Andrew Lloyd Webber, who hasn't been having his best year, finally got a break March 24, winning the 1997 Oscar for Best Original Song for "You Must Love Me," which he wrote with Tim Rice for the movie version of Evita.
Otherwise, most theatre folk were swept away inThe English Patient's nine-Oscar tidal wave (including Best Picture) at the 69th annual Academy Awards, whose ABC-TV telecast ran three and a half hours.
In accepting his award, Webber drily noted, "Thank heaven there wasn't a song in The English Patient, that's all I can say."
Webber's Broadway Sunset Boulevard had closed at a loss two days earlier (his birthday), his Whistle Down the Wind closed out of town in February, and his Really Useful Company recently announced substantial layoffs.
Webber and Rice had lost the 1973 Best Adapted Score Oscar to Marvin Hamlisch for The Sting, but coincidentally beat him this year. Hamlisch, currently preparing for a London revival of his The Goodbye Girl, co-wrote the song "I Finally Found Someone" from The Mirror Has Two Faces. Lyricist Rice has won Oscars twice in recent years: for "A Whole New World" ( from Aladdin) in collaboration with Alan Menken; and for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (from The Lion King) with Elton John.
The award was a bittersweet one for theatre fans. Webber and Rice haven't written together since they completed Evita in 1979. They reunited to write the one song for the film's star, Madonna, who sang it on the telecast although the Oscar committee failed to nominate her for the award. In all, Evitawas nominated in five categories, but won only for Best Original Song.
Elsewhere in the Oscars:
* Composer Elliot Goldenthal, whose Juan Darien was produced on Broadway in fall 1996, was not as lucky as Webber. The English Patient did have a Dramatic Score, and won in that category.
* Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who won the Best Original Musical or Comedy Score for Pocahontas in 1996, failed to reprise the award for The Hunchback of Notre Dame this year, losing to Emma.
* Among the odder instances of being passed over were 81-year-old Pulitzer-winner Arthur Miller (The Crucible and William Shakespeare (as "adapted" by Kenneth Branagh in Hamlet) who were beaten for the Best Screenplay (Based on Material Previously Produced or Published) Oscar by Billy Bob Thornton, who wrote and starred in Sling Blade, based on his play about a retarded murderer.
* Victor/Victoria star Julie Andrews presented a special Oscar for lifetime achievement to director/choreographer (and five-time Tony winner) Michael Kidd for a film career that has included Guys and Dolls, Hello, Dolly!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Star!. The Band Wagon and other films. Clips from the above were shown.
* Anthony Minghella, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay to The English Patient, is a produced and published playwright. His titles include Truly Madly Deeply and Made in Bangkok.
* One of the high points of the evening was a spirited performance by the cast of The Lord of the Dance, which enlivened the proceedings much in the way the cast of the other Irish dance troupe, Riverdance, did for the Grammys. One nagging question: What did Lords of the Dance have to do with the clips illustrating film editing techniques being show on screens behind them?
* Hamlet was nominated in four categories: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Dramatic Score (Patrick Doyle), Best Costumes and Best Art Direction -- and lost in all, though star/director/adaptor Branagh did get to introduce a segment of film clips quoting Shakespeare, including everyone from Orson Welles to the Three Stooges.
* The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story, a documentary about the theatrical caricaturist, lost Best Documentary Feature to the boxing movie When We Were Kings.
* Two Shakespeare projects, William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet competed in the category Best Art Direction. Also in that category was Evita, The Bird Cage (starring Nathan Lane) and The English Patient. And the winner was . . . The English Patient.
-- By Robert Viagas