sell-off, 2005).

In music Lloyd Webber joins techniques pulled from the traditions classical music to stimulate creativity and develop improvisational skills. He is interested in many musical subjects like The Art of Improvisation, Composition and Arranging, Meditation, Inner Listening, Being in the Moment, Music as a Force for Social Change. All the things mentioned above help him be outstanding and unique figure in musical theater. He shows his passionate and expression in the power of improvisation.

New musical genres allow Lloyd Webber to express his nature and create wonderful masterpieces. “He plans to write books about architecture and his world-famous collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and is planning at least two future musicals” (Covency, n.d.). It is possible to say that new ideas put into practice and applied to different theatrical performances create the understanding of theater and its genre.  Through creativity, Lloyd Webber finds different methods and ways to apply elements of pop and rock to different fields of knowledge and performance.

In sum, Lloyd Webber is a unique personality and musician who embodies his cultural and social vision in musicals and other theatrical works. He is called a controversial composer of out time because of his creative realization of musical elements and methods. The creativity can be explained by their unique vision of ideas he applies into practice. His controversy is a way of thinking and ability to apply new solutions to new musical and theatrical environment. Lloyd Webber creates a powerful and true-to-life musical images and characters adapted to new world and reflected in new habits and personal values typical for post-modern society. In spite of its controversy, Lloyd Webber’s style creates new cultures and tastes, the sense of the modern human and soul at its most profound center. Involved in that is a certain amount of risk and challenge, of tension and attention, a certain pres­ence that suggests how human beings might become as a people.

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Works Cited

  1. Coveney, M. A Life’s Work. N.d. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/cats/html/behind.html
  2. Greer, H. The Age Demanded Lloyd Webber. World and I, Vol. 14, Iss. 12, December 1999, p. 98.
  3. Hischak, Th. S. Stage It with Music: An Encyclopedic Guide to the American Musical Theatre.Greenwood Press, 1993.
  4. Hoagland, M. M. Off-Bowery Theater Now. New England Review, Vol. 19, Iss. 3, 1998, p. 55.
  5. Lachiusa, M.J. Who’s Listening to Lloyd Webber?: Critical Disapproval Hasn’t Cooled the Ardor of a Vast, Adoring Public. American Theatre, Vol. 19, Iss. 2, February 2002, pp. 64-65.
  6. Polkow, D. n.d. Andrew Lloyd Webber: From Superstar to Requiem. Available at:  http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1011
  7. Millard, R. Andrew Lloyd Webber Has Made Enough Money to Fill the RA with Art, but the Critics Can Still Hurt. New Statesman, Vol. 132, Iss. 4657,  September 29, 2003, p. 63
  8. Orlova, I.the Underground: The Emergence of Rock Music Culture. Journal of Communication, Vol. 41, Iss. 2, 1991, p. 66.
  9. Pressley, N., Best of Times, Worst of Times: Musical Theater’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Is the Most Successful Composer Ever … or Is He? Insight on the News, Vol. 13, Iss. 28, August 4, 1997, p. 36.
  10. There is no magic here. 2003. The Guardian, Available at:http://arts.guardian.co.uk/critic/feature/0,,1043654,00.html
  11. West End Theatres in Major Sell-off; Lloyd Webber Talks to Bidder. The Evening Standard (London,England), January 17, 2005. p. 1.

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