Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesdays with Mia: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber

Being the token musical theater fans in the office, Mia and I wouldn't feel so good passing up two free tickets to the Australian touring production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Having seen a good deal of local talent, we would never have paid for the tickets to the show, knowing that Pinoy artists could do as well, if not better. That said, we went to CCP's Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo as both fans and skeptics.

The song selection is what you'd expect from an ALW revue. The show has several of ALW's greatest hits, which would be familiar even to non-musical theater fans. The only songs that I had not heard before were the ones from Starlight Express, as the pop hits from the musical did not make it to that suite. The selection is an excellent showcase of Lloyd Webber's range, from nearly blasphemous to sincerely religious. The arrangement did not seem to be in a predictable order, though between the two of us, we were able to predict how the encore would go.

The orchestration did not disappoint. The male talent, vocally at least, seemed stronger than the female. Mia and I are huge fans of Michael Cormick. I like Andrew Conaghan except when he hams it up. Delia Hannah is practically a Patti LuPone stand-in. The best number was the gospel choir song "Vaults of Heaven" from Whistle Down the Wind, which had both of us saying "like" afterwards.

However, there were moments when the whole treatment was unbelievable, and not in a positive way. Worth pointing out: Judas' Song from Jesus Christ Superstar, which opened the second half of the show and the boyband version of No Matter What. Sume-Stephen Gately (bless his soul) at rumo-Ronan Keating.

Perhaps the somewhat mature audience was reserved, which is why the comedy doesn't draw laughs. The choreography doesn't always work, though I appreciate that there was movement. But the costumes had too much sparkle for my tastes--understandable, of course, without the benefit of props and elaborate sets.

The sets are built for touring: low staircases on casters, four LED screens for projections, which can distracting at times, but pull you back in when you feel like tuning out. It was actually wonderful not to have projections for the highlights of Phantom of the Opera, showing just how powerful the music and the voices were on their own.

The best video snippet has to be the interview of ALW where he says that the downside to his work is that whenever he goes to a restaurant with a pianist, they play the opening notes of Phantom--hilarious.

I was wondering where The Beautiful Game went, expecting something like "Let Us Love in Peace" but maybe it also counts that "Our Kind of Love" has the same tune as "Love Never Dies", the title tune from Lloyd Webber's latest show, the sequel to Phantom.

"There's something missing," said Mia.

"Story?" I asked.

We couldn't tell exactly. Mia, who had seen Atlantis Productions' Aida last week, wished sponsors would come in for local productions instead. I agree. There are so many shows this year that could be great.

For your enjoyment, three ALW songs, one tune:
Our Kind of Love from The Beautiful Game, sung by Donny Osmond
The Heart is Slow to Learn pre-Love Never Dies, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa (my favorite version)
Love Never Dies from Love Never Dies, sung by Sierra Boggess (Cringe at "infiltrate my soul". Where are you, Tim Rice?)

Lastly, meet Phantom, Ramin Karimloo. The London run of Love Never Dies closes down in August.

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