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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 17:39 GMT
Lloyd Webber: King of the stage
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical The Woman in White has arrived in the West End.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lord Lloyd-Webber was made a life peer in 1997
The figure behind international stage hits such as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera is UK theatre's most important individual.

That is according to The Stage newspaper, which named him the most influential man in UK theatre for the fourth year in a row.

Lloyd Webber's incomparable CV includes Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love, The Phantom of the Opera...

He wrote the music and worked with a number of lyricists - notably Sir Tim Rice.

Lloyd Webber also produced the recent West End stage hit Bombay Dreams - whose importance to the struggling London theatre scene "cannot be underestimated", according to one expert.

"It's that combination of creative talent and the industry side of things that puts him ahead," said Jeremy Austin, news editor of The Stage.

1968 - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
1971 - Jesus Christ Superstar
1978 - Evita
1981 - Cats
1984 - Starlight Express
1986 - The Phantom of the Opera
"He's involved in just about every aspect of the theatre. We looked at things closely this year and it's really about his international influence and fame - and his composing."

The multi-award winning Lord Lloyd-Webber, aged 55, is a shareholder in Really Useful Theatres which owns 13 West End theatres.

The Really Useful Group, the entertainment company he founded in 1977, is also involved in film, TV, video and concert productions, merchandising, magazine publishing, records and music publishing.

The company also looks after ticketing, through its agency See.

Cats was one of the composer's biggest shows
Bombay Dreams, the musical set in India, took more than 10m in a six-month West End run, despite mixed reviews.

It was the latest in a wealth of successes for the composer.

Starlight Express closed in 2001 after more than 7,000 performances during an 18-year run, while Cats - the West End's longest-running musical - bowed out after 21 years.

Phantom of the Opera has been hailed as the single biggest entertainment success of the 20th Century, with worldwide box office sales of 1.8bn, exceeding takings for films such as Titanic and Star Wars.

A film version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Phone Booth director Joel Schumacher, is also in the pipeline.

The Woman in White has brought Michael Crawford back to the West End, and is based on Wilkie Collins' classic novel with lyrics by David Zippel.

Rosetti's Fiammetta, Lloyd Webber exhibition
Lloyd Webber has an extensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite art
It only came about after Lloyd Webber admitted in a TV interview two years ago that he was not working on any new projects - and appealed to viewers for ideas.

Calls flooded in - and Lloyd Webber was attracted to the message that suggested the hit 1860 melodramatic love story.

Big things are expected of it after the relative commercial disappointments of recent compositions such as The Beautiful Game and Whistle Down the Wind.

Lord Lloyd-Webber has been honoured with all of the entertainment world's major awards, including an Oscar for the song You Must Love Me from Evita.

He has also won seven Tonys, three Grammys, six Oliviers, a Golden Globe and an International Emmy.

Bombay Dreams
Bombay Dreams took more than 10m in the West End
Knighted in 1992 and made an honorary life peer in 1997, Lord Lloyd-Webber has a personal fortune estimated at 400m.

Outside the theatre, his great love is art. Last year he displayed his multi-million pound Pre-Raphaelite collection in an exhibition at London's Royal Academy. He plans to leave the collection to the nation on his death.

In 1994 he founded the Open Churches Trust to promote the opening of locked, vandal-hit churches for public viewing. It has funded attendants at almost 200 churches of all denominations around the UK.

Alongside his contemporary Cameron Mackintosh, he has been outspoken about the future of the West End, predicting a potential crisis if steps are not taken to improve traffic congestion, poor transport and fear of street crime.

He recently told the House of Lords that commercial theatres could not compete with the kind of grants being given out to subsidised venues.

Royal approval for Woman in White
14 Sep 04  |  Entertainment
Starlight is revived for UK tour
25 Apr 04  |  Entertainment
Lloyd Webber's West End cash plea
12 Nov 03  |  Entertainment
Lloyd Webber leads theatre list
07 Jan 04  |  Entertainment
Lloyd Webber's good taste revealed
22 Sep 03  |  Entertainment

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