THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The endless success and self-congratulations of Andrew Lloyd Webber
most baffling to a lot of people. His shows are gaudy and often
tuneless and his lyrics are obvious and artless. He even provoked
Waters to once sing the following ode: "Lloyd-Webber's awful stuff runs for years and years and years.
An earthquake hits the theater, but the operetta lingers.
Then the piano lid comes down and breaks his fucking fingers.
It's a miracle."
Still, millions of people have
tickets for shows like Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, and
The Phantom of the Opera. This tribute concert (really a 50th birthday concert), consisting of a
number of high-profile members of his various shows' casts, offers up a
decent overview of Sir Andrew's career without really dwelling on any
one show for too long.
By offering up suites of songs from each show the concert seeks to be
very democratic, which seems odd given that a Broadway flop like
Whistle Down the Wind ends up with an equal share of stage time
as Phantom and Evita. The choice of performer is
occasionally odd; Antonio Banderas struggles through numbers from both
Evita and Phantom (what, Michael Crawford was busy?) but for
the most part the performers are appropriate: Glenn Close sings
Sunset Boulevard, Sarah Brightman sings Phantom.
Elaine Paige sings pieces from various shows and seems the audience favorite. While
the enormous reaction the surging theater has to the opening lines of
"Memory" is dramatic, it's the only song representing Cats, the
longest running show in Broadway history.
This concert, shot at Royal
Albert Hall in London, however, probably reflects British tastes more
than American. (I guess Aspects of Love and Starlight
Express were as easily forgotten there as here, with only one song
each.) Still, with so much emphasis on the past, Lloyd Webber doesn't miss the opportunity to promote the
future, having Kiri Te Kanawa sing a song from his sequel to Phantom, a concept that most likely has
plenty of theater fans trembling with anticipation.
The video is a bit soft and hazy, probably to obscure the aging faces of some of the stars. Overall, it's
well-handled, however, and the gaudy, glitzy production looks perfectly awful.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio sounds fine, bringing out the dense musical construction on some of the richer songs, but also
betraying the tinny rawk phoniness of songs like "The Phantom of the Opera." A Dolby Surround track is also available and sounds fine, if less distinct.
Some trailers and bio info.
Definitely for fans only, The Royal Albert Hall Celebration makes no apologies for the overheated
style of the music. With shows spanning decades (although more often pilfering material from classic films
than based on original material), Lloyd Webber has left his mark on the world of musical theater. Now,
whether that's a mark you're interested in seeing is up to you.