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Defending Lloyd Webber

January 30, 1988

For every salaried critic who no doubt sincerely believes that Sondheim's neurasthenic "Into the Woods" is an original, forward-looking piece of music logically succeeding the putative glories of "Sweeney Todd" or the disingenuous "Company," there is, I'm sure, a non-salaried critic who thinks that in the long run it will be Lloyd Webber's string of musicals "rife with borrowings" that will get to be the ones that enter the repertoire, in large-scale opera houses as well as in the theaters.

What is of consequence is the evolution of a fabulous rivalry not between two important theatrical composers but between their claques, those no-talents who just love to choose up sides.

Not since the marvelous days when the Brahmsians were verbally (and sometimes physically) battling the Wagnerians has the musical arts had so much fun.

Interestingly, the "outcome" of the Brahms-Wagner "feud" was that the work of both has come to be equally cherished by the descendants of the Hanslicks and von Bulows. As much as I am an anti-Sondheimite, can it be possible that after all of the impotent thrashings of the Dan Sullivans and the Frank Riches it will turn out that our kids and their kids will be shelling out for "The Frogs" and "Jeeves" in similar measure?

LARRY ALEXANDER

Tarzana

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