It's interesting that most people are defining ALW's failure on the lack of huge Box office success; yet when he had one blockbuster, collassal financial hit after another: Evita, Cats, Starlight, Phantom there were many theatre snobs who claimed that didn't define success.
All of those back and forths about a man's career - especially someone involved in the arts is BS to me. Aspects of Love has always been and probably will always be one of my favorite scores ever. Know the entire thing backwards and forwards- note the changes to the score's evolution from when it opened to when it played on Broadway to some of it's revivals... That's because to me the score is amazing. Not everone liked that, obviously. It was nowhere near the moster hit Phantom was (since Phantom in its original productions are both playing in NY and London) Does that make it a failure? Sad if in your narrow financial perspective you say "yes"
Stephen Ward seemed to be a creative gamble. And as I've said at least a few times in the discussion on this, it seems it was a passion for ALW to see a miscarriage of justice brought to light. Perhaps creatively it didn't work out, but bravo for his motivations. Considering the producers of some of the juke box musicals simply are looking for "entertainment" as their goal -- which is fine, there's nothing wrong with just an entertaining night out -- I kind of like when someone who can write beautiful scores like ALW takes a risk to do something a little bit out there. And hope that he doesn't ever let that early amazing success limit his pursuits in the future
The title was a disaster. It sounded so boring, like a newsnight documentary giving a balanced and dispassionate view of a historical figure. It doesn't help that "ward" rhymes with "bored."
And this title triggered the worst sort of coverage in the papers, namely serious news coverage about clearing the name of somebody nobody cares about.
For example, if this musical were called "Orgy," and the makers said they were referring to "a political orgy of corruption," as well as the literal orgy you see in the musical, coverage would have been more salacious and critical, and might have generated "outrage" and interest, with the consequence audiences might have felt they were seeing something naughty and exciting.
But that would have been a lie, because the main problem of the production is that it comes from a newsnight mind, the mind of someone making a defensive argument about political history in a biased but reasonable manner.
This musical presented a man, who recruited teenage girls from their mums and moved them into his flat in that London with the purpose of presenting them to rich and powerful men, as an awfully nice fellow. It tries to paper over the obvious fact that Ward was a seedy creep.
Imagine if Sondheim hadn't made Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett quite so wicked, if he had omitted the word "demon" from the title, if he had tried to suggest that Sweeney and Lovett were merely the victims of society rather than their own vicious inner demons, how boring would that take have been? And isn't Ward a chamber of horrors character like Sweeney Todd after all, albeit relegated to Blackpool?
Where Lloyd Webber was completely right is that this seedy creep was no worse, and probably more intrinsically likeable and decent, than many of the society figures who welcomed him into their sphere to get at his sexy young offerings. And this is another problem: society is not demonised enough in this musical. Valjean needs his Javert, but we just don't get one in Stephen Ward: we don't get an embodiment of societal evil who we can hate and fear, who would drive the story and make us root for Ward. All we get is two silly policemen tacked on in an almost spurious scene in the second half. How uninvolving!
If only this musical had not had it's po-faced crusading agenda and it's dull title, I believe this could have been a hit. I recall with fondness the passion that Lloyd Webber brought to powerful numbers like "Human Sacrifice" and "Manipulation," the touching emptiness and neediness of Charlottle Spencer singing "He sees something in me," the lonely romantic delivery of Alexander Hanson singing "Too close to the Flame," and the number the wickedness of which I wish had more embodied the whole musical, "You've Never Had It So Good."
A shame to see this show go. I saw it 6 times and my only problem was with the police interviews, which seemed to go on forever and weren't very musically engaging. Having said that, they told a very important part of the story, so not sure how else they could have been done. Otherwise I loved it. And 'Too Close to the Flame' is a remarkable piece of music. Would have enjoyed seeing this many more times in the future.
Mentions how in this production velma and edna are portrayed, sets are flimsy etc
.'However, for all its robustness, it requires a delicate balance and Paul Kerryson's new production at Leicester, with its flimsy, flat sets and front-facing performances, has strayed too far from the tone of the original movie.'
'Here, that producer is determinedly respectable, but not monstrously so; her hair neatly curled, not a towering backcomb. Likewise, Tracy's mum, Edna, originally played by Divine, shifts into a panto dame mould, as Damian Williams – his voice like a foghorn – makes no attempt at feminity, playing her like Fred Flintstone in a frock.'
No I agree too. Im usually someone that would prefer an actor who can sing than the other way around but mama rose is a role that really needs both. She didn't show a vocal range in sweeney that suggests she can do it but she may surprise everyone
At their best, I love them both. At their not-so-best, they both can annoy me - ALW can wander off into the territory of unintended silliness while looking for a big or catchy number, whereas Sondheim can be repetitive even in the subjects he chooses, a bit like Woody Allen - if he gets it right, it's great and moving, but if he doesn't, I can sit there wondering if I'm really THAT interested in over-the-top neuroses of New Yorkers. Also, it really depends on the production. ALW shows need a director and actors who know how to not overstep the line of lavish spectacle and enter the realm of cheesiness, and Sondheim shows can be terribly annoying when handled by a snobbish creative team (and it's not that many of his songs do not tempt performers to ham it up to the max).
The edge that Sondheim does have over ALW is that he writes his own lyrics, and pretty well too.
Paplazaroo -while I can agree with you that they are different guys with different styles/etc, perhaps the reason we have this argument is because by saying that Sondheim is like a Beckett play and ALW is like Modern Family is why some of us ALW fans are defensive and think that many of Sondheim fans are snobs.