Andrew Lloyd Webber with characters from some of his best-known musicals
Love him or loathe him, there’s no question Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s incredible contribution to the world of musicals. He received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II and a peerage in 1992 and his list of Tonys, Grammys, an Academy Award, Novella Awards, Olivier Qwards, a Golden Globe, etc. is endless and impressive.
Lloyd Webber’s musicals read like a “who’s who” of musical classics: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Evita”, “Cats”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “School of Rock”, to name a few. Many have enjoyed extended runs in London’s West End and on Broadway in New York City.
One musical that attracted a great deal of attention in the film industry and therefore the media, was “Evita”. A bidding war in the early 80’s erupted for the film rights between Warner Bros., MGM, and Paramount. EMI Films eventually won. Then the big question: who would portray Eva Peron? The process is not unlike what MGM went through to find its perfect Scarlett O’Hara some fifty years prior. Directors (such as Oliver Stone) and actresses (such as Meryl Streep) were considered, signed on, then dropped out. Singers/actresses considered for the part, along with Streep, included Karla DeVito, Liza Minnelli, Elaine Page, and Madonna, a somewhat controversial option. In the meantime, Disney acquired the movie rights, and Alan Parker signed on to write and direct. Michelle Pfeiffer and Glenn Close were then in the running as Eva. Madonna lobbied hard for the part, writing long letters pleading her case, and showing up to meetings and auditions in 1940’s costume, and she readily agreed vocal training as Lloyd Webber was concerned about her ability to sing in a musical film. She eventually won the part. Antonio Banderas, originally cast as Che Guevara, remained in the project, and Jonathan Pryce was cast as Juan Peron.
Madonna, often associated with being a bold, confident figure in pop music, revealed a refreshingly vulnerable side, revealing she was used to having complete creative control as a pop singer, and not used to the process of recording her voice solo with other music parts added on later in production. She admitted to feeling “petrified”, saying “I had to sing ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber … I was a complete mess and was sobbing afterward. I thought I had done a terrible job.” Known for bombing at the box office as an film actress, the magical combination of acting and singing in this role worked for Madonna. She won a Golden Globe for “Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy” in 1997.
Madonna sings the iconic “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” in the 1996 film.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was born March 22, 1948 in London, England, and still resides there.