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Composer. Andrew Lloyd Webber is an English composer known for such musical theater hits as Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Phantom of the Opera.
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Andrew Lloyd Webber has created some of the most recognizable Broadway music of all time—from Cats to Evita to The Phantom of the Opera—along the way collecting a variety of honors, including knighthood, seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and the Kennedy Center Honors Award. Songs from his musicals have gone on to wide popularity offstage as well, and his theater production company, the Really Useful Group, is one of the largest operating in London.
Andrew Lloyd Webber was born on March 22, 1948, in London. His father was the director of the London College of Music, his mother was a piano teacher and his younger brother, Julian, is a renowned cellist, so one might say that he was born with musical blood running through his veins. A true prodigy, early in life Lloyd Webber played the piano, the violin (at age 3) and the French horn, and began writing his own music (at age 6).
Following his childhood dream of becoming England’s chief inspector of ancient monuments, in 1965 Lloyd Webber entered Westminster School as a Queen’s Scholar and began a course in history at Magdalen College, Oxford. His true calling pulled him in another direction, however, and he dropped out in the winter of 1965 to study at the Royal College of Music and explore his interest in musical theater.
That same year, when he was 17 years old, Lloyd Webber received a letter from 21-year-old law student Tim Rice. It read, in full: “Dearest Andrew, I’ve been told you’re looking for a ‘with it’ writer of lyrics for your songs, and as I’ve been writing pop songs for a while and particularly enjoy writing the lyrics, I wonder if you consider it worth your while meeting me. Tim Rice.” Lloyd Webber found something in that letter that interested him, and thus began the long collaboration of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
In 1965, Lloyd Webber and Rice began working on their first musical, The Likes of Us, which didn’t reach the stage at the time. They were soon commissioned to write a religious concert, and over the next two months, the pair crafted a 20-minute “pop-cantata” version of what would one day become Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a retelling of the biblical story of Joseph. The play debuted on March 1, 1968, and was an immediate success. With each performance, Joseph got bigger and better, ending up with a two-hour run time.
Sticking with a biblical theme, the pair’s next project was Jesus Christ Superstar (1971), presenting pop music in classical operatic form. Jesus began the Lloyd Webber-Rice tradition of recording an album’s worth of music first and then producing the play from it. Lloyd Webber next teamed up with British playwright Alan Ayckbourn on Jeeves (1974), which found little success, and so in 1976 Rice and Lloyd Webber reunited to create Evita as a concept album. The song “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” was a hit, propelling the popularity of the musical, which hit the London stage in 1978. It moved to Broadway the following year.
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