Town Hall was packed Monday night with fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber. In conversation with Glenn Close interviewing, the evening was in celebration of the release of his new memoir, Unmasked and for his multi-CD set, The Platinum Collection. Webber who turns 70 this month, had a remarkable four shows running within eight blocks of each other. In 2017 Phantom, School of Rock, Cats, and Sunset Boulevard, were all playing at the same time. Glenn Close had returned to Broadway in the revival of her Tony-winning performance in Sunset Boulevard.
- To celebrate Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70th birthday, NBC will air Andrew Lloyd Webber Tribute to a Superstar March 28 at 10 PM ET. The evening will include conversation and reflection with Lloyd Webber along with Glenn Close; John Legend, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda; and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. On April 1st, NBC will air its live production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live! with John Legend, Alice Cooper, Sara Barellies and others.
Monday night opened with a tribute video showing a young Webber and Tim Rice. Speaking of how “Memory” was not originally written for cats, but a version of La Bohème, we learn how his father was a musician. When he played “Memory” for him to make sure it did not sound like Puccini, his father replied, “Andrew, it sounds like $10 million.” The song made it into Cats when Judi Dench, who was the original Grizabella needed an emotional number. When director Trevor Nunn heard “Memory”, his father’s words came true, and “Memory” became part of musical theatre history. Judi Dench left the role due to an injury and at the last minute was replaced by Elaine Paige.
Then Glenn Close took to the stage, in jeans a crisp white shirt with her dog, Pip. This dog almost stole the show as he listened intently to what Andrew Lloyd Webber was saying about working with Harold Prince, Judi Dench and the state of musical theatre. Lloyd Webber said his first introduction to musical theatre was through Richard Rodgers. At 13, he wrote a fan letter to Rodgers who invited him to the London premiere of The Sound of Music. The two met again at the Pierre Hotel right during Jesus Christ Superstar. Webber who is prolific and has a keen knowledge of music. He reminisced about Jesus Christ Superstar, which began as a concept album. “When it was first produced in New York, it was horrible.” He revealed that he missed a telegram from Prince expressing his interest in staging the original Jesus Christ Superstar. The two began working together on Evita. He admitted that the writing process was difficult and especially for Evita “because I didn’t really empathize with any of the characters.”
On Sunset Boulevard and hearing Glenn sing for the first time, Close stated that when she sang for Webber and Sunset co-lyricist and book writer Christopher Hampton, Webber “jumped off the couch and said, ‘She has it in her voice!'” “Which meant she doesn’t have it now”, Close laughingly replied. What Close did not know was the Webber had seen her in Richard Rodgers show Rex, and that he was one of the few people to have done so.
Webber talked about Hamilton, Come from Away, Dear Evan Hansen, and The Band’s Visit. “Why I think Broadway is having such a fantastic time at the moment is that the writers coming in are actually writing what they want to write”.
Next were the questions from the audience. The last question was from Meghan Picerno, Christine in the tour of Love Never Dies. “Do you prefer writing for sopranos or chest voices?” Picerno emerged on stage to sing the title song.
In ending this insightful evening Andrew Lloyd Webber stated that “a good story is vital”. Originally planning on producing School of Rock, Webber was drawn to the story’s focus on teaching the arts. “I’m a passionate believer in the importance of music in education. I think it’s an appalling thing that music is so neglected now in our schools”.
Last year, Lloyd Webber donated almost 2 million from his own foundation to give free music lessons to school children.
Andrew Lloyd Webber was so fascinating to listen to, that now I have to read the book. I have enclosed an interview on the “Today Show”, so you can experience for yourself how prolifically funny Andrew Lloyd Webber really is.