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Making a song and dance…  
Andrew on the inspiration behind Song and Dance

Tell Me On A Sunday was composed in its first versions in New York whilst I was in rehearsal for Evita in 1979. Don Black and I wanted to write a one-woman show that would be a tour de force for the performer, but yet which was about a British girl in New York who has, perhaps, a little of various girls who Don and I had met in the Big Apple. Tell Me was first performed at the Sydmonton Festival in the summer of 1979 and subsequently recorded. It was given once in concert in January 1980 and also in concert on BBC TV that month.

Perhaps because Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita had both appeared first on records, it was assumed that there was some master strategy for the future of Tell Me when in fact there wasn’t.

Numerous scripts and suggestions for expansion have been given to Don and I, but finally we came to the inescapable conclusion that Tell Me is a one-woman show. Thus we set about revising and expanding Tell Me with the hope that we might have a basis for a one-woman film.

Variations was composed for my cellist brother Julian and it is, of course, a set of variations on the famous A Minor Caprice No 24 by Paganini which most composers seem to have had a go at varying over the years. It was issued on record in 1978 and the opening sequence was adapted as the theme music for London Weekend Television’s South Bank Show. Before Cats, Wayne Sleep had discussed with me the possibility that it could become the last half of his successful dance show with his company Dash, but plans went into abeyance when Wayne joined the Cats company. Thus it was at the same time as Don and I were wrestling with Tell Me that Wayne suggested the idea once more. Both discussions were overheard by Cameron Mackintosh who leapt into the arena with the suggestion that both be combined to form a complete evening – Song and Dance.

One problem was what to call the evening. Clearly Tell Me could be considered a one-woman musical, particularly if staged, but Variations was now a ballet, but a ballet with a score that demands great virtuosity from the musicians who perform it. We decided to call it Song and Dance: A Concert for the Theatre, in the hope that we would acknowledge the contribution of these musicians, yet also stage an evening that is both various and truly theatrical.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Posted on: 1st January 1982

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