In 2010, Andrew Lloyd Webber was more or less laughed out of town following his godawful ‘Phantom of the Opera’ sequel ‘Love Never Dies’ (aka ‘Paint Never Dries’). Would his career recover? Erm, yep. Love him or loathe him, 2019 is going to be his (again). Here are five reasons why Brexit year is also Lloyd Webber year.
1. His old shows are cool now
Andrew Lloyd Webber is not cool. You know this. He knows this. There’s no need to get into it. But as time goes by his older stuff has been reclaimed by younger theatremakers who grew up with it. Witness Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s grungy ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, which transfers to the Barbican this summer, and then get very excited by the prospect of iconoclastic showman Jamie Lloyd tackling ‘Evita’ in Regent’s Park in August.
‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is at the Barbican Centre. Jul 4-Aug 24.
‘Evita’ is at the Open Air Theatre. Aug 2-Sep 21.
2. He’s got the grassroots support
In 1989, Lloyd Webber was so popular he could have just sent Michael Ball out to swear at a West End theatre audience for three hours and it would have been a massive hit. Arguably, though, that year’s epic weepie ‘Aspects of Love’ – which is kind of about a love, uh, pentagon(?) between expats in mid-twentieth-century Paris – needed a much more intimate staging than the one it received. Thirty years on and bingo: a revival has transferred down from Manchester’s dinky Hope Mill Theatre on a wave of acclaim.
‘Aspects of Love’ is at Southwark Playhouse. Until Feb 9.
3. He’s going to have a massive hit film in December, probably
‘Evita’ and ‘Phantom’ have been adapted into decent-sized hits, albeit not in the ‘Les Misérables’/‘Greatest Showman’ league. With ‘Cats’, 2019 could be the year Lloyd Webber finally scores that enormo-smash he’s been hungry for. A dementedly eclectic cast – Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba, James Corden – has been assembled by ‘Les Mis’ director Tom Hooper for this adaptation of the smash 1981 show about some cats hanging out and singing some TS Eliot-inspired ditties.
‘Cats’ opens Dec 20.
4. His last show was huge
After two long decades of flops and half-hits, Lloyd Webber did what he needed to do and made a musical version of a Jack Black film. Sure, it’s a weird fit on paper, but ‘School of Rock’ ran for three years on Broadway (in fact it finally closes on Sunday) and is still rockin’ away in the West End. Toss in ‘Phantom’, which has been packing ’em in since 1986, and a massive imminent revival of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ that’s selling out the London Palladium without any sort of cast or creatives announcement, and you’d probably have to concede he’s doing all right for himself.
‘School of Rock’ is at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Until Oct 20.
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Until Oct 5.
‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ is at The London Palladium. Jun 27-Sep 7.
5. He’s wisely left it there (for now)
Look, you can’t mock what isn’t there and with ‘School of Rock’ still a hit it’s probably sensible not to push it and risk another ‘Stephen Ward’/‘Love Never Dies’/‘The Woman in White’-style farrago. A Richard Curtis-helmed musical adaptation of Lloyd Webber’s memoir ‘Unmasked’ is being heavily threatened, but don’t expect it in 2019. In Britain’s great year of nationalism, it’s high time we learned to re-love our very own homegrown hitmaker.