It was in the 1970s that Andrew Lloyd Webber had his first hit (with Tim Rice) with Jesus Christ Superstar. The show was produced on Broadway and the music available on record before it was ever staged in London - an insight into the future marketing phenomena. Throughout the 1980s Lloyd Webber scored one successful musical after another.
Full orchestral score for Jesus Christ Superstar, 1971, ink and pencil on paper. Museum no. S.102-1981
Marcus Lovett as 'the Man' in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Whistle Down the Wind, Aldwych Theatre, London, 1998, black and white photograph. Museum no. TM 10337-1/11
Whistle Down the Wind is based on a 1961 British film, starring Hayley Mills, which was, itself, based on a book by Hayley's mother, Mary Haley Bell. It tells of a group of English north-country farm children who believe the stranger hiding in their barn may be Jesus. This photograph shows Marcus Lovett as the Man. It was Hayley's father and Mary Haley Bell's husband, film star John Mills, who suggested the subject to Andrew Lloyd Webber. He and his wife saw an amateur production in Edinburgh and told Lloyd Webber he should see it, as it worked well as a musical. Lloyd Webber said he couldn't go as his wife was expecting a baby. 'You can always have another baby', Mills told him. 'But it's your last chance to see the show. It finishes tomorrow.' Lloyd Webber flew to Scotland, saw the show and immediately signed up the rights.
Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty's Theatre, London, 1998, colour photograph
For his hit show The Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber took Gaston Leroux's 1911novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, which had already spawned several plays and films, and adapted it into a musical. The story is based on a series of mishaps which actually occurred at the Paris Opera House in the 1880s. It tells of a disfigured musical genius, living beneath the theatre who falls in love with a beautiful soprano. In his desperation to have his love returned, he sets in train some terrifying events, causing chaos, terror and death. The labyrinthine passageways of the vast Paris Opéra, complete with underground lake, were a perfect setting for Leroux's melodramatic ghostly tale. Lloyd Webber's show opened at Her Majesty's in 1986 and received a ten minute standing, stamping ovation on its first night. It is still running, and the 'flamboyant melodious score' (Observer) has taken it on to worldwide success.