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About the Playwrights: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

By Lynnette Horner

 

Like many musical partnerships, the collaboration of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice brought together the essential elements of musical creation: a passion for their art, astronomical talent, and enough diversity to keep things interesting. Andrew Lloyd Webber attacked his career with a single-minded vision that produced dramatic spectacles such as Cats (1981), Starlight Express (1984), and Phantom of the Opera (1986). Tim Rice, as a modern Renaissance man, has shown an amazing ability to diversify his interests. In addition to collaborating with Lloyd Webber on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968), Jesus Christ Superstar (1971), and Evita (1976), he has been a successful non-fiction writer, publisher, cricket player, pop song writer, radio show host, and collaborator with other music heavyweights such as Alan Menken, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, and Elton John, The Lion King.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biography reads like the reincarnation of historic music geniuses. He was born into a musical family on March 22, 1948, and was raised in South Kensington, England. His father was a professor at the Royal College of Music and taught music theory and composition. His mother, also employed at the Royal College, taught piano and was a singer and violinist. At the age of three, Lloyd Webber was playing the violin; at six, he was composing music, and at nine, he was published in the magazine Music Teacher.

At the age of seventeen, Lloyd Webber received the following letter from the then twenty one-year-old law student, Tim Rice: “Dearest Andrew, I’ve been told you’re looking for a “with it” writer of lyrics for your songs, and as I’ve been writing pop songs for a while and particularly enjoy writing the lyrics I wonder if you consider it worth your while meeting me. Tim Rice.”

He obviously did consider it “worth his while” and thus began the collaboration of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Tim Rice was born November 10, 1944, in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England. He briefly studied law, then ended up working for EMI Records while Lloyd Webber was studying serious music.

After their meeting in 1965, they began working on their first musical, The Likes of Us, which was never performed. After this time Rice wanted to compose pop songs, but Lloyd Webber, true to his vision, wanted to work on another musical. It was during this impasse that they were contacted by Alan Doggett, the head of music at Colt Court, a small preparatory school in West London. He commissioned them to write an end-of-term religious concert. During the next two months a twenty-minute “pop-cantata” version of Joseph and his colored coat was born. (Today Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a two hour stage spectacular.) The play made its debut on March 1, 1968, and its immediate popularity demanded repeat performances in May and November of the same year. With each performance, “Joseph” got bigger and better. An early review notes that Tim Rice sang the part of Pharaoh in several of the early performances. The success of “Joseph” led to a record deal with Decca for an album that was cut in January of 1969.

Perhaps Lloyd Webber and Rice felt they had really hit on something with their Bible theme and once again raided the Good Book to write Jesus Christ Superstar which premiered in 1969.

In 1975 they began another venture based on the classic tales of P. G. Wodehouse and began writing the musical Jeeves. However, Rice soon lost interest and dropped out of the project. It wasn’t long, however, before they got back together to collaborate on Evita, which premiered successfully in 1976.
These two enormous talents parted ways at this time to “recharge their batteries,” as Rice said, away from each other. However, unlike many other musical collaborations, both men went on to phenomenal success in solo careers.

With his unique ability to mold music from disparate genres into music with wide popular appeal, Lloyd Webber’s other credits include Sunset Boulevard (1993), a rewrite of Jeeves titled Now Jeeves (1996), and his most current work, Whistle Down the Wind. In October 1982, Lloyd Webber made history by being the first person to have three smash hit musicals running simultaneously in New York and London. With the opening of Phantom of the Opera he repeated that accomplishment in 1988. He has also worn the hats of music composer for British film, producer at the London Palace Theater which he owns, and record producer.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has accumulated countless awards, and his smash musicals have generated astounding box office revenues. Therefore, it is not surprising that he was named the most powerful person in American theatre in a list compiled by Theater Weekly. He was knighted in 1992 by Queen Elizabeth for services to the theater not only in the United States and the United Kingdom, but throughout the world.

Tim Rice’s other musical theater credits include Blondel with Stephen Oliver, Chess with Benny Andersson and Bjorn Uvaeus (from the pop group Abba). In 1986 he co-wrote the smaller scale Cricket, again with Lloyd Webber. In 1991 he produced Tycoon from his translation of the hit French musical, Starmania. In 1993, Rice replaced the late Howard Ashman as Alan Menken’s lyricist on Disney’s Aladdin. Their song, “A Whole New World,” won them a Golden Globe and Academy Award. He also was awarded, with Elton John, the Golden Globe, Academy Award, and Ivor Novello Award for his work on Disney’s Lion King and the song, Circle of Life.

As a journalist, Rice has written regular columns for national newspapers and cricket magazines, reflecting his abiding interest in the game. His continued passion for popular music not only won him the BBC Radio’s title of “Rock Brain of the Year” in 1986, but led him to co-author The Guinness Hit Singles series with Paul Gambaccini, Mike Read, and his brother Jo Rice. In 1994, Rice was granted knighthood for services to the arts, particularly music, and sports.

The biographies of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are as yet unfinished. With the universality and diversity of the upbeat “Hakuna Matata” to the poignant “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” to the passionate “Music of the Night,” their music is almost omnipresent. Hopefully, there are still many songs to be written.

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