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Andrew Lloyd Webber and the culture of narcissism

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The aim of the article is to investigate the reasons for Lloyd Webber's vast popularity in postmodern culture. The overarching theoretical concept through which the composer's oeuvre will be analysed is the culture of narcissism, introduced by Christopher Lasch. His insights will help us investigate the cultural forces that made possible the emergence of the megamusical, as exemplified in Lloyd Webber's two enormously successful collaborations with lyricist Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. The towering focal characters of these shows, Jesus Christ and Eva Peron, will be read as powerful symbols of a declining counterculture and an exploding narcissistic culture. Particular attention will be paid to Lloyd Webber's creation of a pop-operatic sound that communicates in aural terms all the excess, grandeur and larger-than-life emotions that Rice's universe of collapsing countercultural heroes and self-absorbed narcissistic goddesses generates. Finally, the development of the theme of narcissism will be traced in Lloyd Webber's shows that followed the termination of his collaboration with Rice.

Keywords: counterculture; megamusical; pop messianism; pop opera; superstardom; the culture of narcissism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Goldsmiths, University of London and Ghent University.

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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