A life for the big stage: Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 75 | free press

A life for the big stage: Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 75 |  free press

For more than half a century, Andrew Lloyd Webber has dominated the big stages of Broadway and London’s West End with his hit musicals. His creativity seems far from exhausted.

The secret of his success is good stories: Andrew Lloyd Webber once revealed this in an interview. “You always have to start with the story,” said the British musical composer, who is celebrating his 75th birthday this Wednesday (March 22), the US broadcaster NBC a few years ago. He should know: “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Evita”, “Cats” and “Phantom der Oper” – the list of his hit musicals, which have delighted people for decades, is long.

Born in 1948 in the chic London district of Kensington, Lloyd Webber grew up in a musical household. His father is a composer and teacher at the Royal College of Music in London, and his mother is a pianist. Andrew, who has a younger brother, began writing music and performing musicals in the family circle when he was still in elementary school. However, these were “terrible, terrible”, he admits later.

But it’s not just the classical music of his parents’ home, rock and pop also have a strong influence on young Andrew. Finally, he fuses everything into one unmistakable style.

Successful with copywriter Tim Rice

His breakthrough came in a year-long collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice, which resulted in both “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (1968) and “Jesus Chris Superstar” (1970). However, the cooperation ends with the musical “Evita” about the former Argentine president’s wife and actress Eva Perón. The song “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” topped the charts in the UK and beyond.

“Tim was sick of my tantrums. My defense is that getting the sound right is so important to me,” Lloyd Webber admits in his 70th birthday memoir Unmasked.

Lloyd Webber himself was surprised by the huge success of “Cats” (1981), which became the longest-running musical on Broadway before it was succeeded by “Phantom of the Opera” (1986). “Starlight Express” (1984), unappreciated by critics, also became a commercial success. The fast-paced roller skating musical has been performed in Bochum in a purpose-built theater since 1988, which recently celebrated 18 million visitors.

Musical pope with knightly honours

Lloyd Webber was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 and raised to the higher nobility in 1997 as Baron Lloyd-Webber of Sydmonton. He has long been regarded as the pope of musicals. He is one of a small circle of people who have won at least one each of the coveted Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (EGOT) awards.

Later it gets a little quieter around him. He struggles with prostate cancer and back problems. “I took so much morphine and painkillers – and frankly, I drank too much – that I honestly thought it was all over,” he told theater newspaper The Stage. But he fights back. With “School of Rock” (2015) and “Bad Cinderella” (2021) he proves that he has lost none of his creativity. In 2017, four of his musicals are running simultaneously on Broadway.

Lockdowns in the corona pandemic hit him hard. He is vehemently committed to opening theaters and concert halls in Great Britain and is publicly annoyed with celebrating football fans at the European Championship in 2021. If the government does not allow performances in front of full seats in time, he will, if necessary, ignore the rules, he announces at. He even wants to be arrested – but he is spared that.

Nevertheless, his latest musical “Cinderella” in the West End has to close after less than a year. Corona cases in the ensemble and ever new lockdowns mean that performances have to be canceled repeatedly. In the meantime, previews of a new production of the play with a new cast entitled “Bad Cinderella” have started on Broadway.

Lloyd Webber missed the official premiere of the musical on Thursday, one day after his birthday, for personal reasons. He announced over the weekend that his eldest son, Nicholas, was seriously ill. “As my friends and family know, he has been battling stomach cancer for 18 months and now Nick is in the hospital.” That is why his place is right next to his son.

A Hymn for King Charles

Lloyd Webber is in his element when he accompanies the title song of “Phantom of the Opera” on the keyboard in a purple suit to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s throne in the summer of 2022 in front of Buckingham Palace. For the coronation of King Charles III. in May of this year he was even commissioned to compose a hymn.

He was “incredibly honored,” he says. “I hope my anthem will do justice to this happy occasion,” said Lloyd Webber. Even at the age of 75, the lively Briton seems far from thinking about retirement. (dpa)


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