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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 18 October 2001
The best ALW music performed by the greatest musicians and singers on the magnificent stage of Albert Hall - it is enough to make a delightful concert. Add impressive decorations, spirited acting of the performers and excellent choirs and dancers and you will get a superb show. During two hours you can enjoy lovely Joseph, clever Variations, dramatic Evita (only Paige's unique voice can reveal full splendor of Don't cry for me Argentina), dynamic Starlight Express, solemn Requiem, passionate Jesus Christ Superstar, beautiful and mysterious The Phantom of the Opera with exquisite Sarah Brightman as Christine, impressive Sunset Boulevard, interesting Whistle Down the Wind, wonderful Love Changes Everything (Aspects of Love), and of course famous Memory (another unforgettable performance from Elaine Paige). And the concert had to be so grand for the sake of Sir Andrew. I adore the moment when the entire cast sings "Happy birthday" to him. A charming scene! Furthermore, ALW presented his new masterpiece The Heart Is Slow to Learn sang by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and a young star Lottie Mayor who performed Whistle Down the Wind in the most engaging manner with Sir Andrew himself at the piano. My favourite Jellicle Ball (Cats) was used as the brilliant conclusion of the concert. It's a show to enjoy again and again and again!
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on 5 August 2002
THE ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER CELEBRATION
The opening song WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND is sung by Tina Arena. The music and the way Tina performs the song is very powerful. She has a great voice but she sings it too aggressively, I better like the way Lottie Mayor sings it, at the end of the concert.
Donny Osmond sings ANY DREAM WILL DO and CLOSE EVERY DOOR together with a children choir. Donny has a great charisma and voice. It sounds fantastic with the children.
Julian Lloyd Webber plays cello - the music from VARIATIONS (a symphonic concert from 1977).
Elaine Paige sings DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA. She sings it as beautiful as 20 years ago, when she had the leading role as Evita.
Dennis O'Neill sings in Latin the song HOSANNA from Requiem. There is a girl in the choir, she looks like Charlotte Church? Sarah Brightman appears like a magic woman, and the dancers fall to the floor. Sarah sings in Latin and the young boy Ben De'ath comes to the stage. They sing PIE JESU together - a very beautiful and moving church mess song. Sarah's voice is incredible beautiful.
Michael Ball sings I ONLY WANT TO SAY (GESTHEMANE) from Jesus Christ Superstar. A very vigorous song.
At THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, when Sarah enters the stage, it gives you the creeps because of her beauty and presence. She is the most wonderful person, with a warm-heartedness charisma.
She and Antonio Banderas sing THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA together. It's 10 years ago, when Sarah played Christine in the Phantom.
Michael Ball and Sarah sing the beautiful duet ALL I ASK OF YOU. They suit each other well. Michael Ball has a great charisma. THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT, Sarah sings it as beautiful as ever.
Boyzone sing NO MATTER WHAT - the greatest sound on this DVD.
Michael Ball sings VAULTS OF HEAVEN together with a gospel choir - it sounds great.
Glenn Close plays Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard and sings WITH ONE LOOK.
Michael Ball sings the great song LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING and all the artists from the concert appear, singing together. Elaine Paige sings MEMORY.
Kiri Te Kanawa sings the very beautiful song THE HEART IS SLOW TO LEARN. Kiri has a great soprano voice. It could be great to hear Kiri and Sarah together in a duet.
All the artists sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY for Andrew.
At the final song, Andrew plays the piano while Lottie Mayor sings the beautiful song WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND.
Andrew Lloyd Webber must be the greatest composer of all time. This DVD is great, whether your are a fan of Andrew, Sarah Brightman, Michael Ball, Elaine Paige or you just love great musical music.
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on 30 January 2003
The opening song WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND is sung by Tina Arena. The music and the way Tina performs the song is very powerful. She has a great voice but she sings it too aggressively, I better like the way Lottie Mayor sings it, at the end of the concert.
Donny Osmond sings ANY DREAM WILL DO and CLOSE EVERY DOOR together with a children choir. Donny has a great charisma and voice. It sounds fantastic with the children. Julian Lloyd Webber plays cello - the music from VARIATIONS (a symphonic concert from 1977).
Antonio Banderas: HIGH FLYING ADORED. Elaine Paige: DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA. She sings it as beautiful as 20 years ago, when she had the leading role as Evita.
Dennis O'Neill sings in Latin the song HOSANNA from Requiem. There is a girl in the choir, she looks like Charlotte Church? Sarah Brightman appears like a magic woman, and the dancers fall to the floor. Sarah sings in Latin and the young boy Ben De'ath comes to the stage. They sing PIE JESU together - a very beautiful and moving church mess song. Sarah's voice is incredible beautiful.
Michael Ball: I ONLY WANT TO SAY (GESTHEMANE) from Jesus Christ Superstar. A very vigorous song.
At THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, when Sarah Brightman enters the stage I get chills because of her beauty and presence. She is the most wonderful person, with a warm-heartedness charisma. She definitely has the best and most beautiful voice in the world. She and Antonio Banderas sing THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA together. It's 10 years ago, when Sarah played Christine in the Phantom.
Michael Ball and Sarah sing the beautiful duet ALL I ASK OF YOU. They suit each other well. Michael Ball has a great charisma. THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT, Sarah sings it as beautiful as ever.
Boyzone: NO MATTER WHAT - the best sound on this DVD.
Michael Ball: VAULTS OF HEAVEN together with a gospel choir - it sounds fantastic.
Glenn Close plays Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard and sings WITH ONE LOOK.
Michael Ball sings the great song LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING and all the artists from the concert appear, singing together. Elaine Paige sings MEMORY from Cats.
Kiri Te Kanawa sings the very beautiful song THE HEART IS SLOW TO LEARN. Kiri has a beautiful soprano voice. It could be great to hear Kiri and Sarah together in a duet. All the artists sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY for Andrew. At the final song, Andrew plays the piano while Lottie Mayor sings the beautiful song WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND.
Andrew Lloyd Webber must be the greatest composer of all time.
This DVD is fantastic, whether your are a fan of Andrew, Sarah Brightman, Michael Ball, Elaine Paige or you just love great musical music. The picture and the sound are excellent on this DVD.
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on 26 November 2009
This concert book place at the Albert Hall in 1998 to celebrate A L W's 50th birthday.
It highlighted the most memorable songs from all his shows, performed by outstanding artists. I was actually at the concert and subsequently purchased the DVD for myself, but I bought this as a gift for a friend of mine as we had just seen Michael Ball in concert and were reminded especially of Jesus Christ Superstar as Michael featured this show in particular.
Boyzone performed "No matter what" for the first time as "Whistle down the Wind" had not yet opened at the time of this concert.
A "must have" for fans of Andrew and indeed Musical Theatre.
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on 6 January 2014
Bought this as a video when it first came out and loved it then. When my player gave up thought would never be able to watch this lovely concert again. Was so pleased when I found it on Amazon. The quality of the disc is really good. Would recommend it.
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on 17 June 2016
some lovely songs some sung by well known singers some songs not heard before a lot of good parts but some boring bits.shame it wasn't Michael Crawford singing phantom of the opera songs but they were still good.
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on 14 December 2013
I love this DVD which has a great selection of songs from the many great shows that Andrew Lloyd Webber has been involved in, and this from someone who is a big Rock Music Fan, but who is also lucky enough, to enjoy lots of different types of music
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on 29 August 2003
The show was staged to celebrate Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday and a whole host of stars got together in the Royal Albert Hall.
It was amazing, you could actually think that you were in the Royal Albert hall watching the show, it has in the show Michael Ball, Sarah Brightman, Boyzone, Elaine Paige, Antonio Banderas and many other stars.
The show was spectacular and was a brilliant show which was put together to celebrate Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Birthday. With the Royal Albert Hall as the backdrop and with scenery and lighting to compliment each star who was performing various songs during the show it really did compliment the way that the staging was set.
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on 10 February 2003
I had seen portions of this show several years ago on American TV and recently bought the video on the advice of a friend. It was a real pleasure to see many of the performances again, and "discover" performances I missed.
Some of the highlights for me: Glenn Close as Norma Desmond -- she was absolutely outstanding!
Michael Ball -- his rendition of "Gethsemane" was very powerful, his duet with Sarah Brightman, "All I Ask of You" very romantic, "Vaults of Heaven," a new song to me, was simply beautiful, and his signature song, "Love Changes Everything" was magnificent, especially with the entire cast joining in.
For the most part, Sarah Brightman's performances were wonderful. However, I was disappointed in her performance of "Pie Jesu." Rounding her mouth the way she did through most of the song made the words unintelligible and destroyed the beauty of the song. Ben De'ath, the boy who sang with her, was much clearer in his enunciation. I have seen Ms. Brightman sing this song without rounding her mouth that way, and the quality was much better.
Antonio Bandaras was a pleasant surprise in the music from Evita, but he seemed to be a bit out of his range singing "The Phantom of the Opera." At times it sounded as though he were straining for the high notes, and his phrasing was off.
All in all, however, this was an excellent show.
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