Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and his wife, Madeleine, were luncheon hosts Wednesday afternoon in their Trump Tower aerie to about 25 Gotham theater critics and reporters, many of whom have dined out – in another sense, of course – on Sir Andrew for years.
Cheerfully promising that he had “absolutely no agenda,” the composer was flanked by three press agents (Peter Brown, his longtime aide-de-camp; Adrian Bryan-Brown, no relation, who represents “Sunset Boulevard”; and Alma Viator, who represents “Cats” and, to be fair, actually was the date of David Richards, late of the New York Times). Also, Edgar Dobie, who runs the local branch of Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Co., and Gary Lucchesi, who as head of the Really Useful Film Co. is shepherding “Whistle Down the Wind” into pre-production.
Still, they were outnumbered by scribes from all of the dailies with the notable exception of the Times (which sent regrets), as well as the weeklies, the newsweeklies, the wire services, etc. Slim and all smiles, Sir Andrew explained that, while he is well-acquainted with the London press, he is less familiar with their New York counterparts. With “Sunset Boulevard” open and no new stage projects on the horizon, he figured it was a safe time.
To a number of people who have written terrible things about him (along with a few fans), Lloyd Webber was an exceptionally gracious host (as was Madeleine, apparently known formally as Lady Lloyd Webber). Most of the writers happily went along with the agendaless agenda, which included a three-entree meal (lemon chicken, crab cakes, lamb ragout) and being cautioned by the host that the only “really important” work of art in the well-hung apartment was a “very early Burne-Jones,” it being the only emigre from a vaunted collection of pre-Raphaelite works to reside outside his U.K. digs.
This all cohabits 60 floors above terra firma with some charming mundanities: family pictures on the grand piano, needlepoint pillows on the couch – “You never know how many friends you have ‘ til you get a penthouse in New York!” – plenty of brocade and damask, Chinese lamps and the like.
Well, I had two questions. Shortly before the opening of “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway seven years ago, I’d been summoned to lunch with Lloyd Webber and director Hal Prince to announce exclusively! their formation of a new company! to develop new works for the stage!
The venue was the Times and the story was the first and last time that company ever was heard from. Yes, he remembered, Sir Andrew said, smiling. Pity it never amounted to anything; maybe we should call Hal and ask him whatever happened to that phantom company.
And what about Cameron Mackintosh’s recent comment in a London newspaper interview to the effect that he had offered to produce “Sunset Boulevard” so that Andrew might be assured of enjoying an “artistic success” without having to worry about all those bothersome details producers worry about?
On this subject the host quite clear-headedly responded – with an expletive. The smile dropped but returned as fast as you can say, “Glenn.” Don’t look for a family reunion anytime soon.