A Highly Subjective Audio-Visual Guide to the World of ALW

Hi, it’s me, your podcast friend Renata! I love musicals but don’t know anything about music. Having recently read Andrew Lloyd Webber’s memoir Unmasked for Worst Bestsellers, I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight some of my personal favorite works of ALW’s! Disclaimer: I literally just told you I don’t know anything about music.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

My overview: The very first ALW & Tim Rice collabo! Shockingly good considering it was written by babies. A favorite of schools & community theater groups because there are so many brothers to cast. There are much worse shows to be forced to watch children perform.

Highlights:

Jacob and Sons

Here’s why Jacob and Sons/Coat of Many Colors rules: this musical starts off with a regular overture and then “Any Dream Will Do,” a perfectly good but kind of standard ballad. And then suddenly everyone is just yelling a list of Biblical names and colors at you. It’s overwhelming and it rewires your whole brain to passively accept everything that follows.

This video is from the 1999 direct-to-VHS movie starring Donny Osmond. Please admire appreciate the advancements we’ve made in greenscreen and wig technologies since then.

 

Go Go Go Joseph

This isn’t the full song but it’s the catchiest part and I just wanted you to see this footage from the 2014 tour that starred 2 people who did not win American Idol. But the background dancers in the Donny Osmond version have bonkers amazing costumes so I would also encourage you to check that out.

Tim Rice Lyrical Genius Highlights:

  • Next time you take a selfie and aren’t sure how to capture it, consider: “I look handsome, I look smart, I am a walking work of art.”
  • Just a pro-tip: if your pet has a 2 syllable name this is a great song to sing to them, eg “Go go go Duarte! Sha la la Duarte, you’re doing fine!”
  • Once Kait and I participated in a Broadway trivia night at Trident Booksellers, and I was very disappointed that we missed a question about the colors in Joseph’s coat. But I just watched the special features on the DVD of this and the producer went around asking everyone to list all the colors, and Tim Rice himself fucked it up so I feel better. There are…so many colors in that coat.

Cast Recording Recommendation: the 1992 Canadian Cast Recording feat Donny Osmond. (It’s on Spotify.)

 

Jesus Christ Superstar

My overview: This musical is incredibly good, and weirdly seems to be equally beloved whether or not you are a Christian. It has something for everyone. I did not realize this for the longest time and avoided checking it out because I assumed it was some kind of religious propaganda but it’s really not.

OK first of all if you haven’t watched the whole NBC Live version of this, I would so encourage you to watch the whole thing. Honestly, it’s so good.

Highlights:

“Heaven on their Minds”

The first time I really encountered JCS was actually seeing the Broadway revival in 2012, essentially on a whim (nudged by my friends Stacey and Leanna). This is the FIRST SONG of the show and as soon as it started I was like oh fuck this is so good, I can’t believe I didn’t know this is what Jesus Christ Superstar was!?

This is from the 1973 movie version. I want to highlight it because I realized I actually saw the Mr. Show parody “Jeepers Creepers Semi-Star” before I saw the movie and then I was like “wow this parody is actually an extremely faithful tribute.”

 

“Everything’s Alright”

Here’s the version from the NBC live. It’s great. Hum it to yourself next time you order some fine ointments from Sephora.

 

“The Temple”

I love it in this song when Jesus hulks out and smashes up the tables, and the first time I watched the NBC live version I was concerned that the minimal staging would not allow much hulking out. But then the stagehand came out with the bucket of glitter and I was reassured that I was in good hands.

 

“I Don’t Know How To Love Him”

I just want you to know that there’s a filmed version of an arena tour of JCS that stars Tim Minchin as Judas and Melanie C (AKA SPORTY SPICE) as Mary, and Jesus was cast on a reality competition show. “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” is not actually one of my favorite songs from JCS but I wanted to have a Spice Girl in this post.

 

“Superstar”

If you know one song from JCS it’s probably the titular Superstar. Here’s the cast of the 2012 revival at the Tony Awards. When I saw this production, Judas came out over the audience on a platform and he was like, right above my head in that sparkly blue suit and I have still not recovered from the experience. (The bummer of the 2012 revival was that it was imported from Canada and had an extremely white cast, but they did their best. THAT BLUE SUIT THO!)

Tim Rice Lyrical Genius Highlights:

  • “Like his father carving wood, he’d have made good/Tables, chairs, and oaken chests would have suited Jesus best”
  • “One thing I’ll say for him: Jesus is cool”
  • I’m obsessed with when Jesus and Judas fight and Jesus says “You liar! You Judas!” and Judas says “Christ! You deserve it!”
  • On the special features of the 1973 JCS movie, there’s an interview with Tim Rice where he says that in the 1970s “superstar” was a new word and it was bold of them to put it in the title because the word “superstar” might have fallen out of fashion. But it didn’t, good job Sir Tim. (I tried to find this clip on YouTube but I couldn’t so just take my word for it. Or watch the special features on the DVD of the 1973 Jesus Christ Superstar movie.)

Cast Recording Recommendation: At this very moment I have four different versions of JCS downloaded to my phone. The 2018 NBC Live recording is probably a good once to start with, but there are multiples available on Spotify if you want to check them out and find your personal fave.

Evita

My overview: Evita gets a lot of shit, some of which is valid. A lot of it is about how “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” is overwrought (and slightly nonsensical) and that is true actually but there are like 20 other great songs in this show. A lot of it is about how the real Eva Peron was a Bad Person Actually and like…yeah, dude, she’s a bad person in the show too. But that’s a feature, not a bug. This is a messy show about a messy woman who absolutely did horrible things, but also was working within the context of her society. She saw so clearly what her path to power and importance was and went hard for it. And then she died of cancer when she was 33, bye.

The other thing about Evita is that a lot of people hate on the movie, which stars Madonna as Evita and Antonio Banderas as Che. (SIDE NOTE: the character of Che is meant to be kind of an everyman narrator figure and not like, literally Che Guevara? Che like…doesn’t actually seem exist or directly interact with anyone in most of the scenes.) I’m here to tell you though: that movie is fucking good and Madonna is good and Antonio Banderas is good. (Also yes I hear you, it’s not great for Evita to be played by a non-Hispanic white person but just purely on a musical level…my hot take is that Madonna is good.)

Highlights:

“Eva and Magaldi/Beware of the City”

This is such a killer “I Want” song and so perfectly sets up Eva as a savvy operator even as a teen girl. She’s fucking her way to the top and sure, that’s maybe not ideal, but if this middle-aged tango singer is willing to fuck a 15-year-old girl then he’s gross and deserves to give Eva a ride to Buenos Aires. If you want to go fucking deep into this I recommend Seth Rudetsky’s deconstruction. As I have said before, I do not actually know anything about music but Seth does and he will break that shit down for you. I also feel like this song is criminally underrated and I’m extremely validated by everything Seth points out about it!!!!

Me & Seth Rudetsky

BTW I met Seth Rudetsky once #brag

 

“Buenos Aires”

Speaking of “Buenos Aires,” Here’s Patti LuPone singing it at the 1981 Tony Awards. This look she’s serving is…extremely 1981 Tony Awards, I guess.

“Peron’s Latest Flame”

I just love a song where the entire army yells “SLUT!” in unison.

“Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”

I said it before, I’ll say it again: this is one of my least favorite songs from this show. Still: here’s Patti LuPone singing it at the 2018 Grammy Awards, which healed her feud with ALW. (The only good video I could find of this also includes Ben Platt singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story, which is also good TBH, but if you want to skip to “Argentina” it starts around 3:30.)

I will say that in reading Unmasked I was particularly validated to see ALW say that he and Tim Rice were aware that the lyrics don’t quite make sense but they basically couldn’t think of anything better/figured everyone would be too overwhelmed with emotions to care.

 

“Rainbow High”

This is maybe my favorite song from Evita. Also, a big part of the reason why the 1996 Evita movie set the world record for most costume changes in a movie. (I refuse to google if anything has broken that record since then, I won’t acknowledge it.)

“You Must Love Me”

This song was written specially for the Evita movie, which gives Evita even more songs to sing. (In the movie she also steals “Another Suitcase” from Peron’s mistress–which honestly I don’t mind, I think it also makes sense for Eva to sing that sentiment. It’s just that in the stage musical Evita is already a super difficult role to perform. Madonna didn’t have to make this movie 8 times a week so let her sing as much as she wants.)

Anywho, it’s not my fave song from the movie but Lana Del Rey covered it for ALW’s birthday celebration, and I do love Lana. I do.

“And the Money Kept Rolling In”

OK so I saw the 2012 Broadway revival of Evita, which starred Ricky Martin as Che and Elena Roger as Eva. When I heard about the casting, I was initially like “ugh, okay, I guess Ricky Martin will be fine” and “it’s great that they cast an Argentinean actress as Eva!” Um, but then I saw it, and, um, actually…Ricky Martin was pretty good and Elena was……not…..my favorite?? And again, I do super understand that Eva is a really difficult role but I just did not like her voice, or…I just didn’t care for her performance like, at all.  SORRY. Anyway, for that year’s Tony awards they performed “And the Money Kept Rolling In” which is a great Che song where Eva has like 1 line and basically stands on a pedestal looking shady.

Tim Rice Lyrical Genius Highlights:

  • “Mourning all day and mourning all night”
  • “I want to be a part of B.A., Buenos Aires, Big Apple”
  • “I come from the people, they have to adore me, so Christian Dior me”
  • “Great distress/in the tidiest offiicers’ mess”
  • Also I just want to point out that Eva Peron’s maiden name was DUARTE

Cast Recording Recommendation: This is a controversial take but the majority of the time when I seek out Evita to listen to, I go for the 1996 movie soundtrack. SORRY PATTI. SORRY ELAINE. NOT SORRY ELENA.

Cats

My overview: Cats was the first musical I ever saw live and I think that’s true for a lot of people. (Obviously Duarte loves it too.) This isn’t a show that I often think about or listen to, but after reading Unmasked I went back and listened to the cast recording again and I have to say…a lot of these songs are jams. I also think that in this day and age, when SpongeBob SquarePants the musical just got a billion Tony nominees, why are we all still sort of holding on to dancers dressed like cats as like the peak most ridiculous Broadway show. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen SpongeBob and I hear it’s legitimately great!)

Anyway I think what I’m realizing is that Cats is like Twilight for me, where I started off neutral about it but the more people shit on it the more intensely I want to defend it.

Highlights:

“Jellicle Songs”

“Rum Tum Tugger”

Um I just searched YouTube for Rum Tum Tugger and was interested to see that Todrick Hall had played Rum Tug Tugger so I clicked it and then all the comments are about how he isn’t sexy enough in Cats so nevermind, I think Cats is bad

“Memory”

Obviously it’s overplayed I’m sorry but this song is still beautiful, even when I’m scream-singing it in my car. Here’s Nicole Scherzinger performing it at the Olivier Awards. Fun fact: Nicole was both a Pussycat Doll and a Cat.

Tim Rice Lyrical Genius Highlights: N/A

Cast Recording Recommendation: Broadway cast recording but I don’t feel strongly about it

Phantom of the Opera

My overview: I know this is maybe overall ALW’s greatest hit. I’ve seen Phantom live twice, and I enjoy the spectacle and the chandelier and the dancers and whatnot, but I have never in my life sat down and thought, “let me pull up some music from Phantom to listen to” and I’m not going to start now. I was very intrigued to learn from Unmasked that ALW originally had the idea to make the Phantom musical more of a campy satire, which I think I would enjoy.

Highlights:

I just said I’m not going to listen to this, but here’s a picture of the embrace we tried to describe on the podcast.

Phantom of the Opera

(This is James Barbour and Ali Ewoldt and it’s from a CNN backstage video that you could watch here if you’re into Phantom. I did not watch it.)

 

I did really enjoy this weird mashup of School of Rock, Cats, and Phantom that they did on Good Morning America for ALW’s birthday. It really highlights what a fucking weirdo the Phantom is.

Tim Rice Lyrical Genius Highlights: N/A 🙁

Cast Recording Recommendation: Pass

Starlight Express

My overview: I’ve never seen this but I’m very mad that in Unmasked, ALW proposed a roller skate-free revival of this. No way, if I’m ever going to see this I want full roller skates or nothing.

Highlights:

Here’s Starlight Express at the 1987 Tony Awards; notable for being introduced by Angela Lansbury and also for the roller skates.

Tim Rice Lyrical Genius Highlights: N/A 🙁

Cast Recording Recommendation: London cast (but also mainly just poke around YouTube if you’re interested)

Aspects of Love

My overview: Pass

Sunset Boulevard

My overview: I haven’t dug deep into this but it’s another musical with a thorny lady lead and some old Hollywood camp.

Highlights:

“This Time Next Year”

“Sunset Boulevard”

Just for Kait, here’s John Barrowman singing the title song.

“As If We Never Said Goodbye”

Pls enjoy Glenn Close’s turban realness.

And finally, a weird live Sunset Boulevard medley from Patti LuPone and Seth Rudetsky.

Tim Rice Lyrical Genius Highlights: N/A 🙁

Cast Recording Recommendation: Pick your poison: the 1993 London cast gets you Patti LuPone and the 1994 Broadway is Glenn Close, so it’s hard to go wrong. (Only the Broadway is on Spotify though.)

The Woman in White

My overview: I’ve never been curious enough to look into this at all. Is it about a ghost? I might be interested if she’s a ghost. I just checked Wikipedia and there’s a song called “You See I Am No Ghost”, so, pass. (Also, apparently Michael Crawford got sick from wearing a fat suit for this?? Why not a simple, lightweight ghost costume. Surely that would be preferable.)

Also I know this is based on a book but I’ve never read the book, either.

Love Never Dies

My overview: I saw this earlier this year because the touring production was part of the Broadway in Boston season. I was intrigued to see it, because it’s kind of a famous flop. Unfortch (or fortunately?) I was sick and fevery the day of the show. I still went but I find that I can remember almost nothing about it. Is it a result of the quality of the show or my illness? Perhaps both? I definitely remember thinking what the fuck often. I was shocked to read in Unmasked that ALW considers this his best work. Maybe Andrew is just horny for the Phantom, as so many theatergoers are.

In looking this up I learned that ALW was working on another Phantom sequel but his cat destroyed the score. What a heroic cat. I hope the cat writes a memoir about it.

School of Rock

My overview: I’ve heard this is actually good but I haven’t listened to any of the music from it! I am going to see the tour when it comes to Boston and I’m kind of saving it for myself to be a surprise when I see it. I mean I have seen the movie so I know the plot, but, still.

Highlights:

Here’s School of Rock‘s performance from the 2016 Tony Awards.

 

OK goodbye, that’s all I have to say about Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber at this time!

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