‘Unmasked: The Platinum Collection’ Review: ‘The king has not been dethroned’

The most succesful Broadway & West End composer has launched the ultimate compilation of his career, featuring the best known versions of his greatest hits, as well some new adaptations. Guillermo Názara tells us his vision about the album that gathers more than five decades of inexhaustible work, in which Lloyd Webber has become King Midas of musical theatre.

It doesn’t matter whether you like or not. Andrew Lloyd Webber is probably the biggest musical theatre trade mark in History. A name that for many years has attracted legions of theatregoers. A visionaire that, despite being critized for his commercial appeal (if that can be called criticism), has marked a turning point in this genre. And a talent that has made his tunes go beyond the stalls to become hits even the most anticultural people know – and that he has achieved more than anyone else.

Such a career, which clearly deserves a long applause, must be accompanied by suitable recognition. There have been more than just a few attempts to collect his highlights. But most of them have been merely disappointing. I still remember the first one I could hold in my hands, when I was no more than boy who had just encountered adolescence. And though it’s true it made me discover his staggering versatility, just the first two tracks could be considered quality work. I’m referring to a 3-CD-album, in which the other songs featured accompaniments I could make in my own house by just pressing a key.

After several bad experiences, with machines standing in the spotlight more than the artists, a small compilation of about 70 pieces has just crossed my path. I was willing to listen to it with excitement – though I knew that sooner or later some version would slap me on the face. What a suprise! That’s not the case. And after relocating my jaw, I will proceed to tell you why.

Unmasked: The Platinum Collection is the best cast I’ve found in a long time – I have some experience in that field, I must say. With the same energy a good production exudes in the beginning, I felt shivers down my spine when I heard the first chords. Superstar is not one of my Lloyd-Webber favourites, but I could feel the same exhilaration than when you experience a big theatrical show for the very first time. Maybe by chance or maybe a result of his intuition (being Lloyd Webber, it must be the latter), the CD moves on with inexhaustible rythm, with no emotions or intensity going down. Its electricity (sometimes literal) becomes contagious rabidly quickly. I confess I have improvised in my own living room a ‘sumptuous’ coreography while listening to Light At The End of the Tunnel. Please don’t judge me too cruelly.

But let’s move to what all of you are waiting for: how did Lana del Rey do when by following Madonna’s footsteps she became ‘Santa Evita’?. My skepticism was the same as most people’s. I have shouted from the rooftops how I dislike her version of Sleeping Beauty – I don’t mind the film was about Maleficent, that’s no excuse. But that would need several paragraphs I can’t count on. However, on this occasion, the recording turned out rather convincing – the reverb was excessive, okay, but the acting was proper. Her melancholic voice has let me reunite with that weak and reclusive character. She may not be the Argentinian leader, but they share fragility and decadence. If I have learnt something from Cameron Mackintosh (just from the interviews, I wish I knew him!) is that a good interpretation, just like a good musical, is the one that paints pictures on your mind – no visual help needed. That says it all.

The last novelty, apart from the remarkable new adaptations of Lloyd Webber’s greatest tunes, are the symphonic versions. I must admit that when the fourth CD begins with a piece entitled Phantom Phantasy, my opinion becomes quite bias. It’s true I may have enjoyed an uniform tune better, instead of a digital compound of the overture and the entr’acte – along with the chandelier fall section in the end. But that has not prevented me from liking it – or even loving it. The perfect element to end a great work, just like the playout in the curtain call, which has given me the same excitement and euphoria I feel after seeing an amazing performance that, for some reason, will become a most precious memory.

A career that spans for more than fifty years can’t help but finding some deep valleys after its highest peaks. Yet his records are not the most admirable thing in Lloyd Webber, but his unstoppable creativity and efforts to increase his artistic production. After reliving success with School of Rock and keeping a legacy with remains uncomparably fresh, my verdict is quite clear: the king has not been dethroned.

By Guillermo Názara

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