The team behind Andrew Lloyd Webber took to Twitter to ask which song from his mega-selling musical catalog his legions of fans would like him to perform. The answer came back “All I Ask of You” from “The Phantom of the Opera.” Sir Andrew graciously obliged.
Of all the semi-impromptu performances that have erupted on the internet since COVID-19 locked us inside our homes, Lloyd Webber’s offering is the one that brought me closest to tears. “Phantom,” my dad’s favorite musical, has never been my most cherished show. But the sound of this Puccini-esque waterfall momentarily eased the clenched state I didn’t even know I was in.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get such a response to this little tryout,” he began, seated at his piano upon which rested an old photo of a couple I presumed to be his parents. The British room with a view evoked the calm of stately Wayne Manor. A butler, possibly named Alfred, was no doubt off camera overseeing preparations of afternoon tea.
Once Lloyd Webber started playing, his dog was drawn to its master. Pleased by the tender proximity of this musical canine, he joked, “It’s all right. It doesn’t come from ‘Cats.’”
I didn’t think I’d ever get such a response to this little tryout! Here I am in my own self-isolation. The song that came out on top was ‘All I Ask Of You’ - ALW pic.twitter.com/NCSujNwBPd— Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW) March 19, 2020
Everyone hears a song differently. The piano strains brought back to me the lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe that arise so naturally from the music. As I was borne aloft by Lloyd Webber’s playing, my mind’s ear was cocked to Barbara Cook’s rendition of the song on her “All I Ask of You” album.
Cook had a genius for reinterpreting show tunes. Her method was to draw out the inherent emotion by magnifying meaning through her autumnal intelligence. All of which is to say Lloyd Webber’s performance momentarily parted the heavens to allow Cook’s voice to echo the line “let me lead you from your solitude” with timely resonance.
Memorable musicals make us feel less alone in the world. This gift from Lloyd Webber, delivered directly from his grand study to our paltrier digs, succeeds in providing the fix so many of us theater addicts now ache for.
He noted that he had to play the song in C Major because his arthritic fingers couldn’t do it the way it was written in D Flat. But no one was complaining. Lin-Manuel Miranda replied to the Tweet with a flattering early birthday message. Lloyd Webber returned the compliment by proposing a play off.
By Thursday night, the challenge had been accepted. It’s game on!
PLAYOFF ACCEPTED!— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) March 20, 2020
Here’s “Everything’s Alright” from Jesus Christ Superstar.
Your move, @OfficialALW,
aka A-L Dubs.
(And of course, imagine a red bucket on this piano labeled https://t.co/d5YxoarPgB) https://t.co/ijOty38ymF pic.twitter.com/MTyCPMvqI2
Gentlemen, for all our sakes, let the theatrical music play on.