Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has been a Broadway fixture for the past 50 years. He wrote his first show with Tim Rice, The Likes of Us, in 1965. Today the theatre icon turns 70 years old.
So what better time to look back on this polarizing icon of musical theatre by ranking, what I feel, are his best 10 pieces of work.
10. "Till I Hear You Sing" from Love Never Dies
Debatable choice to kick things off, but hear me out on this one. Love Never Dies is not a great musical, it's not even a good musical, but "Till I Hear You Sing" stands out as not only the best piece in the entire show but the best piece of music Webber had composed since Sunset Boulevard. The melody works, a sweeping chorus and a nice crescendo at the end. You could also do a lot worse than having Ramin Karimloo open your show with this.
But most of all, it gave us a glimmer that Webber had gotten his groove back. If only he could have kept that up for the entire show....
9. "Pharaoh's Story" from Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Call it a guilty pleasure but I really like this piece. It's opens Act 2 and really utilizes the children's chorus better than anything else in the show. Probably making it look better is that it comes right before the confusing Elvis-esque singing Pharaoh.
8. "You Must Love Me" from Evita
It's interesting that one of the best songs from Evita isn't from the original production but from the film.
While the creation of the song was purely to win an Oscar rather than artistic inspiration, which worked by the way, it's not a terrible song. In fact it's a very good one. It's a sweet intimate song which stands out among an epic score.
7. "Masquerade" from Phantom of the Opera
Another fantastic Act 2 opener, "Masquerade" is by far the best company number in the entire show. And is there anything better than hearing that high trumpet on the last chorus?
6. "Close Every Door" from Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
We've recently discussed the much deeper meaning behind this song, however what I like most about this, is that it shows young Webber's promise. Remember, this was originally composed in 1968, and was the second show that he had composed. It's a haunting ballad in the middle of an otherwise upbeat show. It's definitely a preview of what would be his specialty later on in his career.
5. "High Flying Adored" from Evita
While many would assume that "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" would be the best number for Evita, it's actually "High Flying Adored" that takes the prize for me. Again, it's a sweet, creative melody. Another example of Tim Rice's masterful lyric work as well.
4. "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard
Sticking out among the drudge that is Sunset Boulevard is this magnificent song. This is Webber at his best, a sweeping, self-reflective ballad. When he composes like this, there is no one better at it.
3. "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera
"Think of Me" not only got me interested in musical theatre to begin with, but it's also the best number from Webber's overall best work.
2. "Memory" from Cats
It might be cliche' but "Memory" is seriously not only one of the best showtunes of the 1980's but one of the best songs from the 1980's. It's one of the most iconic songs for a female to sing. There are few showtunes that transcend the industry like the way this one did. Also, Betty Buckley hitting "Touch me!" is one of the greatest chill inducing moments in cast recording history.
1. "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar
It's very rare to see a show treated with such reverence by those who sing it the way "Gethsemane" receives. A vocalist friend of mind once called it a "Masters Degree in Singing" if you mastered it. I won't argue with that one. It's not just good, it's other worldly. By far the most inspired tuns to ever come off Webber's hands.
For me it ranks right up there with "Being Alive" and "Soliloquy" as one of the best showtunes for a male in the history of musical theatre.