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22 March 2019, 14:37
It’s Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 71st today, to celebrate we’ve made a list of our all-time favourite melodies from his phenomenal body of work
From Phantom of the Opera to Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, these are the tunes that *always* get lodged in our brains.
A musical based on a 20th-century poetry collection? Why not?! Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit musical takes the somewhat unorthodox rote of setting poems from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and stitching them together to create a plot.
The musical’s most famous song is Memory, sung by Grizabella (performed by Elaine Paige in the premiere), remembering her glamorous former life. The lyrics are created from Eliot’s ‘Preludes’ and ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’, but the soaring melody is vintage Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Continuing the theme of picking unexpected subject matter, let’s turn to Jesus Christ Superstar.
In a mash-up which surely must have seemed bonkers at the time: this is a rock opera about the Christian story of the final days of Jesus Christ.
‘Gethsemene’ is a crucial moment for Jesus in the musical, as he wrestles with his doubts in the Garden of Gethsemene. His desperate falsetto cry: ‘Why should I die’ is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. *shivers*
ALW’s Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat sets the standard for musical theatre written to be performed by community groups, youth theatres and schools. It’s an intoxicating mix of satisfying harmonies for choirs and soaring ear-wormy melodies for the soloists.
For many people it’s their first introduction to the glorious world of musical theatre – and what an introduction. 'Any Dream Will Do' is just one of the killer melodies on offer from Joseph.
The life of an Argentine political leader from the 1950s might seem like a strange subject for a musical. But Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s concept album about the life of Eva Perón – which was later turned into a film starring Madonna – went on to become of their best-loved pieces of work.
And this plaintive ballad, ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ is one of the key reasons for its success.
No Andrew Lloyd Webber list would be complete without something from Phantom, and this has to be one of the musical’s best tunes.
The tune, sung by Christine, begins with a simple repeated phrase before soaring up to stratospheric heights, supported with swelling strings. The melody is taken up by the her childhood friend, Raoul. We watch him discover his love with her, while falling for her ourselves.
Another entry for Cats – because it’s a stone-cold classic (other opinions are available but are incorrect). This is the Overture to Cats, and as the first thing you hear in a Broadway blockbuster… it is bold.
There’s a fragment from the clarinet, then silence, another fragment from the flute, a snatch of melody on a brass instrument. But there’s nothing that’s recognisably the main tune until 30 seconds in. And it’s only then we start getting an idea of which key we’re even in the region of.
But somehow, it makes the catchy chorus all the more irresistible when it makes it first appearance at 50 seconds in.
There’s clearly something about the Bible that inspires Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best melody ideas. Because this is another absolute cracker.
In between the narrator’s verses, the chorus sings: “Hang on now Joseph, don’t give up Joseph, fight till you drop. We’ve read the book and you come out on top.”
Like an Ancient Greek chorus, they are outside the action and comment on the story. Andrew Lloyd Webber = a latter-day Aeschylus, basically.
‘Love Changes Everything’ comes from a lesser-known Lloyd Webber musical, Aspects of Love. But the first performance starred one Michael Ball, and he has gone on to make the song something of a calling card. It’s a simple and memorable melody with lyrics that tug at the heart-strings – practically a Lloyd Webber trademark.
He released the song as a single in 1989 and it stayed in the pop singles charts for a massive 14 weeks, reaching Number 2.