Andrew Lloyd Webber–Music of the Night, at the Chicago Theatre.
Commenting on the vast success of his Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber recently remarked, “It doesn’t hold up to huge intellectual scrutiny.” Unencumbered by memorable lyrics (except for those provided by Sir Tim Rice), his florid, uncomplicated, oft-repeated melodies in effect feel the emotion for you. “Memory” from Cats can mug you with instant nostalgia for what remains palpably artificial.
Collect the strongest songs into a well-packaged anthology revue and add superb singing and hoofing and Webber fans will feel as if they’ve died and gone to heaven. Largely revamped from the first two touring productions of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (now there’s much more of Sunset Boulevard), the elaborate Music of the Night features a full orchestra perched high above a starlit stage splendidly painted by state-of-the-art projections. The 15-member ensemble below tear into a potpourri drawn from every Webber megamusical but the flop Jeeves and the overexposed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Often delivering the selections for more than they’re worth is Colm Wilkinson, who was the first singer to play the Phantom, in 1985. He brings a sky-topping tenor to the soaring anthem “Love Changes Everything,” easily the best thing in Aspects of Love. Substituting for Janet Metz, Tonya Dixon acted the stuffing out of “Tell Me on a Sunday,” easily the best thing in Song & Dance. Laurie Williamson blends in beautifully on “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” a brilliantly arranged trio from Sunset Boulevard. The show works equally well as a reminder to Webber fans of what fuels their passion and as an introduction of eight musical works to recent converts. But I still hate Cats.