A collection of Australia’s finest musical theatre stars will present a tribute to one of the industry’s most divisive giants when The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber makes its Sydney premiere next month.

Directed by theatre veteran Stuart Maunder, the production will feature a wide selection of songs from Lloyd Webber’s 45-year career.

With proven hits like Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, The Music of The Night and Any Dream Will Do, it seems like the epitome of a crowd-pleasing show.

“And the bottom line is, that’s why we’re doing it,” Maunder told the Star Observer on the eve of the show’s Perth premiere. “The audience feedback so far has been fantastic.”

Befitting the melodramatic nature of Lloyd Webber’s works, Maunder spoke in florid language about the process of “picking the eyes” out of his best-loved shows and presenting “big bleeding chunks” of them to the audience.

“The most difficult thing is figuring out what to put in and what to leave out. There are certain songs that’ll have the audience storming the stage door afterwards if we don’t include them,” he said warmly.

“It’s a fabulous cast, and this is one of the great joys that I’ve directed in the past few years. When you put these songs end to end, it’s unbelievable what the man has actually created.”

The creative team behind the show has been given unprecedented access to the composer’s catalogue, resulting in a show that includes a stirring Cats medley, four selections from Evita, and two songs from his latest musical, Love Never Dies.

Even the section of the show devoted to a Lloyd Webber production which never made it to Australia, Whistle Down The End, will be instantly familiar to audiences.

“[That section] includes No Matter What, which was Boyzone’s biggest hit. We follow that with Whistle Down The Wind, which was a hit for Tina Arena, and Vaults of Heaven, which was a hit for Tom Jones — and all from the same original show,” Maunder said.

Throughout, high-tech LED screens will transport audiences to the settings for each song, as well as showing Lloyd Webber speaking directly to the audience, helping to contextualise the works they see on stage.

Ultimately, Maunder said, “we’re trying to showcase what the man has actually done — it’s very much a valentine to the Lord, as we call him.”

And to those who diss Lloyd Webber? For all his fans, there are many in the theatre world who sniff at his mass popularity.

“I defy them to see the sheer variety of these songs one after the other, from the heavy rock of Jesus Christ Superstar to the operatic quality of Love Never Dies.

“When people turn their noses up at him, it usually comes from a position of not knowing what the man has actually achieved. There’s a reason why he’s as big as he is.”

info: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyric Theatre, Star City, May 25 – 29. Tickets through Ticketmaster.

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