Andrew Lloyd Webber talked about his career, how he works, how he cures writer’s block, why some shows work and others don’t (clues: The Zeitgeist; timing), at the Theatermakers Summit, in a half-hour interview with Emily Bear, 20, who co-wrote the album The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical and has been a published composer since the age of four.
Some highlights: “Neither Tim Rice nor I wanted to do Jesus Christ Superstar as a concept album first, it was just that nobody wanted to produce it.”
“Musicals are the most collaborative of all forms of theatre…the director, the designer, lighting, choreography, they all have to come together. I will never forget one of the earliest things that Hal Prince said to me, which is that you can’t listen to a musical if you can’t look at it…the production had to all come together and it’s very rare for that to happen actually, for every aspect to come together entirely right; probably only happens a little more than once in a generation.”
“We thought we had the biggest disaster on our hands that it was possible with “Cats.”….at that time, Britain was getting seriously into dance…. It’s that word Zeitgeist You can never tell; you can have a really good piece of work and just one aspect of the production maybe not work all the time for that production. And that very same show, again, could get lost or maybe come back later. One show that I’m thinking of is Chicago. I remember seeing the first night of that in New York, and I really liked it a lot. But it didn’t really happen. I mean, it was the same season as Chorus Line, of course. And when it was revived, in the Encore series, much simpler production, really a staged concert of people, it also hit the time of OJ Simpson. And everybody said, I get it, I get it. And of course, that wonderful score emerged. So there are so many factors, with a show. , I couldn’t tell for example, when I did Phantom of the Opera, I all I wanted to do is write high romance…. None of us had any idea that it was going to hit a chord, which hadn’t really been tapped in. So Zeitgeist has a very important part.”
You can’t anticipate what will hit the Zeitgeist; it’s best to pick a story that interests you. That is how you avoid writer’s block.
“I find it’s more subject block… I had some shows that really didn’t work in the 2000s, until I did School of Rock, and I think maybe when I look back at it, it’s because I really jumped on any subject because I just needed to work. I also loved writing and working. Once I’ve got a subject, win lose or draw, then I write because I’m inspired by the story that I have. But if I sat down and said, I want to write a symphony, writer’s block would hit me within five seconds.”
(If you’re intrigued by his interpreter, check out ASL Theater for All: Meet Brandon Kazen-Maddox)