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THE '80s A Special Report : TASTE MAKERS : Presenting the big players and major ideas that--for better or worse--shaped the 1980s. This is Calendar's fifth annual Taste Makers report, expanded this time to cover the last 10 years in the following categories: Show Business Execs, Film Producers, Film Directors and Writers, Stage, TV, Music, Dance, Pop Music, Jazz, Comedy, Radio, Art and Restaurants. : STAGE : ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER

December 24, 1989|SYLVIE DRAKE

Not everybody likes Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The critics have roasted and trashed his music. The London tabloids made mincemeat of his romancing and marriage to Sarah Brightman. He has been called derivative, sentimental, superficial, unchallenging.

None of this has made a chink in his platinum armor. This immensely popular, immensely affluent composer can do no wrong. Lloyd Webber bashing, the critical sport of the decade, has only strengthened the allegiance of legions of fans. Impervious to slings and arrows, his shows rake in the gold.

No other composer has been as emblematic of the musical theatre in the 1980s. His style is Byronic, his works large, romantic and based in massive sets and complex effects. Lloyd Webber's megahits--"Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera"--have straddled the '80s, redefining a faltering musical theatre as they went. Spectacle was the byword, snapped up by an undernourished market hungry for something Really Big.

Bread and circuses or the Second Coming? No matter. Mauled by the critics, lionized by the public and, through it all, wildly, indecently successful, Lloyd Webber, the quintessential media object of the post-Warholian era, is the music man of the decade.

The Taste Makers project was edited by David Fox, assistant Sunday Calendar editor.

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