Who hasn't emoted to songs such as I Don't Know How to Love Him, Memory and The Music of the Night? I certainly have, as have millions across the world. These are only three of the many iconic songs that have come from the pen of Andrew Lloyd Webber between 1968 (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat) and the present (Love Never Dies). Lloyd Webber is prolific to say the least. He is the only theatrical composer to have been featured on the cover of Time magazine (1989); the most successful British composer of musicals; and the only one to have had six hit musicals running simultaneously in London and three running simultaneously in New York! Quite an achievement and certainly worthy of celebration; and that is exactly what The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, now showing at Melbourne's Regent Theatre, is.
The audience at the opening performance on Sunday were treated to a selection of songs from Lloyd Webber musicals – some well know, some lesser known, some yet to be produced in Australia - all beautifully performed by a cast of established and emerging musical stars. The set (Julie Lynch – set and costume designer and digital media art director) was simple but really effective: several screens, framed by lights, onto which were projected images that served to place the individual songs in their musical context and/or to create an appropriate atmosphere. The band were onstage, behind the screens, but the conductor was visible centre stage. Two sets of steps were the only other props. The singers and their songs were the centre of attention with the projections and lighting providing an appropriate complement to each performance.
There were selections from almost all of the Lloyd Webber musicals, up to and including the latest, Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera, which will open at the Regent in May; directed by Simon Phillips, with choreography by Graeme Murphy. Surely a production not to be missed by musical theatre fans.
Lloyd Webber has always been a wiz with marketing. The 1970s hit Jesus Christ Super Star started life as a double album which became a worldwide best seller, prompting concert performances and then ultimately full staging as a rock-opera. Similarly Evita was first introduced to the public as a recording, with Julie Covington's Don't Cry for Me Argentina reaching #1 on the British charts within weeks of its release. Surely the timing of this production is perfect in terms of exciting interest for the upcoming Love Never Dies.
That is not to belittle the current production or the appropriateness of celebrating such a successful and much loved musician who has entertained audiences across the world with a variety of innovative and constantly evolving musical theatre.
The performance began with a powerful rendition of Love Changes Everything sung by Trisha Crowe and Michael Cormick, both of whom have appeared internationally in Lloyd Webber musicals including playing the lead in Evita and The Phantom of the Opera respectively. The evening's performance was varied in mood and tone, building to a suitably dramatic climax in the second act with a superb rendition of The Phantom of the Opera and The Music of the Night performed by Cormick and Hannah. The first song was presented with such passion that the audience burst into spontaneous applause before the singers were able to segue into the second piece. Then the mood quickly changed to a full-on 1970s rock-style presentation of Superstar, with the male singers dressed in silver jackets and the women in sparkling dresses and wearing deep pink gloves echoing the girl groups of the 70s.
The encore had the whole company in a reprise of Love Changes Everything and the audience clapped along in time.
The evening had a great vibe, the audience was treated to good music and fine performances. Afficianados will not be disappointed, even if their favourite Lloyd Webber tune was overlooked, whilst those not so much in the know are likely to be impressed by the variety and range of Lloyd Webber's music. Like the usher I passed on my way out, most are likely to leave the theatre singing their favourite song of the night.
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber
Director Stuart Maunder
Musical Supervisor Guy Noble
Venue: Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Dates: Saturday 19 March – Sunday 27 March 2011
Times: Tuesday – Saturday @ 8pm; Wednesday 1pm; Saturday 2pm; Sunday 5pm (Week 1) and Sunday 3pm (Week 2). Performance times may be subject to change without notice.
Bookings: 1300 111 011 | ticketmaster.com.au
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