Millennium Post

Poor man's Mozart

The ways and means of creative imagination can even find one like Andrew Lloyd Webber propped up by his countless admirers from the Broadway to the Westend as a "genius". Indeed, ever since the composition of Evita for the stage and the screen, there was no looking back. He even won an Oscar for his composition and the rest, as they say, has been the beginning of a fairy tale for him. To the common man, he is no classical composer in the mould of a Mozart who we are familiar with, but he is, sans doubt, gifted with the Midas touch. His first book, "Unmasked" is just out. Published to coincide with his 70th birthday, it is a memoir of some of the most recognised musicals in the history of theatre, including The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Evita. In "Unmasked", he looks back over more than five decades in the spotlight as he recounts his fascinating life and remarkable career. Webber goes back to his origins, illuminating his charming, offbeat family, including his bohemian mother and her pet monkey; his grandmother, who was a founding member of the Christian Communist Party; his zany aunt, who authored the first gay cookbook; and his richly talented younger brother Julian Lloyd Webber. He recalls the musicals he created as a child, his school days at Oxford, his artistic influences, including Tim Rice and David Niven, and how he made the decision to leave school to pursue the musical career that would make him a global superstar. He illuminates his creative process and takes us behind the scenes of his productions, sharing fascinating details about the shows and the rich cast of characters involved with making them hits. Consider the mega hits of modern musical theatre –"Jesus Christ Superstar," "Evita," "The Phantom of the Opera," plus, thanks to TS Eliot, a poetic tale set in a junkyard populated entirely by singers and dancers dressed as felines. He started mounting shows in a toy theatre as a boy in London. As he tells it in "Unmasked," Lloyd Webber's father was a working-class boy whose own musical talent turned him into an academic and composer. In many ways, he reminds us of the great filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, who was a marvelous music composer in his own right. But, for the beginning, he composed music for all his films starting with "Teen Kanya". His compositions had a distinct stamp of his own. To that extent, both Webber and he share something in common. But, such composers are few and far between. Till some others come along, may Webber continue to entertain and enthral. He could be a modern poor man's Mozart but so what?

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