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Why Andrew Lloyd Webber is worried about the future of Broadway

Andrew Lloyd Webber on the future of Broadway
Andrew Lloyd Webber on the future of Broadway 08:01

When asked, Andrew Lloyd Webber could not say how many Tony Awards he has won: "Oh my gosh," he said. "I don't know off the top of my head."

Which is saying something. By our count, Lloyd Webber has won seven, and earned more than 20 Tony nominations. He's had an unbroken string of shows on Broadway for the last 43 years.

And he likes to keep audiences guessing. "People do love to put you into a box, and they say, 'That's what he or she does,'" he said.

Doane asked, "Do you think you are in a box?"

"Well, the point is, is that I can't be put in one. Because I wrote some Paganini variations. I set T.S. Eliot's poems with a musical called 'Cats.' I then wrote a requiem mass, at the same time I was doing a silly pop musical about trains. And then I wrote 'Phantom of the Opera.'"

Michael Ball and Sarah Brightman perform "All I Ask of You," from "The Phantom of the Opera":

All I Ask of You Michael Ball and Sarah Brightman - Royal Albert Hall | The Phantom of the Opera by The Phantom of the Opera on YouTube

Add to that: "Evita," "School of Rock," and "Jesus Christ Superstar," the 1970s rock opera phenomenon that launched his career – one of many collaborations with lyricist Tim Rice:

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) - Superstar Scene (10/10) | Movieclips by Movieclips on YouTube

There have been more than half a dozen film adaptations of his work, not to mention Grammys, an Emmy, and an Oscar. His latest composition was for a stage of a different sort: the coronation of King Charles III. "The King said, 'Would you write the anthem for the coronation?'"

Doane asked, "How does that happen? The King calls you?"

"Well, I was actually having a dinner with him and the Queen …"

"As one does!"

" … because he's got a lot of interest in the same sort of causes that I have, you know? And he said, 'Well, what about an anthem from you?'"

It's a far cry from "Cats"!

O, make a joyful noise
Unto the Lord, all the earth
Sing unto the Lord
With the harp and the voice of a psalm 

With trumpets and sound of cornets
Make a joyful noise
Make a joyful noise
Before the Lord the King
From "Make a Joyful Noise" by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Make A Joyful Noise – The Coronation Anthem by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Official Music Video) by Andrew Lloyd Webber Musicals on YouTube

"I have a deeply serious side, but I also do enjoy having a bit of fun," he said.

"So, what's the secret? How did you avoid being put in that box?"

"No secret: I just write what I want."

The man who helped define the Broadway blockbuster also says what he wants: "You can get a Tony Award for putting up a bit of money and saying you're a producer," he said. "Somebody puts $20,000 into a play or something, and then a play wins best play, and they can say, 'Well, I'm a Tony Award-winning producer.'"

Doane said, "The Tony Award people are not gonna like that comment."

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. CBS News

"But it needs to be addressed, you know, because it is a bit silly. There was that moment when sort of 30 people would come on stage, 'cause they're all 'producers.'"

There were no Tony nominations this year for Lloyd Webber's newest production, "Bad Cinderella' - a playful, "alternative" twist on the fairy tale. It closed prematurely this past week, ending his decades-long run with a show on Broadway.

Lloyd Webber said, "I'm completely baffled how a show in London could have probably had the best reviews of my career, what the nerve it touched in New York [was] which made everybody feel so bad about it?"

It got some pretty scathing notices; The New York Times wrote, "Bring earplugs. ... Bring eye plugs." But the composer said he hadn't read any of the reviews. "No, because my son, 'cause he died, you know, on the day after it opened."

Nicholas Lloyd Webber, a Grammy-nominated composer, died in March after battling gastric cancer. He was just 43. "I don't think it really has completely sunk in yet," said Andrew.

Doane asked, "How do you deal with something like that?"

"Well, I'm not sure I dealt with it very well," he replied. "I mean, it's very hard to put into words, but I think about it a lot. And you know, we hugely miss him."

He dedicated the final Broadway performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" to his late son.

Correspondent Seth Doane and Andrew Lloyd Webber on the stage of the Majestic Theatre, days before "The Phantom of the Opera" held its 13,981st (and final) performance.  CBS News

On stage in New York a few days earlier, Lloyd Webber reflected on "Phantom"'s record-breaking 35-year run, and was asked why he thinks the show has resonated for so long. "I don't know. I mean, if I knew this, why 'Phantom' has really touched so many people, then I'd do it again!"

"It remains a mystery to you?"

"It's not that; there isn't a formula."

And the 75-year-old composer says it is getting harder to put on a show here, creating barriers to experimentation. "I'm a bit worried about the future of Broadway," said Lloyd Webber. "The running costs are so incredibly high. So, Broadway is going to turn into the equivalent of Fifth Avenue where, you know, if you want to create a brand, you put it on Broadway knowing you're not ever going to really make any much money in it, but they have to be there."

And then, there's the price of tickets. "You can't sustain, as it stands," he said. "It'll just be very, very big hits. And it bothers me."

Of course, "Phantom" is one of those "very, very big hits." It grossed an estimated $6 billion worldwide since it debuted in London in 1986. Profits from the musical helped fund the $100 million renovation of Lloyd Webber's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. He's investing in the future of the industry that he's helped shape for the past half-century.

As a composer, he described using music to control the evening: "Keys are really vitally important," he said. "'The Music of the Night' is in fact in D flat. And it's a wonderful key, this, 'cause it's so warm."

'The Music of The Night' Ramin Karimloo | The Phantom of The Opera by The Shows Must Go On! on YouTube

Audiences may not recognize the musical devices employed by a great composer, but can most certainly relish them.

"I love D flat," Lloyd Webber said. "'Don't Cry for Me' is in D flat."

Patti LuPone - DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA by NewNickTahoe on YouTube

Doane said, "You play these songs, they're all so memorable, they're huge songs. And they've all come from you."

"Well, you know, that's kind of what I do! I mean, I do love melody. Melody for me is everything – melody and story."

For more info:

Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Carol Ross.

Watch The 76th Tony Awards presented live June 11 on CBS and Paramount+ beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT; preshow on Pluto TV

2023 TONY AWARDS: Here are the nominees

See also:

Broadway maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber returns 08:02
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