Arguably the most successful musical theater composer ever, Andrew Lloyd Webber looks back on his early days in the business in the new memoir, Unmasked.
The tome will be released March 6. It's over 500 pages — and that only covers his life until 1986 when The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway. A double-disc compilation album will be released March 16 to accompany the book and will feature his musical work from the last five decades, including new covers from Lana Del Rey, Nicole Scherzinger and Gregory Porter.
The book takes readers from Lloyd Weber's school days to the stage. In 1970, Lloyd Webber released Jesus Christ Superstar, his first megahit musical in what would become a pantheon of many. From there, productions of Evita, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera followed, solidifying his status in the theater world.
Cats, as Lloyd Webber explains, came from the idea of setting T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats to music. Lloyd Webber recalls his early critics deemed Cats "decidedly dodgy," but the musical went on to be one of Broadway's longest-running productions.
With more than 20 musicals and counting, Lloyd Webber attributes the success of his best productions to the collaborative nature of musical theater. He says every "ingredient," from the plot to the score to the set design, has to be right.
"There are always going to be people who think a subject for a musical is not going to work," he says. "Think Hamilton, really. If somebody had come in three or four years ago and said to you, 'Look, I've got this idea for a hip-hop show about a less well-known founding father of America,' you'd have said, 'Hang on a minute, I'm not sure about that.'"
Instead, Lloyd Webber has learned to go with his instincts. "I think anything that actually sounds on paper as if it's a brilliant idea, it's probably a bad one." Hear his fill conversation with NPR's Renee Montagne at the audio link.