Andrew Lloyd Webber is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time. Born in London on March 22nd, 1948 his father was the Director of the London College of Music and his mother was a piano teacher. As a young boy he took piano lessons in London and later french horn and violin classes. He was a prodigy of music.
In 1965 he studied at Westminster School and and began taking a course in history. Like many artists and performers he dropped out to follow his true passion, music. He went on to study at the Royal College of Music where he received a letter from Tim Rice stating that he is “hip” writer and would like to meet up. Tim Rice would soon become an award winning lyricist and work with Webber on numerous musical collaborations.
Webber composed over 15 musicals and here are some of the most notable.
Based on the book Old Possums Book of Practical Cats by T.S Eliot. The show is about a group of cats called the Jellicles. During the course of the evening the cats introduce themselves hoping to be selected and reborn to a new Jellicle life. It included the songs “The Song of The Jellicles,” “Mr. Mistoffelees,” and “Memory.” The show opened in 1981 and is the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history.
Evita is about Eva Peron, an Argentine political leader. It focuses on her life, rise to power, good deeds and death. It originally opened at the London’s West End in 1978 and then on Broadway in 1979. This show featured the notable song “Don’t Cry for me Argentin.” Evita was later made into a film, which starred Madonna as Eva Peron and Antonio Banderas as Che. Evita earned three Tony Awards.
3. Sunset Blvd
Sunset Blvd is based on 1950’s American film noir. The story is about Norma Desmond who is a washed up silent screen star. She comes across a young screenwriter named Joe Gillis and sees him as an opportunity to make a come back in the movie world. The show opened in 1993 in London and later on Broadway in 1994. Norma utters the notable quote “All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.”
4. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
With lyrics by Tim Rice this operetta/musical is based on the story of Joseph “coat of many colors” from the book of genesis in the Bible. The show contains very little dialogue and is mostly sung, including “Any Dream will Do” and “Go,Go,Go Joseph.” In 1968, the show was first presented as a 15 minute cantata at the Colet Court School in London. The Tony-nominated show later opened in 1982 on Broadway.
5. Jesus Christ Superstar
This was the first musical that Webber and Tim Rice produced for the stage. This musical featured pop music in a classical form. It focused on the final days of Jesus’ life with a larger part of the play focusing on the events through the eyes of Judas. It included the songs “Everything’s Alright,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” and “Superstar.” The show was condemned by some religious groups for how it depicted the characters. The show first started as a concept album and was later turned into a musical production. Webber was awarded Most Promising Composer for this production by the Drama Desk in 1972.
6. Phantom of the Opera
Based on the novel Le Fantome de l’Opera, it revolves around a disfigured musical genius and his obsession over the Soprano-singing Christine. This Tony and Olivier Award winning musical is the longest running in Broadway history. With music by Webber and lyric by Charles Hart this beautiful show included the songs ” Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” and “Angel of Music”.
Webber has earned numerous awards and honors including an Oscar, Tony’s, Olivier’s, a Kennedy Center Honors Awards, and he was knighted in 1992. He also funded the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which promotes and encourages the arts and culture for public benefit. The foundation enables individuals to develop their abilities and careers in what they understand can be hard when faced with difficult economic times.
And be sure to check out our recent piece highlighting the best works of Leonard Bernstein
What strikes me is there’s a very fine line between success and failure. Just one ingredient can make the difference – Andrew Lloyd Webber