Book Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber 'Unmasked' In New Memoir

Jun 11, 2018

When I was young and obnoxious, I had very little use for any music that approached large commercial success.

No, I wasn't smart enough to slave away in libraries over scores of thorny, dissonant new music. But if there was a rhythm track attached, or if the music required any amplification at all, I was wary. 

Claudio Monteverdi wrote exquisite music 400 years ago with no mics, and he did just fine, thank you very much.

Now, I'm old and obnoxious. I have calmed down long enough to love Broadway shows, Grace Slick (ask your rocker parents), Patsy Cline (ask your country grandparents) and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Ask me.

I'm a fan of Lloyd Webber's Evita. Who wouldn't love an opera about Eva Peron? Giuseppe Verdi would have adored her. When I moved to New York in 1979, this commercial played every hour:

I love Cats. Phantom of the Opera you can have. I can't get past the copied Giacomo Puccini. 

Sunset Boulevard works for me, as long as Betty Buckley stars:

Jesus Christ Superstar, I think, is a great score. I saw the original Broadway production in the early '70s. I was told to go to confession afterward. I didn't.

Lloyd Webber has written a memoir called "Unmasked," recently published by HarperCollins.

We learn he's the son of a fine composer called William Lloyd Webber. The son's fame has long eclipsed the father's. I'm always happy to feature William Lloyd Webber's music on Classical 101's Musica Sacra. Andrew Lloyd Webber has a brother, noted cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

And Andrew Lloyd Webber himself? The man can write a tune. He's a sophisticated musician enmeshed in commercial success. So was Puccini.

He recalls seeing Maria Callas in Tosca — one of the great experiences of his life.

Like Verdi and Puccini, Andrew Lloyd Webber has a sense of knowing what will go, what will work onstage. Look at the range! Successful shows, record-breakers based on fascist dictators, felines and the Savior of the World.

Speaking of the world — somewhere, someplace one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows is playing an extended run. Probably 10 of them are. 

"Unmasked" by Andrew Lloyd Webber is dedicated to: "My fabulously un-PC Auntie Vi, most of whose sayings I could not possibly share in 2018."
Credit HarperCollins Publishers

"Unmasked" gives us three marriages, two divorces and a third, long and happy marriage. Five children. Collaborations with Tim Rice, T.S. Eliot, the fearsome Mrs. T.S. Eliot, Robert Stigwood and Harold Prince.

The film version of Evita was a chore to cast. Everyone wanted in. Liza Minnelli wanted to test. Early rehearsals of Cats were a dud. Buckley couldn't land Memory (that changed).

There were years when Lloyd Webber had three shows running simultaneously in London and three more in New York. He had a day pass for the Concorde.

But for me, that best character in a long story is Lloyd Webber's delicious Auntie Vi. Quite the character, Auntie lived on the Italian Riveria. When vexed, she'd yell her favorite curse, "God bugger the Pope!"

After Peron, a show about Auntie Vi seems natural.