No doubt Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most prolific composers in recent years. We’ve all heard the music of “Cats” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita” and a host of others. Paper Mill Playhouse honors him in this moving tribute
The show is quite a pistache of well known, and not so well known, creations. It’s fascinating to see clips of Lloyd Webber introducing his own music and what inspired him in various situations. For instance, he recalled seeing Judy Garland at Talk of the Town when she appeared in London. She was on the downward slope of her career and could hardly remember the words to her signature song, “Over the Rainbow.” That experience gave him the idea for “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” the number Eva Peron sings shortly before she dies of cancer. It’s sung with verve in this production by Mamie Parris.
The energetic cast is mostly fine, although there are uneven moments. A problem with this sort of tribute is that the singer/actor doesn’t have much chance to connect with the character. For instance, when Mauriicio Martinez delivers ‘Gethsemane’ from “Jesus Chist Superstar,” it seems overwrought. Granted there’s plenty of rock in the production, but the song somehow loses the pathos and struggle that the lyrics imply.
On the plus side, we’re treated to excerpts from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ with Bronson Norris Murphy in a smart,stylish delivery of ‘Any Dream Will Do.’ There are also poignant moments from “Sunset Boulevard,” with Rema Webb’s interpretation of ‘With One Look’ and ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye.’
Alex Finke sings ‘Pie Jesu,’ a portion of Webber’s “Requiem,” which he wrote in memory of his father. Her delivery didn’t quite capture the haunting message. One problem with Paper Mill is the use of microphones that, at times, can be overwhelming. It’s unfortunate that most Broadway singers haven’t learned to project without electronics as opera singers are trained to do.
But these are the pros and cons of a program such as this. On one hand, it’s fun to hear major music from shows you may have missed and for Webber to share some of his own challenges along the way. On the other hand, there’s little opportunity to build a connection with the plot of a particular musical.
The production was co-written and devised by Richard Curtis,with direction and choreography by Joann M. Hunter. Performances continue at the Paper MIll Playhouse in Millburn through March 1. For tickets, call 973-376-4343 or visit PaperMill.org.