Andrew Lloyd Webber might just be the most influential composer in the history of modern theater. His name is recognizable even to those who aren’t well-versed in musicals, with many of his works embedded in the fabric of pop culture.
From 1965 to the present day, Andrew Lloyd Webber has amassed a collection of over 20 different works. The following are some of his greatest, though they may be known for different reasons.
The Wizard Of Oz
Just about everybody living in today’s modern world is familiar with The Wizard Of Oz thanks in part to the popularity of the 1939 film. In fact, The Wizard Of Oz is no stranger to the stage, either, with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version actually being the 3rd iteration of the story.
The 2011 version of The Wizard Of Oz is notable for the fact that it marked a return to Webber’s collaborative partnership with Tim Rice after nearly 25 years. This is a combination that produced many of Lloyd Webber’s greatest works, and one name you’ll see mentioned throughout this article.
While this version does retain the story and much of the music found in the film, there are songs created by Lloyd Webber/Rice added to keep things fresh. What’s also interesting is that the role of Dorothy was actually an award granted to the winner of a TV reality show called Over The Rainbow.
Compared to other recent musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s involvement, The Wizard Of Oz has been performing quite well. In fact, the show is planned to continue running at least through 2024.
The Phantom Of The Opera
If there’s 1 musical that everybody associates with the name, Andrew Lloyd Webber, it’s definitely The Phantom Of The Opera. To this day, The Phantom Of The Opera remains one of the most popular musicals of all time.
It cannot be understated how impactful The Phantom Of The Opera has been in the world of theater. The show opened in London in 1986 before moving to Broadway in 1988, where it ran until 2023, with heavy speculation that a revival is forthcoming.
There simply aren’t many musicals where the original production has run 35 years. In fact, in 2012, The Phantom Of The Opera set the record for most performances at 10,000, which grew to more than 13,000 by its end.
In terms of everyday society, The Phantom Of The Opera is probably the one that most people have seen. More often than not, it serves as an accessible entry into experiencing the world of musical theater.
Lloyd Webber’s music in The Phantom Of The Opera is one key ingredient to the overall success of this show. Another is the fact that its dreamy, otherworldly scene settings allow the audience to become fully immersed in the story.
Love Never Dies
If you are an absolute die-hard fan of The Phantom Of The Opera, you’re probably aware of Love Never Dies. The musical debuted in 2010 and serves as a sequel to the beloved 1986 production.
On paper, Love Never Dies should have been a success, just based on the overwhelming success of The Phantom Of The Opera, alone. However, the actual reception upon its opening proved that the show missed its intended mark.
Critics were not kind and there were even fans who openly protested the show. Despite this, many in the academic field hold Love Never Dies to the same level of mastery that many of Lloyd Webber’s greatest works are considered to have achieved.
Ultimately, what this means is that every audience member must view the show to form their own opinions. Even in film, sequels rarely perform as well as the original works they follow, but are often reasonable efforts on their own.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Aside from The Phantom Of The Opera, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is one of those musicals that everybody is even vaguely familiar with. Chances are, if somebody hasn’t seen the show, they have at least heard its name time and time again.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat came out in the late 1960s and was essentially Andrew Lloyd Webber’s debut as a theatrical composer. This show is also notable for the fact that it was the product of the collaborative partnership between Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Interestingly enough, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat actually became popular after another biblical-influenced musical (which will be mentioned later) became a hit. Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would then become somewhat of an underground hit, and would not make its way to Broadway until 1982.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is still extremely popular today. The musical is often selected and performed by school drama departments as well as smaller regional theater companies.
There are some films that just seem to inspire audiences well beyond the year of its original release. As far as playwrights are concerned, the 1950 film, Sunset Boulevard, seems to be one of those movies.
In fact, even the legendary Stephen Sondheim took a crack at pitching the idea but was met ultimately persuaded to abandon the idea on advice that it wouldn’t hold up as a musical. However, this didn’t seem to affect Andrew Lloyd Webber’s thought process when he was approached about the project in 1976.
Sunset Boulevard would not premiere in London until 1993, but despite apprehensions, the film did actually translate quite well to musical theater. Its story of a fading actress is one that continues to be a Hollywood trope, and it’s this familiarity that allowed Sunset Boulevard to become an international success.
Since its opening, Sunset Boulevard has enjoyed numerous revivals, with speculative plans surrounding a future film adaptation of Webber’s musical. Fans continue to patiently wait after being milled in nearly 20 years of promising rumors.
Were you alive during the early days of the internet, when it was popular to use the search engine, Ask Jeeves? If so, you probably remember Jeeves as being depicted as a butler who would fetch your search queries.
While this iconography is a mainstay of pop culture, many are unaware of the fact that it originates from works written by P.G. Wodehouse. These works are definitely significant, with the mid-1970s seeing a musical production called Jeeves that featured music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Unfortunately, the original production was by no means an even moderate success. In fact, the show was reportedly so bad that it closed its doors after only 1 month in production.
Such a show probably would never be revisited, but Jeeves did find itself being reinvented in 1996. Whether it was spawned by the early search engine’s popularity remains to be seen.
However, this new version (entitled By Jeeves), ended up being a much more respectable release. It continues to enjoy international revivals on a regular basis.
Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar is essentially what put Andrew Lloyd Webber on the map as somebody who moves the needle in musical theater composition. The musical came at a pivotal time when rock music was venturing into the realm of the opera.
Interestingly enough, Jesus Christ Superstar might be the only musical in history that gained admission to a Broadway production by means of a record. The show did not have enough money for a full production, but the record’s success quickly proved that the demand for a show was there.
Frankly, the idea of the story of Jesus being set to rock music is almost absurd in a comedic way. Religious groups obviously took offense, but this controversy likely only helped in its overwhelming success.
Jesus Christ Superstar remains one of the most popular musicals of all time, with numerous revivals and 2 film adaptations. It is a work that revolutionized musical theater and introduced many facets that modernized theater beyond the transitionary period that followed the Golden Age of Broadway.
The Likes Of Us
The collaboration of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber ranks among the legendary alongside the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein. However, the very first musical that the duo worked together on in 1965 wouldn’t see the stage until 2005.
That musical is called, The Likes Of Us, and was prepared for the stage to celebrate the duo’s 40th year of collaboration. It has since remained an underground musical among amateur theater companies, having never seen a Broadway production.
Are you familiar with the Barnardo charity that has been helping homeless children in the UK since 1866? The Likes Of Us is a dramatization based on the charity’s founder, and how he came to decide that this was his life’s calling.
This musical follows Barnardo as he discovers some homeless children while walking home after getting kicked out of a bar for fighting. The audience is taken on a journey as he experiences destitution and his highest highs, ultimately finding love and being able to purchase a castle.
Evita is a 1978 musical that may not have happened without Tim Rice falling into an informational rabbit hole. After hearing of the Argentinian Eva Perón and recalling a childhood stamp collection he had that featured her, he became obsessed with her life’s story.
Rice became so gripped in respectful reverence that he even named one of his daughters after Perón. Lloyd Webber initially declined Rice’s pitch in favor of Jeeves, but thanks to Rice’s patience, the duo soon after began working on one of the biggest musicals of all time.
Evita takes the audience on a journey through Eva Perón’s life up until her death. The political backdrop of the musical was heightened by Lloyd Webber’s use of different musical influences including styles of rock, classical, ballad, choir, and Latin-rhythm.
Evita continues to be one of the most popular musicals of all time. Its popularity only increased in 1996 when a film adaptation featuring Madonna and Antonio Banderas was released.
For a period of time, Evita was the top-performing musical, especially in the UK. This would soon be eclipsed by the massively famous musical, Cats, which debuted in 1981.
Before Cats, a musical of such production had not been in existence and prompted musicals to have more of a commercial value. It’s safe to say that Cats is yet another musical that displayed how Andrew Lloyd Webber helped to revolutionize theater in nearly every decade of his career.
Some critics seem to have mixed opinions about the impact that Cats had on musical theater. Many have felt that its commercial aspect eliminates any artistic soul that may have existed when it was first created.
Upon its release, everyone seemed to be in agreement that the production was quite astonishing, especially with regard to its costume design. Today, the story of the Jellicles continues to be a beloved musical that lives on thanks to multiple film adaptations and revivals.
Aspects Of Love
Love is something that seems to exist in more forms than can almost be imaginable. It is something that all artists have reflected on at some point, and it’s this facet of life that is explored in Aspects Of Love.
This musical may not be the colossal career landmark as many of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s other works. However, it is one that continues to enjoy revivals well beyond its original 1989 debut.
Aspects Of Love was in various stages of development for nearly an entire decade. Perhaps it’s this factor that plays into the fact the plot studies the relationships of its characters over the course of 17 years of their lives.
Since its debut, Aspects Of Love has had a few revisions, especially where its script is concerned. Nevertheless, Aspects Of Love is a musical that every human from any generation can likely relate to on a personal level.
School Of Rock
Just about everybody who has seen their fair share of movies over the last 20 years has seen School Of Rock. The film, which starred Jack Black, became an international phenomenon.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the main character is kicked out of his band and lies about his credentials to get work as a substitute music teacher. In turn, he ends up discovering and nurturing the talents of his students, helping them to win a battle of the bands.
This same story arc is applied to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which made its debut on Broadway in 2015. Like the film, Lloyd Webber’s musical was a great success and is still one of his most successful musicals from the last 15 years.
While the Broadway production officially ended in 2019, School Of Rock continues to be performed around the world. The musical has since found its way to regional shows as well as school productions, ensuring that younger audiences continue to be inspired to become musicians.
The Beautiful Game
Outside of the US, it’s safe to say that soccer (or football, depending on where you live) is maybe one of the most popular sports in the world. It only makes sense that the sport would eventually find its way to providing the backdrop for a full-production musical.
Sometimes called, The Boys In The Photograph, The Beautiful Game made its debut in 2000. The musical is set in the year 1969 in Northern Ireland amidst the highly-violent 30-year period when the country was seemingly at war with itself.
The Beautiful Game shows that Andrew Lloyd Webber is not afraid to collaborate on projects that seem to have a political background. One could almost draw parallels between The Beautiful Game and the setting of Evita, though each is wholly different from one another.
While this might not be an overtly famous musical like others on this list, it is still in production around the world. In fact, the musical eventually made its debut in Ireland in 2012.
Tell Me On A Sunday
Have you ever seen a musical that has only 1 act and consists of songs that are meant to be sung sequentially? This is a bit of a rarity as far as musical theater goes, but if you have seen something like this, there’s a good chance that it may have been with the musical, Tell Me On A Sunday.
Tell Me On A Sunday originally began as a collaborative effort between Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The duo seemed to have differing agendas, which eventually prompted Lloyd Webber to work with Don Black on the project.
Tell Me On A Sunday has an ironic plot that mirrors the irony that often plays out in everyday life. Its main character falls victim to and becomes that which she feared the most at the beginning of the musical.
Because of its song cycle nature, Tell Me On A Sunday was recorded as an album, similar to Jesus Christ Superstar. It even had a live telecast that was broadcast on the BBC channel in 1980.
Leave it to Andrew Lloyd Webber to come up with a musical whose characters aren’t even human! The 1984 musical, Starlight Express, follows the story of a steam engine train that wishes to be faster than other engines in hopes that he might win the fancy of his desire.
If this sounds like Thomas The Tank Engine with a twist, it’s because the popular children’s franchise served as inspiration for the production. But don’t think you’ll attend Starlight Express expecting to see its performers wearing boxy train car costumes.
One of the things that Starlight Express is known for is the fact that all of the performers wear roller skates throughout the musical’s duration. The musical also set a record for the most people in attendance for 1 show.
Starlight Express continues to be insanely popular thanks in part to the fact that it’s regularly performed internationally every few years.
Song And Dance
Song And Dance is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that you might not be too familiar with compared to the big giants. However, Song And Dance is a bit of an unusual entry in Lloyd Webber’s career, though it does share some parallels with Tell Me On A Sunday.
Song And Dance debuted in 1982 and is the result of Lloyd Webber’s collaboration with Don Black. If you’ll recall, the duo created Tell Me On A Sunday, which featured only 1 act.
Song And Dance is similar in the sense that it was originally designed to be a 1 act show performed by only 1 person. It was even recorded and broadcast on BBC in 1980, whereafter the idea became combined with another 1 act project.
Wondering what the greatest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that you’ve never heard of is? While there might be a few that you are unfamiliar with, the 1986 musical, Cricket, remains obscured to history.
Cricket would be the last time that Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice would work together until 2011. Unfortunately, not too many people got to experience the 30-minute musical in its entirety, considering that there were only 3 performances.
You might be wondering, how, then, could Cricket be considered one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best musicals? The answer is that the collaborative partnership of Lloyd Webber/Rice felt it fitting enough to serve as a birthday present to Queen Elizabeth.
While it would never see the stage beyond those initial performances, songs from Cricket did find their way into other Lloyd Webber musicals. Both Aspects Of Love and Sunset Boulevard are examples of this.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2013 musical, Stephen Ward, is another that might be a bit of an obscurity, at least to US audiences. The reason for this is that its story follows the scandal surrounding the British politician, John Profumo, and the affair he had with a teenage model.
Stephen Ward is yet another product of the collaboration with lyricist, Don Black. However, this is yet another instance where things were not necessarily as successful as they could have been.
In a way, Stephen Ward seemed to be somewhat doomed from the beginning. For starters, the press who were in attendance for the show’s debut was forced to cover a disaster that took place during a show at another nearby theater.
Despite its lackluster reception, the music featured in Stephen Ward is considered some of Lloyd Webber’s best modern works. In fact, the recorded album had so much demand that its record label released it earlier than announced.
The Woman In White
Some people might get up in arms about the fact that The Woman In White is mentioned here. The musical debuted in 2004 and was met with extremely mixed reviews, especially where Lloyd Webber’s composition is concerned.
However, sometimes, things just take a little bit of extra time to develop themselves entirely to the listener’s ear. There are those that feel that the music in The Woman In White is a slow-burner that makes Lloyd Webber’s mastery more apparent with each revisit.
In terms of subject content, The Woman In White dives deep into some serious and dark themes. Ultimately, a secret seals the fate of one of its main characters.
Top Andrew Lloyd Webber Musicals, Final Thoughts
Not every musical that Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed and/or written has turned out to be a box office hit. However, this further proves the point that even the masters are not successful 100% of the time.
Regardless of flops, history has shown that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals have the substance required to ensure they remain relevant throughout every following decade. His catalog of musicals will continue to be studied by those who have dreams of revolutionizing the musical in a similar fashion.