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Nonstop showstoppers

The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber goes above and beyond a best-of compilation

Broadway titan Andrew Lloyd Webber gets the best-of treatment in this show full of showstoppers. Photo credit: Kat Dollarhide

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There are few names as synonymous with musical theater as Andrew Lloyd Webber. For decades, Webber has balanced artistic moxie with an unabashed crowd-pleasing mentality in such a successful way that it's likely many people's first exposure to musicals was through one of his shows. Consider what a monumental career one would've had if they'd created Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Jesus Christ Superstar, and consider that those are only three of Webber's mega hits.

Some of Webber's shows, like The Phantom of the Opera, are so successful that they're not likely to ever get put up by local theater companies, thanks to them always being in some form of official production around the country. Tacoma Musical Playhouse has found a workaround, grabbing 20 of Webber's most iconic songs and staging them in a kind of retrospective extravaganza. The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is a show comprised entirely of showstoppers, taking numbers from the aforementioned musicals, as well as Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Starlight Express, among others.

Rather than staging this as a loosely themed concert, like other revues I've seen, TMP and director Jon Douglas Rake have crafted fully produced numbers for these songs, complete with sets and costume changes for their 14-person cast. In some cases, where multiple songs from a given show are performed back-to-back, the experience feels like getting a truncated telling of that musical. And speaking of that cast, Rake and his crew have assembled an exceedingly talented ensemble that does an admirable job handling the rigorous singing-and-dancing requirements of an all-killer-no-filler compilation of Webber's material.

About half of that cast -- Jonathan Bill, Biffy Binkley, Diane Bozzo, Mauro Bozzo, Russell Campbell, Brandon Hell, Allyson Jacobs-Lake, and Beth Lazarou -- gets the spotlight to really show their stuff. For my money, the section devoted to Evita is the most thrilling, with Tacoma newcomer Lazarou turning heads as she takes the lead on "Buenos Aires" and "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." Diane Bozzo gets the first stunner of the show, taking on the wildly melodramatic "Memory" from Cats, and in the process setting the standard of the to-the-hilt performances to come -- though we only get snapshots of these various musicals, the performers inhabit their roles just as they would in full-blown productions.

Jacobs-Lake nails the sole Jesus Christ Superstar number; Binkley shines in three of five Phantom songs; Campbell relishes the sillier material he gets with Joseph and Starlight Express tunes; and Mauro Bozzo and Jonathan Bill, all show long, get to again show how indispensable they are in the local musical theater scene. Even though these are all basically disconnected set pieces, I still found myself cheered and surprisingly touched during the duration of this production. When you take battle-tested material and mix it with outstanding performers, some magic is bound to shake out. With just two weekends of performances left, I'd advise you to get out and marvel at The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

THE MUSIC OF ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER, 7:30 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Feb. 24, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 6th Ave., Tacoma, $22-$31, 253.565.6867,

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