When Andrew Lloyd Webber appeared on national TV in 2002, he admitted that he was, for one of the first times, without an on-going project and that if anyone had any ideas for a new musical, could they please let him know. With an invitation like that it is no wonder he received a myriad of calls; one of which led Andrew to read the Victorian ‘sensation’ novel The Woman in White.
Nearly two years later, the musical The Woman in White opened at the Palace Theatre, London on 16th September 2004. The magnificent Victorian theatre Andrew originally intended for The Phantom of the Opera would seem to be the perfect home for the first of the big three musicals opening in the autumn of that year.
The Woman in White already had a substantial pedigree. The novel was first serialised in a weekly magazine, All Year Round, created by Collins’ close friend Charles Dickens. When the final installment was published in August 1860, it was so popular that queues formed to buy it. Wilkie Collins said of The Woman in White that “the story is the longest and most complicated I have ever tried”. Fans of the story included the Prince Consort, Gladstone, Thackeray and Dickens himself.
After the novel was published in book form on 15th August 1860, Woman in White mania gripped the public, who clamoured to buy Woman in White bonnets and perfumes and dance the special Woman in White waltz. From that day to this, the novel has never been out of print. It is both a Gothic melodrama and a modern psychological thriller, and a love story to which a layer of unrequited love has been added for the musical.
Taken from the original London production programme 2004
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