Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber (born 22 March 1948) is a highly successful British composer of musical theatre.
He has arguably been the most popular theatre composer of the late 20th century, with multiple showpieces which have run for more than a decade both on Broadway and in the West End. He has composed 16 musicals, two film scores, and a Latin Requiem Mass. He has also accumulated a number of honours, including three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Oscar, an International Emmy, six Olivier Awards, and a Golden Globe Award. Several of his songs, notably "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" from Evita, "Memory" from Cats, and "The Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera have been widely recorded and were hits outside of their parent musicals. His company the Really Useful Group is one of the largest theatre operators in London.
Andrew Lloyd Webber was born on March 22, 1948 in South Kensington. He is the son of composer William Lloyd Webber and piano teacher Jean Johnstone Lloyd Webber, and his younger brother is the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. He was a Queen's Scholar of Westminster School and studied history for a time at Magdalen College, Oxford (although he did not complete the course, deciding instead to pursue his interest in musical theatre).
His first wife was Sarah Hugill. They married on 24 July 1972 and had two children, Imogen Lloyd Webber (born 31 March 1977) and Nicholas (born 2 July 1979). Lloyd Webber and Hugill were divorced in 1983. He then married singer and dancer Sarah Brightman on 22 March 1984. He cast Brightman as the lead in The Phantom of the Opera. However, the marriage did not last, and they divorced in 1990, though remaining friends. He married his present wife, Madeleine Gurdon, on 1 February 1991, and had three more children: Alastair (born 3 May 1992), William (born 24 August 1993), and Isabella (born 30 April 1996).
He was knighted in 1992 and created a life peer in 1997 as Baron Lloyd-Webber, of Sydmonton in the County of Hampshire. (His peerage title is hyphenated but his surname is not.) He is ranked the 87th richest Briton in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006 with an estimated wealth of £700m. He also owns much of Watership Down, the down made famous by Richard Adams's novel of the same name.
Politically, he had been an active supporter and promoter of the Conservative Party, even writing special music for a party political broadcast. However, in recent years, he has distanced himself from the Conservatives.
Lord Lloyd-Webber is an art collector with a passion for Victorian art. An exhibition of works from his collection was presented at the Royal Academy in 2003 under the title Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters—The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's first musical with lyricist Tim Rice was The Likes of Us, a musical based on the true story of Thomas John Barnardo. This musical was not performed, however, until as recently as 2005 when a production of The Likes Of Us was staged at Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sydmonton Festival. The music and lyrics had a light, breezy charm that also characterised their next musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a work which they were commissioned to write for Colet Court, a prep school, in 1968. Joseph gained some recognition on its second staging with a favorable review in The Times. For its subsequent performances, the musical underwent a number of revisions by Lloyd Webber and Rice with the inclusion of additional songs that expanded the musical to a more substantial length. This culminated in a two hour long production being staged in the West End on the back of the success of their third musical together, Jesus Christ Superstar (1970). Jesus Christ Superstar had been released as a concept album starring Ian Gillan prior to being staged in the West End at the Lyceum Theatre. It is a rock opera based on the last days in the life of Jesus Christ. As one might expect given the subject matter, the music has a weightier tone than Joseph.
Lloyd Webber's next project with Tim Rice was to be a musical comedy based on the Jeeves and Wooster novels by P. G. Wodehouse. Rice was uncertain about this venture and, after doing some initial work on the lyrics, pulled out of the project. Lloyd Webber subsequently wrote the musical with Alan Ayckbourn, who provided the book and lyrics. The musical, Jeeves, failed at the box office and closed after a short run of only three weeks. Lloyd Webber and Ayckbourn revisited this project many years later, producing a thoroughly reworked and more successful version of the musical entitled By Jeeves (1996).
The next musical collaboration between Lloyd Webber and Rice was Evita (1976), a musical based on the life of Eva Peron. As with Jesus Christ Superstar, this musical was released first as a concept album and featured Julie Covington singing the part of Eva Peron. The song "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" became a hit single and the musical was subsequently staged at the Prince Edward Theatre in a production directed by Harold Prince and starring Elaine Paige in the title role. It had an extremely successful run of ten years in the West End and opened on Broadway in 1979. Rice and Lloyd Webber parted ways soon after Evita. The reasons for this have never been entirely clear and are somewhat open to speculation.
The composer's next musical was Cats (1981), based on T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939) which Lloyd Webber recalled as having been a childhood favorite. The songs of the musical comprised Eliot's verse set to music by the composer, the exception being the most famous song from the musical, "Memory", for which the lyrics were the product of director Trevor Nunn's reworking of an unrelated, non-Possum Eliot poem entitled "Rhapsody on a Windy Night". Cats was the longest running Broadway musical, spanning a reign of more than twenty years. Following Cats, Lloyd Webber wrote Starlight Express, a musical also directed by Trevor Nunn which was a commercial hit but which was panned by the critics. It enjoyed a record run in the West End, but ran for less than three years on Broadway.
Lloyd Webber wrote a Requiem Mass which premiered in New York on 25 February 1985 at St Thomas Church. This composition had been inspired by an article he had read about the plight of Cambodian orphans. It was dedicated to his father, William Lloyd Webber, who had died in 1982. Although a Requiem Mass might seem like a surprising shift in direction from the stage musical, John Snelson points out in his biography of Lloyd Webber that church music had been very much a part of the composer's upbringing and that Lloyd Webber had on a number of occasions written sacred music for the annual Sydmonton festival (Snelson, 2004). Lloyd Webber received a Grammy Award in 1986 for Requiem in the category of best classical composition. Perhaps surprisingly given the classical nature of the work, the Pie Jesu from Requiem climbed to the top of the popular music charts in Great Britain.
In 1986, Lloyd Webber premiered his next musical, The Phantom of the Opera, inspired by the 1911 Gaston Leroux novel. He wrote the part of Christine for his then wife, Sarah Brightman who played the role in the original London and Broadway productions alongside Michael Crawford. The production was directed by Harold Prince, who had also directed Evita. Charles Hart wrote the lyrics for the musical with some additional material provided by Richard Stilgoe, and Lloyd Webber co-wrote the musical's book with Stilgoe. Although the musical received mixed reviews from the critics, it became a phenomenal hit and is still running in both the West End and on Broadway; in January 2006 it overtook Cats as the longest running musical on Broadway.
Aspects of Love followed in 1989, a musical based on the story by David Garnett. The lyrics were by Don Black and Charles Hart and the original production was directed by Trevor Nunn. Whereas Phantom had a very elaborate staging, Aspects of Love was more simple in its design, the emphasis being placed on the intimacy of the theatrical experience. Lloyd Webber decided to use a smaller pit orchestra making the through composed score somewhat more akin to a chamber work. The musical had a successful run of four years in London but did not fare nearly as well on Broadway, where it closed after less than a year.
Lloyd Webber was asked to write a song for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and composed "Amigos Para Siempre" ("Friends Forever") with Don Black providing the lyrics. Lloyd Webber's many other musical theatre works include Sunset Boulevard, Whistle Down the Wind, Song and Dance, The Beautiful Game and The Woman in White. While some of his works have had enormous commercial success, his career has not been without failures, especially in the United States. Song and Dance, Starlight Express, and Aspects of Love, all successes in London, did not meet the same reception in New York, and all lost money in short, critically panned runs. In 1995, Sunset Boulevard became a very successful Broadway show, opening with the largest advance in Broadway history, and winning seven Tony Awards that year. However, owing to high weekly costs, it became the biggest economic musical failure in history, losing 25 million dollars. His subsequent shows (Whistle Down the Wind and The Beautiful Game) did not make it to Broadway, and his most recent musical The Woman in White closed after a very short run in New York. This closing is largely credited to many absences in the cast for many of the shows; only 39 of the 108 performances had the full cast. Maria Friedman and Michael Ball both missed shows frequently; the former was battling breast cancer and the latter suffered a throat infection. Andrew is currently starring in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria till September 2006.
There have been a number of film adaptations of Lloyd Webber's musicals: Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) was directed by Norman Jewison, Evita (1996) was directed by Alan Parker, and most recently The Phantom of the Opera was directed by Joel Schumacher (and coproduced by Lloyd Webber). There is rumor of Sunset Boulevard making it to the big screen with Close reprising her Broadway role.
Lloyd Webber produced Bombay Dreams with Indian composer A. R. Rahman in 2002.