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Interview with Andrew Lloyd Webber

Aired March 9, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inventor of "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," many of the most successful and enduring musicals of the age have come from the pen of one man -- Andrew Lloyd Webber. The English composer has written 14 musicals in his long career. He has an awards shelf that's crowded -- Tonys, Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Oscar.


ANDERSON: Webber's ballads have become famous in their own right, selling millions of copies worldwide. And this month, he's debuting much anticipated "Love Never Dies." A sequel to his famous, "Phantom of the Opera," the title song has already gone to number one in Korea, sung by one of their most famous singers.


ANDERSON: The new production has the blogosphere buzzing with critiques and anticipation. Whether it's "Jesus," "Phantom" or "Mr. Mistoffelees," Webber knows how to make them sing.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: And I sat down with the maestro earlier on today in London and started off by asking him if, after all these years, given that it was opening night, effectively, tonight, for "Love Never Dies," whether he still gets nervous before a show.

This is what he said.


ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER, COMPOSER: Oh, it's a funny thing, you know, this, because the big night, in one sense, was last night, because that's when the critics were in. We -- we've sort of now started to do the American system of having the critics earlier and not on the opening night. They prefer it, of course, because it will give them -- it gives them more time to do their reviews.

So, in a way, tonight's going to just be sort of family, friends and this is it, folks. And it -- it's not really -- in one sense, it's a rather different sort of opening, because the -- because it's -- but its fate is cast already and I don't know what it is.


ANDERSON: I'm sure it will be a roaring success.

How long has "Love Never Dies" been in the works, Andrew?

LLOYD WEBBER: It's been in my head to do the story of the Phantom and Christine 10 years later for a long, long time. But I didn't find a story line that I could make work until about, oh, it's got to be about three years ago. Ben Elton was staying with me for the summer. And he said, I'd like to see this story, because it really should work, you know. And he looked at it and he said, well, the problem with it is, is you've introduced a whole raft of new characters, because we'd decided we wanted to do the (INAUDIBLE) in America.

And -- and Ben said you can't do that. He said, what you've got to do is continue the story of the -- all of the principal characters in the old show.

So I said, well, Ben, if you're so certain about that, go away and give me the story and I'll see whether I can do something with it. And he took away the elements that, obviously, we had, but he added some crucial new ingredients. And then I thought, I'm away.

So to be -- to be honest, it's been in gestation for years, but I didn't really say I can do this until about three years ago.

ANDERSON: Fantastic.

Let's get some viewer questions in.

Rich John has written and he says: "What is the most important focus for a creative team when -- when making a new show?"

LLOYD WEBBER: Well, a musical is probably the most collaborative form of theater that you can find because, for example, on this, Jack O'Brien, who is the director, came on board very early and therefore he's had an input into how the plot developed. And the lyricist, Glenn Slater, of course, he has -- he has the job of actually turning the story into words which can be sung. So he had a huge input.

So it is, in fact, an extremely collaborative process. But I guess in a sense, I have to drive it, because the music is there all the time. I mean it's a through written -- it's an opera, really, frankly. And therefore I have to be in the driving seat because I have to know that I can write.

ANDERSON: Olivia has written in to us. She says: "'Phantom' was pure genius." She says: "How do you better that?"

LLOYD WEBBER: Well, I don't think we could ever better the old "Phantom" in its own way. What I think is that "Love Never Dies" is a completely standalone musical, though it happens to have the same four characters. But I don't think that if you go to it that you will say, oh, gosh, I needed to have seen the original. I think the -- it stands completely alone as a musical.

When I -- it was last week in the previews when I thought, do you know what, it really does stand alone. And that was the most important thing for me.

ANDERSON: Rich John again: "When do you know," he asks, "that you're onto a winner?"

LLOYD WEBBER: The turning point for me with this show was last week when I -- I saw it all come together and I thought hey, this really is working. It -- I mean it's a -- it's a big thing. You know, musicals in preview -- I remember one night with the previews of the old "Phantom" that the chandelier came up and got caught. And we thought the whole damn thing was going to fall on the audience. And so Cameron and I were at the back and we had to take the decision that we were going to abandon the chandelier completely.

So we did the show with the chandeliers that were half hanging in the midst of everything, whilst we were sitting in the back praying that the darned thing wouldn't fall.

So, you know, all -- all of this -- this stuff about what goes on in previews and everything that's all over the Net these days, I mean it's all rubbish, because it -- it has nothing to do with the end results of the show whatsoever.

ANDERSON: That was lovely.

Julie asks: "How do you decide on your story lines?"

I mean you've swung from sort of historical with "Evita" to biblical with "Joseph" to fantastical with -- with "Phantom." "Is there any one genre that you prefer?," she asks.

LLOYD WEBBER: Not particularly, but in the sense that a really good story is what makes a musical. And why I think "Love Never Dies" will work is it's a very, very strong story. I've been involved with musicals before. I mean, my last one, "The Woman in White," the story didn't really quite work. And I probably shouldn't have done it. I think I did it because I was so bored that I had to find another thing to do, because I do get very bored very quickly.

And I love working and I want to get onto the next piece, you know. And that's what I -- I like to do.

ANDERSON: How surprised have you been by the success of your work in Asia?

LLOYD WEBBER: Well, I -- I'm not really surprised because -- I mean years ago, I thought that it would be very interesting to bring "Cats" to China. But I'm -- I'm surprised by the complete sort of acceptance there seems to be now. And I mean to -- to be honest about it, career and well, Australia, of course. But the -- but the Far Eastern countries like Korea and China and Japan are now really very, very important places for musicals to go to.

ANDERSON: "Love Never Dies" -- we wish you the absolute best with that.

Finally, what's next, Andrew?

LLOYD WEBBER: Well, I'm -- I'm producing "The Wizard of Oz." It's never been done in the theater, in my view, particularly well. And I'm going to write a half a dozen new songs, also keeping all the great ones. But I'm going to do half a dozen new songs. And we shall cast it on television.


ANDERSON: Andrew Lloyd Webber, speaking to you, your Connector of the Day.

And tomorrow's Connector is behind one of the most mysterious songs of all time. Carly Simon still won't say who inspired her hit, "You're So Vain." But she says there is a new place and can look for a clue. We're going to ask her about that tomorrow.

And apart from that million dollar question, what do you want to ask Carly?

Head to and submit your questions.