It was perhaps inevitable that Aaron Thielen, the lead artistic director of Lincolnshire, Illinois' Marriott Theatre would one day produce a revue of the work of English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
"Andrew Lloyd Webber kind of changed my life," said Thielen. "I'm a sucker for all his music. I grew up with Jesus Christ Superstar. I'm in this business because I saw Cats in Milwaukee. It changed my life."
Thielen is now paying Lloyd Webber back for leading him to a theatre career by conceiving and producing the first revue of the songwriter's music in a generation. Called Now and Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, it will open Jan. 23 (after previews from Jan. 16) and run through March 17.
Now and Forever is not the first Lloyd Webber revue: Music of the Night, a concert event created in the 1990s, has been making the rounds for many years.
"One of the things that made us excited about this was not doing the Music of the Night format — tuxes and gowns and mikes — or recreating scenes from the musicals," said Marc Robin, a 16-time Jeff Award winner who has worked frequently at the Marriott. Robin directs and choreographs Now and Forever.
Cast members in dance rehearsal
You read Robin's credits right: he is director and choreographer. Dancing is not something that occurs to the average theatregoer when they think about Andrew Lloyd Webber. His musicals are not the toe-tapping sort. But dancing is exactly what they're going to get at the Marriott. The show not only has a singing cast, but a just-as-large chorus of hoofers.
"We wanted access to all that dance music," said Thielen, saying that Andrew Lloyd Webber's company Really Useful Group and Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, which licenses Lloyd Webber's shows, "were always very receptive to dance, and immediately gave permission. They loved the idea of 'Variations' from Song & Dance being used as a through-line in the show."
Among the centerpieces of Now and Forever will be the entire overture of Jesus Christ Superstar, executed as a dance number.
"It's a huge dance show," said Robin. "The dancers are killing themselves. Audiences at Marriott expect dance."