Celebrating the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber
Marc Robin, (center), rehearsing with the cast of "Now and Forever." | Photo courtesy of Peter Coombs and The Marriott Theatre
‘Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber’
Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 23-March 17; previews run through Jan. 20
$40-$48; student and senior discounts, and dinner/theater packages are available
(847) 634-0200 or www.marriotttheatre.com
Updated: January 17, 2013 12:28PM
Aaron Thielen and Marc Robin have completed a dream project.
The two have created a show around the music of one of their favorite composers.
“We love Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music so much, we’re trying to honor it,” Thielen said.
“He’s one of the best composers that the musical theater scene has ever seen,” Robin added. “His songs are hugely emotional and passionate, and I think passion drives the arts.”
“Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” runs through March 17 at the Marriott Theatre. Thielen and Robin share writing credits. Robin is also directing and choreographing the show. The pair previously co-wrote “All Night Strut, A Fascinatin’ Rhythm.”
The composer’s England-based team kept tabs on the show’s progress. “They were excited because they worked with us numerous times on projects and trusted that the final product would be great,” Thielen said.
The show does not have a storyline and the 19 performers do not play characters. Each number stands on its own. Consequently, the challenge was deciding which songs to include from Webber’s vast repertoire and how to “create a full evening that from top to bottom has a good flow,” Thielen said.
“It was a long process,” Robin reported. When we spoke, a couple of weeks before the show opened in previews, they were still making changes in the lineup.
“It’s obvious the things that audiences are expecting to hear,” Robin observed. Among those must-have selections are “Memory” from “Cats” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from “Evita.”
“It was the secondary things that made us go, ‘What says something different from these other songs?’ or ‘What’s the energy we haven’t seen?’” Robin reported. One selection criteria was songs that would lend themselves to dance numbers. “It’s a huge dance show,” Robin declared.
So huge that Robin, who has choreographed numerous shows for the Marriott and other theaters, selected Harrison McEldowney, from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and River North Dance Chicago and dancer/choreographer Matt Raftery as co-choreographers. “It’s a chance for the audience to see three completely different styles of dance,” Robin explained.
Personal taste did enter into the selection process. Thielen admitted that although Webber’s show, “Aspects of Love,” isn’t well known, he included a couple of songs from that score because, “I love them.”
Since it’s a world premiere, the performers have had to be flexible. By way of example, Robin noted, “I staged an entire tap number on the first day of rehearsal and we scrapped it.”
All those changes haven’t bothered Broadway and Marriott Theatre veteran Linda Balgord. “It’s a very exciting time in rehearsal,” she declared.
Balgord has a strong connection to Webber’s music. She starred in original Broadway productions of “Cats,” “Sunset Boulevard” and “Aspects of Love.” “He writes a lot of what we call ‘high belt’ roles — very vocally dramatic things — and I have the range to do it,” Balgord said. “Hence I ended up doing a lot of the great women’s roles he wrote.”
She is excited that the show offers her “a chance to sing this wonderful music again.” But the focus isn’t the same. Balgord cited “Memory.”
“The song applies to a lot more than the circumstances that are present in the storyline of ‘Cats,’” she said. “It’s very much about a point in your life when you’re looking back and perhaps feeling that the best of your life is over. But you realize that there’s more and you have to go on.
“Every song,” she added, “definitely has a life outside of the show and the character it was written for.”
The co-creators are confident that their performers will prove these songs are just as thrilling independent of their source show. “The cast is astounding,” Robin declared.
Thielen added, “I think the audiences will kind of lose their mind when they see what these people can do.”