Countdown: My Top Ten Andrew Lloyd Webber Songs

Countdown: My Top Ten Andrew Lloyd Webber Songs

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. 

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Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar?

Chris Peterson

In the summer of 1998, movie audiences were "treated" to rival movies about meteors that were going to destroy the planet unless a small team of astronauts saved the day. And while Deep Impact and Armageddon weren't exactly cinematic classics, they certainly gave their respective audiences plenty to talk about. 

The Broadway community was given a similar situation in 1971 when two shows opened in New York about the last days of Jesus. The shows were Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.

While both pieces focus on the same characters and are arguably the best works from their respective composers, they are much different from one another both musically and thematically. JSC is a rock opera while Godspell dabbles in various musical styles. While Godspell focuses on the Gospel according to Matthew, JSC takes its interpretation from multiple Gospels. In my opinion, Godspell is more celebratory while JSC is more investigatory. While JSC stirred up a lot of controversy, Godspell is considered a safe choice and endorsed by many church groups. In most cases it comes down between a show that is full of improvisation versus envelope pushing. 

But which one is better? There probably isn't an answer for that. My personal favorite is Godspell but only because I've been involved with multiple productions of it and never have done JSC. 

I asked my friend who I know has done both productions and he sent me the following:

Godspell I see as a far more reverent piece. The script is primarily taken from the gospels of St Matthew and the show was written and conceived in a very communal environment where the original cast had direct input to the songs and construction of the show and therefore has a much more personal feel to it. Also, the staging of Godspell is a very organic process. The version you've seen in the film mirrors the original off-Broadway production where the cast were portrayed as children playing games and learning through the parables. Later productions (including mine) were far different staging it in more modern settings and allowing the show to evolve. Also, there is a very improvisational aspect to the show in that the staging of the parables themselves are very up to interpretation and open to adding modern pop culture to the show making it accessible to newer audiences. It's these aspects that I think make Godspell a much more artistic show.

'Superstar' on the other hand is not only a fantastic piece of political and social commentary told through the final days of Jesus Christ, it is also Andrew Lloyd Webber's most brilliant musical he ever wrote! The show I find to be much more about Judas Iscariot, portraying him as a tragic figure and Jesus is portrayed more as a prophet who's divinity is constantly in question and is seen more as a man than in any other portrayal. It is a show that over thirty years later is still seen as controversial and really pushes the envelope in terms of telling the story of this historic and biblical figure.

In the end I enjoy both shows for different reasons and feel both are fantastic works of theatre that should be seen by everyone. 

Backstage at Jesus Christ Superstar

Caitlin Arcand

This past weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of Jesus Christ Superstar at Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, RI. The powerful show was put on by Encore Repertory Company, a well-known theater company in the area that I have been a part of for the past 5 years. JCS featured 37 extremely talented actors and actresses and was directed by Meaghan Bruneault, with music direction by Jeff Kimball. We opened on March 27th with a 10am performance for school groups. During this performance, I decided to go around backstage taking pictures and filming to give you all a look behind the scenes of this huge production! 

 

Our show day begins bright and early when we arrive at the theater for an 8am call.

Immediately everyone heads into their dressing rooms to begin hair and makeup for the show. With a cast of 37 people, dressing rooms can get crowded. However, with a cast as close as ours, no one has any problem being up in each other’s business. Throughout the morning, you can hear music blasting from all dressing rooms. Beyoncé was the obvious choice in our room, however the guys across the way insisted on Wicked and RENT. 

At around 9am, we are all called to the stage for vocal warm-ups. Vocal warm-ups serve as a clear presentation of who are the prepared people in our cast and who are not, as some people come up fully ready in costume, while others decide to rock their underwear. Following warm-ups, everyone is sent back downstairs to finish getting ready. While the underwear-rocking cast members rush around trying to finish up their look, the rest of us hang out for the next hour. Most of this time includes eating, chilling in the green room, taking selfies, and the not so occasional costume fix. Especially for the dancers who are running around and moving the entire show, there are bound to be wardrobe malfunctions. From safety pinning like crazy, to sewing minutes before the show, to whiting out Jesus’ bloody clothes, our costumers Johnny and Caroline are always there to make sure we look awesome. 

About fifteen minutes before show time, we are called for “cast in the hallway,” our daily pre-show meeting. Our production team informs about crowd size, gives us notes on things we may have missed the show before and wishes us luck on our performance. After the meeting, the chaos begins! Cast members run around frantically, checking prop tables, doing last minute makeup touches and making sure they take off their slippers before hitting the stage, a mistake I’ve almost made several times. As soon as we hear “5 minutes till places” we take a few minutes to relax and get together for a group prayer. This is a good time to calm down and release your worries about the show. 

Finally, “places” is called! Everyone rushes upstairs to the wings and waits for the lights to flash, signaling the show to begin. This is also “run around and give all your friends hugs” time since most of us don’t see each other much once the performance starts. The beginning music and the opening of the main curtain are the most thrilling parts of the entire show. Everyone gets an instant kick of adrenaline, we are ready to put on the show of our lives!

Thankfully, our 10am performance was amazing. The children in the audience were ecstatic and cheering throughout the entire show. As we went to exit the theater later that morning, we were greeted by screaming children who starred at us an awe. They were so excited to meet us, which made all of us even more excited to be there. 

As the weekend went on, we continued to receive amazing feedback on the show. It was truly an incredible experience to be a part of. We could not have done it all without our amazing production team, Meaghan Bruneault (director), Jeff Kimball (music director), Kathy Fortier (choreographer), Anna Martineau (producer), Becca Donald (stage manager), Fred Fortier (tech director), Johnny Cagno and Caroline Tillinghast (costumes) and our fabulous photographer Mike Scott! Jesus Christ Superstar will definitely go down as one of my favorite shows of all time! 
    
To check out more behind the scenes footage of Jesus Christ Superstar:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzoof8cz0AQ&feature=youtu.be