Andrew Lloyd Webber Explains His Juiciest Memoir Stories: Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Patti Lupone, Princess Di

Andrew Lloyd Webber Explains His Juiciest Memoir Stories, From Princess Diana’s Splits to Barbra Streisand Walking Out on ‘Cats’
3/2/2018 by Mickey Rapkin

Kirsten Ulve

Princess Diana Did The Splits Backstage At Cats

At a performance of Cats, Princess Diana and Prince Charles went backstage after the show to say hello to Lloyd Webber, and he ended up getting more than he expected. “I think Charles said, ‘I can’t believe how these dancers do these sorts of things,’ and [Diana] said, ‘Well, it goes this way…’ and she did the splits. A little bit of the royal personage, more than you normally would have seen, was revealed.”

 …While Barbra Streisand Walked Out Of It At Intermission

In 1981, Streisand — who had been considering recording Cats classic “Memory” — came to London to see the show. “She decided she was claustrophobic and was going to go,” says Lloyd Webber. “I thought, ‘That’s that.'” Before she left, she asked for a glass of milk, and Lloyd Webber sent an assistant scrambling. Is it possible she was just trying to be funny? “That is a thought that in my entire career has not been put to me,” he says now, flummoxed. “What an idea!”

Kirsten Ulve

John Lennon Was Never Going To Star In Jesus Christ Superstar

“Like so many things, I think a journalist rang up John and said, ‘Would you be interested in playing the role of Jesus Christ in this musical?’ It wasn’t a musical yet, it was just an idea at the time. He probably said no. Then somebody rang us and said, ‘If John Lennon were to say yes, would you say yes?’ We said, ‘We haven’t written it yet!’ Then it turned into John Lennon is playing Jesus Christ!”

… But Bette Midler Auditioned For It

In 1971, Jesus Christ Superstar was set to open on Broadway with Yvonne Elliman as Mary and the cast was set. But a young singer from the New York bathhouses wanted to audition. “Peter Brown, who was running the Stigwood Organization, said, ‘Would somebody go listen to her?’ I remember Bette singing ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him.’ It’s one of the few moments where one thinks, ‘That was a definitive performance.'”

Kirsten Ulve

He Thinks Nicole Scherzinger Missed Her True Calling

“Nicole Scherzinger, how long have you got? Nicole is, in my view, one of the most talented artists I’ve ever worked with. She’s also in my view somewhat ill-advised, because she should have done Cats on Broadway.” [Scherzinger starred in a 2014 revival of Cats in London; it was announced that she’d take the show to Broadway the following year but later pulled out.] “Nicole is a superb, wonderfully talented girl. And I speak with the complete devotion to her talent when I say I wished she’d been advised differently. I know that in America she’s sort of ‘ex-Pussycat Doll’ and not the talent I know her to be. But her performance of “Memory” in many ways is as good as you’ll ever hear. Barbra’s is, in a way, smoothed out — the way she always wants everything to be, perfect. But Nicole’s is something that is an astonishing thing. She’s a God given musical theater actress who has not given herself to musical theater.”

His Notorious Feud With Patti LuPone Was… One-Sided?

LuPone originated the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard on the West End, but Lloyd Webber replaced her with Glenn Close for Broadway. LuPone sued, won $1 million and built a swimming pool at her home in Connecticut that she famously dubbed the “Andrew Lloyd Webber Memorial Pool.” In January, she performed a tribute to the composer at the Grammy Awards, ending the tiff. Right? “I’ve never had any feud with Patti at all,” says Lloyd Webber. “I’m delighted that she said she would sing the tribute.”

                Kirsten Ulve
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