Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Stephen Sondheim (ok, you too Andrew Lloyd Webber)

It's hard to believe that the two most famous living musical theatre composers were born on the same day, today, March 22nd.  Stephen Sondheim turns 81 today and Lloyd Webber is 63.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
I've already posted a lot about Sondheim - see my review of his recent book of his lyrics "Finishing the Hat" here, so I guess I'll make some comments on Lloyd Webber.  

Now, I'm not the biggest fan of ALW's work, but have to admit that the man knows how to write "themes" that you can't get out of your head.  He also was very lucky to have met Tim Rice, his lyricist for many of his early hit musicals as well as to meet Cameron Mackintosh, the producer, who managed to turn both Cats and Phantom of the Opera into global juggernauts.   His associations with both of these gentlemen made him into a household name.  Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat are the hit shows Rice wrote the lyrics for while Mackintosh also produced Lloyd Webber's Song and Dance.

The other Broadway shows he did that Rice didn't write the lyrics to and Mackintosh didn't produce, pretty much either didn't run very long or had decent runs but never were profitable.   Shows like Bombay Dreams, Starlight Express, Woman in White, Sunset Boulevard and Aspects of Love all had nothing to do with Rice or Mackintosh and with the exception of Sunset Boulevard are pretty much hardly ever mentioned anymore.  Even his sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies, opened last year in London to mixed reviews and has recently gone through some re-writes and postponed their Spring 2011 Broadway opening.
But, Lloyd Webber does know how to write crowd pleasures with two of his shows, Cats and Phantom the two longest running shows in Broadway history.  And even though he and Sondheim (and Frank Wildhorn) have all had three of their own shows running on Broadway at the same time, Lloyd Webber has accomplished this feat five different times.  The first time he acchieved this was when Evita, Joseph and Cats were all playing on Broadway for about an 8 month period in late 1982 to June 1983.  The longest time he had three shows running simultaneously on Broadway was from November 1994 to March 1997 when he had Phantom, Cats and Sunset Boulevard all running for over two and a half years.

Phantom of the Opera is also the longest running show on Broadway- having been playing since January of 1988 and having racked over 9,600 performances on Broadway alone.

And even though I'm not the biggest fan of the entire scores to his shows, I do like the majority of Evita, and a few songs from Phantom and Cats -and pretty much no one in the world hasn't heard several versions of "Memory."

I do love the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar as well though I'm not sure why I've never really taken to any of the various revivals I've seen of this.  I've seen several, including seeing Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the film version, twice on tour. 

And, without Lloyd Webber one wonders how Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige would have become the icons they are, since all three of them really were launched via Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals (and all three won Tony's or Olivier Awards for their roles in Evita for LuPone and Paige and Cats for Buckley)

So, Happy Birthday Andrew Lloyd Webber - hopefully you, Rice and Mackintosh will find something to collaborate on again very soon.

 Amazon link for the original Broadway cast of Evita
- Evita (1978 Original Broadway Cast)

Amazon link for the original Broadway cast of Jesus Christ Superstar Jesus Christ Superstar

Amazon link for the soundtrack of JCS - Jesus Christ Superstar: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album

Amazon link for the dvd of the film of JCS - Jesus Christ Superstar (Special Edition)

Amazon link for the original London Cast of Phantom of the Opera - The Phantom of the Opera (Original 1986 London Cast)

Amazon link for the OBC cd of Cats - Cats: Complete Original Broadway Cast Recording

Betty Buckley and the OBC - "Memory" -

Jesus Christ Superstar- the movie - "Heaven On Their Minds"

Jesus Christ Superstar - the movie- "I Don't Know How to Love Him"

Phantom of the Opera- Tony Awards performance- Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman

Lloyd Webber and Sondheim - play together to honor Cameron Mackintosh -

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