From Cats to Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber has become one of the most successful names in musical theatre. Yet, believed to be past his sell-by date, Lloyd-Webber now faces daily backlash as it’s time to draw the final curtain. 

Starting as a mere 17-year-old, creating dazzling displays such as Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, Webber has curated arguably some of the most renowned shows to hit the West End and Broadway stages. Following the car crash that was the Cats musical movie, and the monstrosity of Bad Cinderella, just when will he call it quits?

The release of Cats in 2019, based on the 1985 staged musical of the same name, follows a vague plot with unoriginal, repetitive and badly written songs. Don’t even get me started on the animation of the so-called “cats” themselves. For a movie with such a star-studded line-up, including Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and Judi Dench, the scary-looking animations of the half-human-half-cat disaster left viewers fuming. This is further suggested by the appalling IMDb rating of 2.8/10. However, is this necessarily Lloyd Webber’s fault? Not exactly, but I believe his stage show version suggests just why the movie didn’t work. A vague plotline and repetitive songs don’t add anything but characters into the mix, so by the time the star song ‘Memory’ is performed, all previous characters are forgotten despite each song being about them. To really portray the hatred of the film, The Badger’s own Music Editor, Harry Turnbull, gives us a brutally honest insight into the musicality behind the show: “Whilst the Cat-Nip fuelled dance numbers are enough to excite and inspire, the musicality and lyricism of Cats should be thrown in the kitty litter and left there.” 

More recently, a new-ish musical with Lloyd Webber’s name associated is Bad Cinderella, a diabolical example of just how NOT to treat a cast of a show. With tacky, childish songs and a quite frankly strange twist on the original Cinderella, this musical was not up to the standards of shows like Phantom of the Opera. Should you not know the story of Bad Cinderella, it follows an unorthodox version of the classic fairytale. Yet this wannabe feminist piece, starting with the protagonist (and antagonist?) standing on a statue vandalising the “most attractive town”, is just a box-office flop. The musical itself closed on 12 June 2022, after running for only 12 months. What’s worse is that Lloyd Webber announced this closure to the media before the show’s own cast, leaving the stars to find out on social media that their contracts are cut. Could this get any worse? Of course it could! On closing night, an absent Lloyd Webber sent a speech to the cast and audience stating how the show itself “was a costly mistake” and was swiftly followed by a cacophony of boo’s from the audience. To add salt to the wounds of the cast and crew, it opened on Broadway on 23 March 2023 – unsurprisingly to be shut down again on 4 June 2023 after missing out on a Tony award and losing audience numbers and money. This may go down as one of the most humorous and outstanding fails in theatre for years to come. 
All in all, it seems like Lloyd Webber is churning out what he thinks are new and exciting shows only to have them ruined. It’s quite obvious, due to him surpassing Paul McCartney’s net worth in 2019 with £820 million according to The Sunday Times – later being unveiled that it had dropped to £540 million in 2023, Lloyd Webber may be frantically trying to make new innovative shows to not lose any more money (and failing). Yet this comes at a price, not necessarily for himself, but for the performers whose livelihoods he is willing to destroy to cover up his own mistakes. Seems like money can get to people’s heads.

Categories: Arts Theatre

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