Stars Line Up for Lloyd Webber's 50th Birthday Celebration in London

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London's Royal Albert Hall will be the scene of a spectacular evening of music to celebrate the 50th birthday of musical impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber (whose actual birthday is 22 March). The one-night only engagement, held Tuesday 7 April 1998, will feature a collection of celebrities from the worlds of film, stage and musical theatre who are coming together to honour Lloyd Webber, perform many of his most popular songs, and support the National Youth Music Theatre, a charitable organisation.

For example, Glenn Close will do a song or two from Sunset Boulevard, while Lloyd Webber's ex-wife, Sarah Brightman, will offer selections from Phantom of the Opera. Elaine Paige will sing "Memory" from Cats. Donny Osmond, currently playing in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Utah, will offer tunes from that show. (Osmond will also star in the official video of Joseph, to be taped late in the year.)

Also on hand for the birthday bash will be Antonio Banderas (who starred in the filmed Evita), Michael Ball, and the UK pop group Boyzone (doing tunes from Whistle Down The Wind). Julian Lloyd Webber, Andrew's brother and an internationally-known cellist, will perform "Variations" -- written by his sibling especially for him.

Soprano Kiri Te Kanawa will sing a new Lloyd Webber song, "The Heart Is Slow To Learn." Sources have previously reported that the tune was from an upcoming Lloyd Webber sequel to Phantom, but the composer's spokesperson, Peter Brown, told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 26) that as of now, "there really is no `Phantom II.' There's no script, no storyline. He's busy working on Whistle Down The Wind and that's it at the moment."

The stars will be supported by a 40-strong company, a chorus of children from the National Youth Music Theatre and a 52-piece orchestra, conducted by Michael Reed. Steven Pimlott will direct the evening's entertainment, with design by Mark Thompson and choreography by Anthony van Laast. A spokesperson for the Really Useful Group told Playbill On-line that Mark Thompson's design will be striking. Certainly, it will need to be large and versatile as it will be accommodating scenes from the new show as well as Lloyd Webber's enduring roller-skating favourite Starlight Express.

Tickets, ranging in price from £25 to £95, will be available to the public. Proceeds will go to the National Youth Music Theatre, the British youth music theatre charity which recently staged the successful Bugsy Malone in the West End. Lloyd Webber has sponsored the charity since 1993.

Britain's ITV channel will be recording and broadcasting the celebration. Plans are still in the works for possible international distribution of the broadcast, but there are no plans to record the event for CD release.

For more information, contact the Royal Albert Hall box office on 44-171-589-8212.

--By Terri Paddock, What's On Stage, London, and David Lefkowitz

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