Tonight’s return of Evita to Broadway means that once again Lloyd Webber has three shows running concurrently here, along with the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar that opened a couple of weeks ago and the now-and-forever Phantom of the Opera (now the longest running musical in Broadway history).
Two of those three shows, of course, were written with Tim Rice, who also has a third show on Broadway — he provided lyrics for The Lion King that’s also still running here. So once again this pair, whose first production of Jesus Christ Superstar actually opened on Broadway ahead of its West End premiere, are the kings of the Broadway musical.
Mind you, they have competition from Alan Menken, who is currently also represented by three shows — last season’s Sister Act, plus the screen-to-stage transfer of Newsies that I wrote about here yesterday, and the newly-previewing Leap of Faith. Menken, who of course began as a composer on the New York stage — writing the score to Little Shop of Horrors with his late co-writer Howard Ashman — subsequently became more prolific as an eight-times Oscar winning film composer, so it’s good to have him back in the theatre.
Not that he’s given up the movies, either: he’s also scored Mirror, Mirror, a new adaptation of Snow White that opened in New York cinemas last Friday. And in a press release for it he says, “Despite my love of musicals, of both the stage and film variety, my most intense composing experience actually comes from scoring a movie. The contained period of time when I spend my days and nights living within every fraction of a second of a motion picture is an exquisite combination of being totally at the service of a director’s vision and yet in a powerful position to influence and interpret the meaning of the film. I would consider my career incomplete without having the privilege of composing film scores and the thrill of hearing them fully realized thru the brilliant work of so many fantastic orchestrators, conductors and musicians.”
But the theatre clearly still provides a major inspiration, conscious or not: on the film soundtrack, the songs “The Training” and “Mannequin Attack” sound very similar indeed to Sondheim’s ‘Stay with Me’ from Into the Woods.
Talking of composers, today I’m heading to Washington DC, or rather Arlington VA across the river, to see Brother Russia, a new musical being premiered at the Signature Theatre there. It’s by Dana P Rowe and John Dempsey, the American duo whose shows The Fix and The Witches of Eastwick were both originally premiered in London under the auspices of Cameron Mackintosh.
To declare an interest, Dana P (as I call him) has been a very good friend of mine ever since we first met before The Fix even opened; and no, we didn’t even meet in a theatre or interview, but in a London gay bar! Last summer he vacationed (as they say here) with my partner and I in the apartment we rented in Provincetown on Cape Cod.
And in an interview on Broadwayworld last week, he spoke about his musical influences and I discovered something I never knew before about how he came to write the way he does: “I grew up playing classical piano and playing gospel piano, and, then, right before my brother went into the National Guard, he gave me a stack of albums and he said, ‘Keep these safe for me and whatever you do, don’t let mom and dad hear them!’ And, it was just that - it was The Doors; it was Janis Joplin; it was the 2-LP set of Woodstock. I got a copy of Jesus Christ Superstar n the sly - and I had it memorized by the end of the Summer it came out, as I recall. You know, I listened to all of that stuff on headphones because my mom and dad were very, very adamant about not listening to certain kinds of music - you know, I could only listen to my Chopin and Arthur Rubinstein; which I did, sort of religiously. So, it’s all the sum of my musical parts, as I say - I love all sorts of music and much of it is organic to me for one reason or another; whether it is opera and that world or whether it’s the classics in the rock world. It’s all a part of me.”
Quotes of the week: Andrew Lloyd Webber on donating £125,000 to the Theatres Trust for their Theatres Protection Fund, quoted in The Guardian: “I’m a great lover of architecture and obviously theatres in particular. I hope my foundation’s donation will help look after some of the less well-known prestigious theatres around the country and also maybe encourage other creators, writers and producers who have been lucky in the theatre, to join me in donating …I’m thinking of people who have made a decent living that can actually give something back. These buildings are crumbling. We don’t want them ending up as lapdancing clubs or being pulled down.”
And Lloyd Webber’s wife Madeleine, who is a foundation trustee, comments: “Andrew has created a huge amount of millionaires in this business. There’s an awful lot of people out there that are very well off thanks to live theatre.”
Between them, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and the previewing Evita grossed $3,147,840 last week alone on Broadway. Madeleine is right: a lot of people are very well off thanks to live theatre, not least Lloyd Webber himself.