Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lowly Spouse

I was 24, had just a few month earlier given birth to my second child, and was invited to attend the 1982 Stereo Review Best Record Awards in New York City with my husband who was the publisher of Stereo Review Magazine at the time. This was the kind of "date" where you don't see much of your sweetheart until you meet up again in the limo going home. Your "date" is actually working, and you are invited to have fun, make him look good when he needs you to, and above all, don't embarrass him by being a shy and uninteresting spouse. There are always many of those at business parties and as the wife of the publisher, aka head-spouse - I considered it my role to make these poor souls feel comfortable, engage them in conversations so we could all overcome the awkward feeling of well, being "just spouses".

I felt vulnerable myself, that night, because I was still nursing, and away from my baby for the first time, and in a room full of celebrities, superstars and business people. After a while, I noticed this poor, shy spouse standing off in a corner with no-one to talk to and looking rather uncomfortable - for way too long. My maternal instincts in full gear I headed straight over there and introduced myself, ready to sacrifice myself to a lengthy and boring conversation. He was male, too - and being a shy, uncomfortable male spouse at a business party in those days, was twice as embarrassing. Nobody was paying attention to him, and his wife, or whoever had brought him, did not seem to be anywhere in sight. He looked completely out of place.

Taking care of him took care of me, too, and so we talked and talked. He had an accent, could hardly look at me for longer than a shy minute, was a composer of musicals - talk about a dreamer with no future - and when he told me that the musical he was working on right now was going to have all the actors on roller skates, I really started feeling sorry for this guy. Spouses often have these "at home, but writing a book, screenplay, musical"- stories. I patiently let him explain everything and we had a nice long conversation. He did seem grateful to have me there - pretty much for the duration of the party. I don't remember talking to anyone else during most of that evening. Suddenly it was time to go home as indicated by a wink from across the room by my husband. I said Good Bye and Good Luck to my lonely, sweet friend and hated to desert him there in his corner. But, I was starting to leak and needed to get back to my baby, too.

Relating my Mother Theresa story to my husband in the limo, he looked at me and said: " Honey - that was Andrew Lloyd Webber, the guy who wrote your favorite musical."

He continued writing my favorite musicals... and then, there he was on American Idol last night - and I was sent back to that evening I had almost forgotten. He's still shy...

And as for that roller skaters musical....

Starlight Express (From Andrew Lloyd Webber's Website

Starlight Express started life in 1975 as a sort of Cinderella story which I hoped would be an animated movie.

Starlight Express - Bochum productionIt never got off the ground. Then in 1983 I rewrote it for my children, Imogen and Nicholas, in the version that opened in March 1984 in this theatre. Nine years later we revisited Starlight whose new music was dedicated to my son, Alastair. Starlight was always meant to be fun, hopefully an entertaining piece of live theatre for a new audience.

Everything in Starlight is played and performed live, though the orchestra is invisible under the stage. We are all proud that Starlight not only because the second longest running musical in London theatre history in April 1992, but also has spawned a new generation of theatre-goers who perhaps never considered going to the theatre before and who may have gone on to other (perhaps more conventional!) things.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
From the 1992 London production programme

Find out more about Starlight Express

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