Top positive review
116 people found this helpful
LLOYD WEBBER'S BEAUTIFUL MUSIC IN THE GALA LIVE CONCERT
on 12 September 2006
When in March 1998 Andrew Lloyd Webber turned 50, a full two-hour celebration gala concert was given in his honour at London's Royal Albert Hall. He certainly deserved it, since by that time he was rightly thought of as the most successful musical composer of all times. As it is wide known, he wrote numerous hit shows, including the two longest running musicals in the history of the West End and Broadway, i.e. "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera". So the numerous artists who performed his shows and singles were called together and they delivered this stunning concert accompanied by a wonderful symphonic orchestra. Every show up to that date, except "By Jeeves", "The Beautiful Game" and his latest, "The woman in white", was covered, the former from 2000 and the latter premiered in September 2004. I'll give you my brief impressions of the songs performed here.
1. "Whistle down the wind" performed by Tina Arena: This is the single version released before the show was put to stage. It's a beautiful pop song with the nice guitar and drums use. Tina has the right voice, but her stage presence here is too aggressive.
2. "Any dream will do" and "Close every door" from "The Joseph and his amazing Technicolor dreamcoat" performed by Donny Osmond: These two songs from Webber's first musical Osmond sings with a group of young kids as the backs vocals that blends perfectly with his strong voice.
3. "Variations" is the piece for the cello and the orchestra that Webber based on the work of the Italian violin virtuoso Paganini and wrote for his cellist brother Julian Lloyd Webber, who plays the cello here. He gives a spotless rendition of the two numbers, with professional dancers dancing in front of him.
4. "Evita" follows. The quire of youngsters appropriately dressed performs "The requiem for Evita". Then comes Antonio Banderas dressed as Che and sings his two numbers: "Oh, what a circus" and "High flying, adored" very well, as he did in the movie. "Don't cry for me Argentina", one of the best songs Webber has ever written, is nicely sung here by Elaine Paige, who had the honour to be the first who in 1978 brought Evita to life in the West End. She wears a beautiful white gown and the fitting jewellery, similar to the one she had on stage when she was in the show.
5. "Starlight Express", the Webber's show about trains, is represented here by one ensemble song called "Light at the end of the tunnel". It is performed by one of the Original Cast members from 1984, Ray Shell, who is, with the rest of the singers here, on roller-skates, as the actors in the show are. It's a flashy piece, better to watch than to listen.
6. "Jesus Christ Superstar", Webber's first big success, is next. We have a short reference to the number "Hosanna" and the two solos. Michael Ball, the star of "Les Mis" and Webber's "Aspects of love", sings "Gethsemane" in the right tone and with the needed passion; a touch of sadness is present here. Marcus Lovett, who starred in "Whistle down the wind" that year, with the help of the soul girls, gives a rocky rendition of "Superstar"; very neat. Some will probably enjoy his costume: a tight jeans and shirtless T-shirt, showing his muscles. :-)
7. "Requiem", for which Webber won a special award, comes next in line. He wrote it in 1985 to commemorate the death of his father. The opera singer Dennis O'Neill sings "Hosanna" with his perfect tenor. Then, for the first time that evening, appears Sarah Brightman, who was Webber's second wife. She looks beautiful and reminds me here of a porcelain doll. She sings the most famous song from "Requiem", called "Pie Jesu", together with Ben De'atah, a small quire boy. It is the most solemn rendition of the evening.
8. "The Phantom of the Opera", the most produced of all Webber's shows, starts next, with a strong Overture. Sarah Brightman comes out, with a beautiful smile on her face. She sings in all of the three numbers here, "The Phantom of the Opera" being the first. My main complaint here is that Antonio Banderas joins her as the Phantom, which is very inappropriate. He is good as Che in "Evita", but the Phantom needs a totally different voice. Where was Michael Crawford that evening? Antonio's voice is trembling in this number and you can tell he's really struggling. Michael Ball joins Sarah in a beautiful rendition of the love ballad "All I ask of you" and they share a nice kiss in the end, just like in the show. Sarah wraps up the Phantom part with "The music of the night", originally sung by the Phantom, but here, they rightly didn't want to risk it with Banderas.
9. Two pop singles from "Whistle down the wind" come after that. Bonnie Tyler sings a stunning big number, "Tyre tracks and broken hearts", together with the very well choreographed dancers and the black girls as the back vocals. This whole number looks and sounds great. "No matter what" was an instant hit and is given here by Boyzone, then still existing as a boy band. Very well sung. But they saved the best for last of this part: Michael Ball comes out then and gives an amazing rendition of "The vaults of heaven", backed by the soul quire. This remains one of my favourites here; the sound of this is beyond description, as the applause proves it.
10. "Sunset Boulevard" part is next. "Sunset" remains for me one of Webber's best scores; lush and beautiful. I listen to the original cast recording with Patti LuPone all the time. However, here the songs are performed by Glenn Close. A big mistake. If you've ever listened the American premiere recording with her, you'll know what I am talking about. Yes, her stage presence is strong, as the applause of the audience shows, but her vocal abilities are too limited, and her aggressive approach to the role lacks any subtlety. I can only imagine how it would sound if Patti LuPone was there, or anybody else who sang it properly, like Betty Buckley or Petula Clark. This is one of the main reasons I'm giving this concert 4 stars. In this way, the three songs here, "Once upon a time", "With one look" and "As if we never said goodbye" only give a hint of what they may look like with the right singer. The funny thing is; this was the first time I heard these songs, and thought Glenn Close is OK, until I heard Patti LuPone. So do yourself a favour and get the London cast recording of "Sunset Blvd" to hear it how it should sound.
11. "Aspect of love" is represented by its hit song, "Love changes everything", Michael Ball's number one hit and standard. All the artists come out to the stage and join him in this song; very lovely.
12. Elaine Paige then makes her second appearance to sing "Memory", probably the most famous song of Webber, dressed in a nice feline gown. Her voice is lovely and gentle, though not as strong as on "Cats" DVD, from which it was put to her latest two-disc compilation, "Centre stage: The very best of Elaine Paige", issued in May 2004.
The master himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber, comes to the stage after that, to give a brief thanking speech. He also introduces the next artist, dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
13. Dame Kiri performs a song called "A heart is slow to learn", which belongs among the finest Lloyd Webber's ballads. It was initially intended to use it in a sequel of The Phantom of the opera", but in the year 2000, Webber used this melody with the changed lyrics for his musical "The beautiful game". Dame Kiri's soprano fits the melody perfectly.
14. Another rendition of "Whistle down the wind" follows, this time Webber is playing the piano and the young Lottie Mayor, who played the lead in the show that year, is singing. Her rendition is very opposite to Tina Arena's from the beginning: I like the touch of gentleness that Lottie brings to this song.
15. During the end credits, the orchestra plays "The jellicle ball" from "Cats".
I hope I gave you an interesting description of the whole show. Anyone who, like me, loves Andrew Lloyd Webber's music and musicals is in for a sheer delight. My only regret is that Michael Crawford and good singer for Sunset Blvd part weren't there. Other than that, this concert is a must have for all the Webber fans and those who enjoy quality musical theatre.