Webber without spectacle Music review: The composer's "Music of the Night," from "Superstar" to "Sunset Boulevard," fills the stage with songs.

February 01, 1996|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Take away the spectacular sets of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals and you're still left with more than enough music to fill the stage.

The 37 musical numbers packed into the Webber retrospective "Music of the Night" bombard the audience with so much emotion and volume that the Lyric Opera House is the site to visit for the worldwide Webber network of fans.

Be advised, though, that the concert-version staging translates into "Cats" who wear evening clothes as they go through their slinky feline motions. In fact, the only fur in sight was on some of the women in the audience.

The stage is dominated by a Big Band-style orchestra on an imposing platform. More stars than the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered twinkle on and above that platform, and the choreography for all this night music is enhanced by a stairway leading up to those heavens.

As for the human stars, the brightest is Colm Wilkinson, followed in order of brightness by Janet Metz. She in turn shines a bit more than Patricia Ben Peterson. This threesome is ably supported by a constellation of 12 perky singers and dancers.

Best known for his performances in the title role of "The Phantom of the Opera," as Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar" and as Jean Valjean in the non-Webber "Les Miserables," Mr. Wilkinson does some superb singing here. His plaintive "Gethsemane" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" tops the applause meter for the evening.

Among the Webber women, Ms. Metz scores with "Memory" from "Cats" and "With One Look" from "Sunset Boulevard," while Ms. Peterson tugs at the heartstrings with "I Don't Know How To Love Him" from "Superstar." If Ms. Peterson's high-pitched vocalizing sometimes seems a bit much, blame it on the shrill anthems favored by the composer.

Even Mr. Webber's most ardent fans sometimes may find themselves wondering about the paths taken during this musical revue's trip down memory lane. Simpler is generally better where the presentation is concerned, because things tend to get a bit messy whenever "creative" medleys and unusual mergers are used to give us a fast tour through certain musicals.

A salute to "Evita" loses some of the tears in its big number, "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," through the busy way in which that sad ballad is interwoven with a few other numbers from the show.

And there is some rather strange interbreeding between shows when six female performers doing the "Macavity" number from "Cats" suddenly give way to six male performers "Pumping Iron" from "Starlight Express." Although the actual transition effected by choreographers John DeLuca and Kathleen Marshall is smooth, the overall effect is to make the whole segment seem like confused kitsch. True, "Starlight Express" was junk to begin with, but why rub it in?

The generally more orderly second half of the evening gives us generous selections from "The Phantom of the Opera," "Cats" and "Sunset Boulevard." There is much to enjoy during the "Phantom" and "Cats" sections.

Baltimoreans yearning for "Sunset Boulevard" will welcome the chance to hear portions of a musical that has yet to make a tour stop in the region, but its score weakly recycles better music heard earlier in the night.

'Music of the Night'

Where: Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $19-$55 Call: (410) 494-2712

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