Was ever a man so unloved?

Andrew Lloyd Webber's threat to flee a Labour-led Britain has been met with derision - yet more evidence that the composer is unjustly treated, says David Lister
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Sometimes Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber empathises too closely with the characters in his musicals. Announcing that he might leave the country if a Labour government brought in punitive taxation he must have seen himself as a latter-day Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, retreating into isolation until her adoring public force her to return; or perhaps an Evita figure with the masses begging him not to leave them; one hesitates even to speculate on the parallels he might see with Jesus Christ Superstar.

Alas, the reaction to his announcement casts him as another of his shows' heroes: The Phantom Of The Opera. His threat to leave the country was swiftly followed by seven Labour MPs tabling a Commons motion claiming that the possibility of his emigrating provided an extra incentive to vote Labour. Hence the Phantom-like Lloyd Webber, immensely powerful but unloved, craving affection but inspiring instead fear and loathing.

Why do people dislike Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber? It is a question he asks constantly. He writes musicals the public loves, he single handedly gives a boost to the balance of payments, he buys up art treasures and displays them, or some of them, for the nation. And what does the nation do? It showers love upon the Spice Girls while ridiculing him in the House of Commons.

Sir Andrew once made a call out of the blue to a British journalist who had written some unkind words about him. In a heartfelt 10-minute monologue, he complained that he had never been valued in Britain the way he was abroad, he was very depressed by it, and he could not comprehend why the chattering classes took delight in knocking him.

He is wrong. It is too limiting to speak only of the chattering classes. All classes contain their Lloyd Webber haters. Even his erstwhile other half Sir Tim Rice failed to show up to support him at the American premiere of Evita or the recent London revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.

There are identifiable psychological flaws behind this distaste for Lloyd Webber - I can think of six of them. First, though not possessed of Hollywood looks himself, he has had the audacity to marry three beautiful and sexy women. This seems to irritate both men and women across the board, and male groupies of his middle wife Sarah Brightman in particular.

Second, he is ludicrously litigious. Truly successful and confident people don't need to sue as if it's going out of fashion.

Third, he is genuinely shy. And as multi-millionaires with musicals playing in every continent cannot really be shy, this is taken to be arrogance, pomposity, condescension or a mixture of all those.

Fourth, he humiliated the wondrous Faye Dunaway by publicly pulling her out of the Sunset Boulevard rehearsals saying she was not right for the part, but later cast Petula Clark. This does not show soundness of mind.

Fifth, he is politically incorrect. He is an open supporter of John Major, and wrote the theme music for the Conservative 1992 election campaign. Creative artists are not supposed to help Tory campaigns. It is bad for culture's street cred.

Sixth, it wasn't a very good tune anyway.

Personally I rather like Andrew Lloyd Webber. I find him initially shy but quite happy to take you into his confidence even after a brief acquaintance. He also has an utterly charming and forthright wife, Madeleine, much more eager to talk about her real passion, horses, than anything to do with her husband's obsessions - musicals, art, wine or taxation. I think they're a nice couple. But then I always felt rather sorry for the poor old Phantom of the Opera.

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