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Phil Willmott

There’s no Self-Isolating from Andrew Lloyd Webber!

Andrew Lloyd Webber We can self-isolate against the Corona virus but if you follow theatre industry news there’s, seemingly almost daily, new exposure to Andrew Lloyd Webber. Here’s a roundup of recent nuggets.

First of all here’s his Lordship on when we’ll be able to enjoy West End Theatre again.

“The industry says theatres reopen June 7. My opinion? Optimistic. Ridiculous. I think this peaks in June, and theatres remain closed until end of September.”

Does he have the inside knowledge of a higher power? You may recall he’s delayed the opening of his new musical, CINDERELLA until deepest autumn.

Details are still scarce about what we can expect from it but here he is talking at Emerald Fennell, who came up with the idea, and Carrie Hope Fletcher who’ll play the title role.



Now, in recent years he’s gained rather a reputation for not listening to anyone’s advise, and stream rolling everyone to do his bidding like a Tudor monarch. His last musical but one, STEPHEN WARD, being a chilling example of what can go wrong when an ego is unchecked by cowering minions. You'll have noticed that, rather worryingly, neither young woman could get a word in edge ways until nearly half way through the clip. Let’s hope there’s someone, anyone, near him to whom he’ll listen.

He has also released a charmingly informal clip of him at the piano treating us to a snippet of what’s to come.

It’s a lovely melody, but as a number of people have pointed out the really gorgeous bit of the tune is actually a straight lift from IN MY OWN LITTLE CORNER from Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s 1957 musical CINDERELLA. He must realise, right?

Don’t believe me? Check out this clip of Julie Andrew’s performing in its TV premiere. Scroll to 1 minute in and you’ll see what I mean.



As if this weren’t enough, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been streaming a selection of his musicals, each one for 48 hours, for free online in a new series for his own YouTube channel entitled THE SHOWS MUST GO ON.

There’s one to enjoy each week for seven weeks. They’re released on Friday nights and then available to stream for 48 hours before they’re snatched away from us. (well unless you’re a subscriber to Netflix or Amazon Prime etc where, as ever, you can continue to watch them anytime; although not always, it must be conceded, for free)

I'm afraid you’ve already missed his free showing of a the 2000 adaptation of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT starring 1970’s pop star Donny Osmond, with Maria Friedman, Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins.

I didn’t catch it but judging by this preview, still available on YouTube, it may not have aged well, but it’s fun to watched scrubbed up little kids swamped by way too much stage smoke in a school assembly where Joseph himself burst through the door. Even their parents were probably too young to remember Osmond in his heyday so their little faces light up as if they’re thinking “who the hell is that?”



Last weekend it was the turn of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, starring Tim Minchin, Ben Forster, Melanie C and Chris Moyles in a vast stadium production, directed by Laurence Connor, of which I’ve nothing but praise.



OK it’s bombastic and a little too didactic with its depiction of JC and the gang as anti-capitalist protesters encamped on the steps of somewhere like St Paul's Cathedral, as they were in that year. But the leads give such revelatory performances, especially Minchin, that it blows the dust off the classic. The arrangements are sweeping and exhilarating.

This weekend, week of three of lockdown (will future historians name each 7 day period of self-isolation after an ALW musical?) we were treated to the 25th-anniversary production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA staged as a concert, at one end of the Albert Hall, again by Connor. He'll also be directing CINDERELLA and has quickly established himself as the go-to director for stylishly efficient productions that don’t ruffle the feathers of mega-star writers and producers.

I haven’t seen a production since I queued all day to see Michael Crawford in the original and it was a real treat to be reminded of just how sumptuous everything was, the costumes; the scenery and the sweeping score – Lloyd Webber’s best?

At time of writing, next Friday’s 48 hour release has not been announced. Although the Lord has hinted one of the offerings will be BY JEEVES, his favourite flop, based on the comic novels of P.G. Wodehouse.

What will be the climax of the series? A promo for CINDERELLA?

I think we can safely assume it won’t be a showing of his recent film, CATS… or STEPHEN WARD.