9 June 2021

The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber Review

As soon as Curve's Chief Executive, Chris Stafford, welcomed audiences back to the stage with a lovely speech, it felt like slipping back into a comfort zone and ready for a show and what a show the team at Curve have delivered. 


Directed by the theatre's artistic director, Nikolai Foster, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber offers a musical delight with a celebration of the Lord's magnificent career to do date. Andrew, for those of who don't know (where have you been!) is one of the greatest composers of his or any generation, his long running musical theatre hits have played international and continue to wow audiences as much as they did when they first opened. His hits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of The Opera, Evita and many more.


The cast of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Photo by Ellie Kurttz


Set in Curve's truly incredible socially distanced in the round auditoria the show brings life and musical theatre back to the Leicester stage in such a delightful way. That in the round with the use of a revolve, donated to the theatre by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, works perfectly for this production. The use of a few props and lighting enhances what could just be a bare stage well.


The cast, Madalena Alberto, Jessica Daley, Tim Howar, Ria Jones, Karen Mavundukure, Shem Omari Jones and Tim Rogers are all superb. Each gets numerous moments to shine in varied roles. Much credit must go to Karen Mavundukure, she'd unfortunately injured herself in rehearsals but in the true spirit of the show must go on, she performed throughout in a wheelchair with assistant director Jennifer Lane Baker performing as an extra body on stage. The Curve Young Company joined for a couple of numbers and it's great to see these youngsters getting a moment on stage again.


A band under the musical direction of Matthew Spencer-Smith delivers a fantastic sound with Tom Marshall's sound design combining the voices and music well.


Jessica Daley. Photo by Ellie Kurttz


Right from the opening medley sung by the cast in acapella it set the tone for a highly enjoyable night of music. It was great to have Andrew himself on pre-recorded videos offering insight in between each show or number allowing us the audience to delve deeper in to some of the songs or productions before hearing the numbers. It's great to see Andrew in the Curve and around Leicester on these videos. He clearly had a good time discussion all the hits and some of the misses.


The first half focused on Andrew's earlier years with songs beginning with Jesus Christ Superstar which included a beautiful rendition of 'I Don't Know How To Love Him' by Karen Mavundukure. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat allowed for the first appearance of the Curve Young Company as they joined in with 3 numbers from the show ('Joseph's Coat', 'Close Every Door' and 'Any Dream Will Do'). 5 numbers from Evita which allowed Madalena Alberto to step back in to the role which she played to critical acclaim at the Dominion Theatre. Variations allowed for cellist Natalie Hancock to have a glorious solo moment. 


There was then numbers from Song and Dance, Aspects of Love and Tell Me On Sunday. The title number from Love Never Dies allowed Jessica Daley to showcase her amazing soprano vocals. Before the finale of act one, a medley from my musical theatre nemesis, Cats, but with credit to the cast they did a good job with it including a strong rendition of 'Memory' by Ria Jones.


Cellist Natalie Hancock. Photo by Ellie Kurttz



The second act moved through further into Andrew's career beginning with a couple of upbeat numbers from Starlight Express including the toetapping 'Light At The End of the Tunnel'. The recent hit Sunset Boulevard in Concert which streamed was re-born with a few numbers from that show, Ria Jones is so perfectly cast in the role of Norma Desmond and her powerful vocals hitting home all the emotions with her versions of 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' and 'With One Look' - she doesn't just sing these numbers she acts every word with real skill. 


One of Andrew's non-musical theatre numbers, 'Amigos Para Siempre' which he co-wrote for the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 followed Sunset before Tim Rogers performed ''Til I Hear You Sing' from Love Never Dies. The stand out moment was delivered by youngster Alyshia Dhakk with a spellbinding rendition of 'Pie Jesu' from Requiem. It was already moving it was dedicated to all those who we'd sadly lost over the past 15 months but as soon as she begun I doubt there were many dry eyes within the theatre - one of those unforgettable moments, pure silence but for her vocals and the music.


The last show that had just opened before the pandemic on the Curve stage was the new touring production of Andrew's The Phantom Of The Opera, sadly lockdowns and the closure of the theatres ended that run so it was fantastic to hear the stirring music of Phantom filling the theatre again. Jessica Daley again stepping into the shoes of Christine Daae and offering once again gorgeous vocals she was well aided by Tim Howar's commanding Phantom.


The finale focused on Andrew's two latest works. First his forthcoming production of Cinderella which is due to open for previews at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London in a few weeks time (easing of restrictions permitting). The number 'Bad Cinderella' sounded better live and sung by all four of the ladies - Madelena, Ria, Jessica and Karen. The night ended rocking out to 'Stick It To The Man' from School of Rock, this got the entire company, including the CYC, and led to a joyous romp of a final number.



As brilliant as the cast and musicians were possibly the star of the production belongs to the phenomenal lighting designed by Ben Cracknell. The use of the 6 legged 'spider' rig and lighting all around the auditoria is dazzling. Each number was painted like a canvas with lights, each number complimented by a style. I can't think of many shows that I've seen so well lit.


This production is a timely reminder of the joy that musical theatre and live music can bring. Andrew's classic hits are celebrated in a way befitting in his long and successful career.  It was great to "feel the magic in the making" and to see Curve full again, it's been a long 15 months but now theatre is alive and the "light at the end of the tunnel" is a little clearer. Let's hope it's "as if we never said goodbye" again. 


Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ a wonderful celebration of the Lord's great career bringing musical theatre back to Curve with an outstanding cast and lighting design.


The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber continues at Curve until Saturday 19th June 2021. For tickets or more information visit curveonline.co.uk


The Company and Curve Young Company. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.


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