Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and his former wife Sarah Brightman took the stand yesterday at U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Webber was speaking in his own defense in a seemingly never-ending David and Goliath battle, in which unknown songwriter Ray Repp asserts the musical theatre titan stole the melody for the title theme of Phantom of the Opera from Repp's 1978 song "Till You."
Lloyd Webber denied plagiarizing the song from Repp. The songwriter said the "Phantom" tune was partly inspired by his then-wife Sarah Brightman's vocal ability. Brightman, who starred in the original production of The Phantom of the Opera , preceded Lloyd Webber on the stand. According to the Daily News, she also testified that Lloyd Webber wrote the song for her.
Both Repp's lawyer, William Coulson, and Lloyd Webber's lawyer, Jane G. Stevens, were in court and unavailable for comment.
The trial, which continues today, began in 1990, when Repp, who hails from Baltimore, first sued Lloyd Webber. Lloyd Webber contended that he had knew nothing of "Till You." The battle took a strange turn when, after Lloyd Webber listened to the tune, he countersued Repp, charging that Repp lifted the "Till You" melody from "Close Every Door," a song from Lloyd Webber's earlier work Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
In 1994, the Repp suit was dismissed, but the Lloyd Webber countersuit was allowed to continue. That suit, however, was subsequently thrown out by a lower court in 1996. Last year, Repp's lawyers succeeded in having the dismissal of Repp's initial suit reversed, leading to a decision earlier this year where the Supreme Court declined to dismiss Repp's suit against Lloyd Webber. Lloyd Webber's lawyers argued that Repp's claim should be tossed out because the plaintiff could not prove Lloyd Webber ever heard "Till You," according to Variety. The argument did not persuade, however, and the new trial was allowed.