With the weekly streaming series coming to an end this weekend with 'Cats', I thought now was the perfect time to look back at the past shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber and rank them based on my opinion.
I have a strange relationship with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Some of his shows I love, some of them I have nightmares about. While his contribution to theatre over the decades is incredible, I find a lot of his shows messy and inconsistent when compared to other composers. Still, there are a few jewels in his crown.
I could only include the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows I've seen myself (obviously) so there are going to be some glaring omissions here - most notably Starlight Express which is top of my list of shows of his I've yet to see. Obviously this is my personal taste so prepare to disagree completely - but that's the beauty of theatre! Let me know just how wrong I am afterwards!
10. BY JEEVES
Not one of his most famous shows by a long shot but this is Andrew Lloyd Webber's personal favourite. A remaking of his 1975 show Jeeves, this isn't really a musical but more a play with music. The play itself is a farce that has been done a lot better in Noises Off and The Play That Goes Wrong and it is unfair to credit that failure to Andrew. However, the music isn't memorable, save for the title track and 'Half A Moment' the rest are irredeemable. This sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of ALW's repertoire and is pretty unwatchable.
9. LOVE NEVER DIES
Oh Phantom, what did they do to you? This completely unnecessary sequel to the longest running and most iconic of ALW's shows completely undoes the magic set up by the original. Characters have complete personality overhauls in ways that do not feel natural but instead forced. The show plays out as bad fan fiction and comes complete with an unsatisfying accident. There is something deeply uncomfortable about watching the Phantom walk around town with groups of people after lurking in the shadows in the original. It's not all bad though - the opening number 'Til I Hear You Sing' is one of his finest numbers. Aside from that though, it's clear to see why this was such a massive flop.
8. THE WOMAN IN WHITE
Not one of ALW's most famous shows, this originally ran for just over 18 months in the West end in 2004 and just 3 months on Broadway a year later. I saw a revival of this in 2017. There are no memorable songs in this which is its biggest downfall. Most shows when you watch them will give you an emotion one way or another, whether you find yourself liking or disliking it. This one did neither. I came out of the theatre feeling flat, like I'd watched beige paint dry. I couldn't tell you anything that happened on that stage apart from a prop getting stuck in the moving stage which was the most interesting thing that happened that night.
Hopefully by now you will have read my review on the 1998 production of Cats. This was previously my most disliked show of all the ones I had ever seen, and my least favourite ALW show by a mile. To summarise my review, I dislike that there is no plot to this show whatsoever. However, watching the online stream I found myself loving the iconic choreography and staging in general. Still a weak show overall but between that and one of the finest musical theatre songs in the form of 'Memory', there are some watchable aspects of this.
6. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
If my issue with Cats is that I hated it in the theatre but liked the online stream, Jesus Christ Superstar has the opposite effect. The first time I saw this show was watching the DVD of the arena tour several years ago - I really disliked it. I then went to see the recent Regents Park production at the Barbican last year and was blown away. But then I watched the stream of the arena tour again a few weeks ago and still disliked it (not even mentioning the American live one). So this is a bit of a weird one - I don't really know how I feel about it. It is the testament to how important a good production can be to the success of a show. The Barbican production had one of the most talented casts I had ever seen on stage but I feel oddly cold to the other versions I have seen. This does feature several incredible songs including 'I Don't Know How To Love Him' and the phenomenal 'Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say)' which features one of the most spine-tingling moments in any musical song you will ever hear (You know what I'm referring to)
5. SCHOOL OF ROCK
Now sadly closed in both the West end and Broadway, this is the first ALW show I have seen that I can say I truly like. The most recent musical of his (until Cinderella premieres hopefully later this year) the remake of the Jack Black led comedy movie may not have seemed like the obvious choice for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical but fortune favours the bold, and ALW had a huge success with this adaptation. Apart from the comedy, there is a charm to this show which only grows when envying the sheer talent of the children on the stage.
4. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
I can hear the gasps that this didn't make my top 3. In all honesty, I considered not even putting this in the top 5. I have seen Phantom twice in the theatre and then watched the online stream recently. I have very mixed feelings about this one. It features some of ALW's best songs such as 'The Music Of The Night', 'All I Ask Of You', 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again' and of course the haunting title track. There is also the iconic staging including the chandelier moment, but this has never been one of my favourite shows. I would see it again in the theatre but it wouldn't be my first choice. The fact it has been running for over 33 years is an incredible achievement. What would theatre be without Phantom? We wouldn't have had Love Never Dies for one thing but it can't be blamed for that.
First opening in 1978, the story of Eva Perón has become one of Andrew Lloyd Webbers most iconic works, with Madonna famously playing the role in the 1996 movie adaptation. As well as the movie, I have seen the 2017 West end production of this starring Emma Hatton as well as last years Regents Park Open Air Theatre production (which was due to run at the Barbican this year). Both were very different productions that brought new elements to this well known tale. At the heart of it, this has a moving story and immerses you into her world. The songs in this show are stunning. As well as 'Buenos Aires', 'You Must Love Me' (originally written for the movie and added in to productions afterwards) the classic 'Don't cry for me Argentina' will give you goosebumps every single time, 'Another suitcase in another hall' doesn't get the attention it deserves.
2. JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
This show has a big piece of my heart. It was the first musical I ever saw in the theatre back when I was a lot smaller than I am today (not just because of how much I've been eating in lockdown). Phillip Schofield was the first Joseph I saw but that was after I had played Jason Donovan's 'Any Dream Will Do' to death. I saw it for the first time as an adult last year with the revival at the Palladium. That production was definitely a Marmite affair for a lot of people, partly due to Sheridan Smiths different take on the narrator. I personally loved the show - it may be down to sentimental values and because this show kick started my love affair with musical theatre, but I found it deeply enjoyable. I went for a repeat visit a few weeks later and had tickets to see it again this summer. Jac Yarrow gave one of the best performances I have ever seen especially with his incredible take on 'Close Every Door'. It is a bit panto-esque at times but there's nothing wrong with a bit of panto every now and then.
1. SUNSET BOULEVARD
This might not be the obvious choice for a number one ALW show but it has been my personal favourite of his since I saw it at 2016 for the first time. Certain theatre experiences will stay with me forever and Glenn Close's portrayal of Norma Desmond is one of them. As soon as I left the theatre I booked tickets to go again the following week. I only regret stopping at two visits. 'With One Look' and the title track are up there with Andrews best, I was already obsessed with 'The Perfect Year' from when Dina Carroll released it as a single in the 1990s, and 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' is without a doubt my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber song of all time. I still get goosebumps thinking about Glenn Close's rendition of it and the seemingly never-ending applause that followed it. Close is reprising her role in an upcoming movie adaptation of the musical.If you enjoy a bit of drama, check out Patti Lupones comments about her history with this show in her autobiography. So what do you think? Am I as mad as Normal at the end of Sunset Boulevard for these choices? What shows of his haven't I seen that you think should get a look in?