I’M sitting in Melbourne’s historic Regent Theatre and even for a jaded arts writer, feeling overwhelmed by stars of both the onstage and backstage kind.
And why not be dazzled? It’s the launch of the bigger-than-Ben-Hur tribute to the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and now it’s coming to Canberra.
James Cundall, from Lunchbox Theatre, co-producer, is first in line.
“We wanted something different,” he enthuses. Cundall says he and Tim McFarlane, of the Really Useful Theatre Company, have been trying to stage it for the past seven years after they got the idea of using LEDs instead of a conventional set.
“I wanted to BE in Argentina…I don’t want it to be a boring concert with potted palms,” says Cundall.
“The music is timeless” and there’s Lloyd Webber’s “unbelievably high volume of work”. And though the great man didn’t stand in the way of director Stuart Maunder’s creative ideas, he was insistent on a certain order and that the opening number be “Love Changes Everything”, sung to a guitar.
Trisha Crowe is a classically trained soprano with a range very similar to that of Brightman, and she’s just fresh from “Symphony in the Park” in Canberra, where she sang a full 12 songs. “I do Sarah Brightman, but I do lots of other things, too,” she tells me.
Enter director Stuart Maunder to assure me that Crowe is capable of quieter moments, as in a touching piece from Lloyd Webber’s “Requiem” and her part in a duet from “Woman in White”.
Maunder has scant praise for the late Richard Wherrett’s 1995 Lloyd Webber show, seen here at the Royal Theatre and starring the composer’s former wife Sarah Brightman, referring to the “bleeding chunks” of music chosen for that show. He prefers to liken his own production to “a little showbag”, where “Cats” numbers such as “Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer” and “Macavity” lead in to the Act One curtain number “Memory.”
Musical supervisor Guy Noble is proud of the way they’ve mixed songs from the lesser-known “Aspects of Love”, “Starlight Express”, “Whistle down the Wind” and the newest, “Love Never Dies”, with huge showstoppers.
Michael Cormick, surely one of the best tenors in our musical theatre, gives a mighty rendition of the “Phantom” song, while Delia Hannah seizes centre stage for “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, “Memory” and “With One Look” from “Sunset Boulevard.”
Despite the famous song that finishes the show, (you know the one) there are no superstars here, but rather an ensemble of stellar actor-singers, some young, some old.
“The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” will be at Canberra Theatre from June 1-5. Bookings to 6275 2700 or www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au