Is Lloyd Webber on his 'game'?

by Michael Riedel

from Nypost


ABOUT 100 close friends and business associates of Andrew Lloyd Webber convened at the Cambridge Theater in London last Saturday to see a private run-through of the composer's new musical, "The Beautiful Game."

The show -- which Lloyd Webber is writing with the English novelist and comedian Ben Elton -- is set against the backdrop of the Irish troubles and follows a group of teenage soccer players from 1969 to the present.

Invitees were asked not to discuss "The Beautiful Game" publicly, so here's the off-record buzz:

The musical is being likened to "West Side Story," with the Catholics as the Jets and the Protestants as the Sharks. One person says it's "very dark, very grainy and very tough."

The show examines how the Irish troubles upend the lives of each member of the soccer team. One player, a Protestant with a promising professional career, gets kneecapped. Another, a Catholic, betrays his Protestant friends to the police. A third runs off to America.

Lloyd Webber's score is loaded with '70s-style rock tunes.

"It's very much in the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,' tradition," said a person who attended the performance.

There are no break-out ballads like, say, "Memory" from "Cats," though several observers said the song "Our Kind of Love" could be a pop hit if a star like Barbra Streisand were to record it.

As for the book, most people say it needs pruning and that it could use more warmth and humor.

"Too many bad things happen to too many characters," one person said. "It's a bit relentless."

After the performance, guests attended an elegant lunch in Lloyd Webber's downtown office. The composer served wine from his cellars at Sydmonton, his country estate outside London.

"We have an exceptional white burgundy by Verget," he told guests. "Even better, we have a superb Chateau Gruaud-Larose 1993. There is lager, if you must."

"The Beautiful Game" is slated to open in London by the end of the year. If it's a hit, the show will come to New York in 2001.


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