Musical theater living through its best era, says Webber
Ahu ÖzyurtIt is a once-a-lifetime experience to see “Phantom of The Opera” in Broadway or London. But for Istanbul theater-goers, the show is not so far anymore. The Zorlu Performance Center has been hosting the legendary musical for a month and last week the show had a very special guest in the audience.
Sir and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber secretly came to Istanbul, stayed at the Soho House and watched his epic staged in Turkey. I had the privilege to catch him backstage on April 23.
“It is my first time in Istanbul” said Webber, “I have always wanted to come. My great love other than music is architecture. I have always wanted to come and see the buildings here as well as to see the show. So when I had the opportunity, this was too good to miss.”
Webber believes his shows’ appeal all over the world have a secret of their own. “What is the secret of the Phantom?” I asked. “How come a specific story about two very different people can be so popular all over the world, from China to Broadway?”
Antidotefor the digital life
“People ask me all the time. And had I known the answer I would have written another ‘Phantom of the Opera,’” Webber said smiling. “But I think it has to do with the fact that, people always have something about them that they physically want to change. And after all it is a very good love story that everyone can relate to.”
Lloyd Webber believes live theater is living through its best times in 50 years and musicals are as popular as ever. Challenging the conventional wisdom that digital is killing theater, Webber says it is all about finding the right scale of production.
“The trouble in Broadway is that there are too few theaters for musicals. We have the same problem in London. There is a great demand for musical shows. The best performing play on Broadway this year is a three-hour musical about the founding fathers of the U.S., called ‘Hamilton.’ It is a much smaller musical but it is very successful. People want live entertainment more than anything else. They spend so much time at home or in their offices in front of computers that live theater is an antidote for them. People want to get out, which is why restaurants are also very successful,” Webber said.
The Zorlu Performance Center has been extremely proud to host “Phantom” and Lord Webber seemed to be enjoying the professionalism of the Turkish team. “I have never worked with them but I would love to do more here,” he said.
He was very excited while doing the finishing touches on the scenes in Istanbul. As energetic as always, Lord Webber’s next stop will be Broadway again. His new musical (a much smaller but still a very powerful one, he said), “School of Rock,” will premiere on the Great White Way this November.