The latest episode of Variety's Stagecraft podcast features a conversation between host Gordon Cox and multi-award-winning musical theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who delves into many top-of-mind issues for himself and the theater community at large.
The conversation was a main event at Legit! The Return to Broadway, Variety's annual Broadway event (held this year on October 12), which also hosted members of the new guard of Broadway producers: Brian Moreland (Thoughts of a Colored Man), Lia Vollack (MJ: The Musical), and Matt Ross (Pass Over, Is This a Room, Dana H.)
In his conversation with Cox, Webber discussed his early support for safety measures that would keep theaters around the globe open during the pandemic, as well as his advocacy for improvements in the theatergoing experience. "There were 1100 bookings just to come to the theater to go to tea," he recalled about his addition of afternoon tea to the offerings at his Royal Theatre Drury Lane. "That's what I think theater should be. They should be destinations."
Webber also went into detail about the stop-and-start journey of his new musical romcom Cinderella (a collaboration with Oscar-winning Emerald Fennell), which he hopes will make it to a Broadway stage some time next season—largely, he said, because he would like to move on to his next project. "As fond as I am of it, I want to write something else," said Webber. "I've got an idea about what I want to do, but I can't really share it. Having done recently School of Rock and having done Cinderella, I'd quite like to do something which is a bit more serious."
During the interview, Cox also asked the composer to respond to the recent comments made by West End producer Cameron Mackintosh about the casting of transgender performers. "I've got nothing against a trans performer," Webber said. "The question is are they the best person for the role? You always want to cast the best person possible for the role. It really doesn't matter what they are or what color they are. It really doesn't matter. That's always been my mantra."
"A trans woman could play Christine, for instance?" asked Cox. "Yes. If she could sing it," Webber replied.
Other conversation highlights include Cox probing Webber about the experience collaborating with Taylor Swift on the song "Beautiful Ghost" for the Cats movie. "It was one of the few enjoyable experiences of the saga," Webber responded. He continued the conversation, hinting at another possible movie musical that could be hitting the screen. "I think Sunset Boulevard would make a marvelous movie," he said. "But we've got to try and persuade Paramount Pictures of this."
Finally, Cox broached the question of a Starlight Express revival, the response to which may disappoint the niche musical's eager fans. "It was great fun in its time," Webber said, "but I really want to move on. I want to write something new."