March 19, 2002
Show tunes

Greg Hlatky discusses Andrew Lloyd Webber and his place in the pantheon of theatrical composers. For my money, I thought the music of Phantom of the Opera was overrated. Yes, All I Ask of You is a great song, but Lloyd Webber uses its theme, along with maybe two others, to death in PotO. It just gets boring after while.

Frankly, my favorite Lloyd Webber show is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It's lively, it's bouncy, it contains a wide variety of musical styles and themes, and it hasn't a pretentious note in its score. Not that it's impossible to screw it up - Tiffany and I had the extreme misfortune of seeing a local production of Joseph that starred some generic Osmond offspring a couple of years ago. The people who put this show on ruined it in every way imaginable, mostly by taking each song and doubling it in length. It was one climax and reprise after another until you wanted to wrest the baton from the conductor's hand and cut the band off yourself.

The nadir was the song about Pharaoh's Dream, which is done in an Elvis Presley style (he's the King, after all). The song, which describes the dreams that Joseph interprets to mean seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, is early in the second act. It was also the first one they'd done that was true to Lloyd Webber's original arrangement. Just as Tiffany and I turned to each other to marvel that they'd finally gotten one right, Joseph says "I don't understand", which prompts Pharoah to sing the whole damned song over again from the beginning. It's not easy to insult the audience of a pop musical comedy, but they did so in spades. We should have gotten up and left right then, but the seats were way up front and we didn't want to make a scene. And as it turned out, the rest of the audience wasn't insulted anyway - they gave this godforsaken production a standing ovation at the end. Yes, I'm still steamed about the whole thing.

Anyway. Joseph is my fave, even despite this experience. The rest of Lloyd Webber's portfolio I can take or leave.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 19, 2002 to Music