“Pandora” might refer to the owner of a mythological box, an avant garde system of decoding musical DNA or a line of women’s jewelry.
Or it just might be the perfect descriptor of Marriott Theatre’s world premiere revue, “Now and Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” the part concert, part dance recital running through March 17 in Lincolnshire.
Putting together a tribute to a living legend’s work is to open Pandora’s Box. Fans are wont to scoff at omissions and belittle inclusions. But the creative team of Aaron Thielen and Marc Robin assembled a 32-song Pandora Station playlist to appease most aficionados of “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Joseph…Dreamcoat,” and the rest of the Lloyd Webber canon.
With a healthy cast of 19 strong voices and pairs of legs, this show has its shining moments. But as a complete work, “Now and Forever…” falls short of achieving Tiffany-brilliance; it’s matte-finished Pandora-chic.
Of this two-plus hour cavalcade, a pair of post-show observations heard from two veteran patrons are spot-on. The first is that no finer eclectic dance is found in any single show anywhere. From ballet to modern, Lauren Blane, Michael Darnell, Ellen Green, Monique Haley, Raymond Interior, Luke Manley, Sam Rogers and Melissa Zaremba are mesmerizing.
It feels a little out of place when Manley and Green spin a gorgeous ballet to “Requiem’s” “Pie Jesu” or the whole dance team busts a move to one of Lloyd Webber’s numerical “Variations” from “Song and Dance” sprinkled throughout the performance. But there’s no denying these are exquisite dance pros. Choreographers Robin, Harrison McEldowney and Matt Raftery have done themselves proud.
In fact, these wonderfully varied dance breaks provide necessary respite within the vocal carnival, because observation number two is: “The guy wrote a lot of damn solo ballads.”
While there’s not a dud-Shriner in this parade of high-quality vocalists, there are simply too many instances of soloists under spotlight. With little visual stimulation, dramatic characterization or context, the show at times becomes a hollow showcase, though to be certain, a showcase with vocal quality deserving of playtime on Pandora Radio.
The greatest disappointment is that this production fails to identify and celebrate the threads of continuity joining “Cats,” “Aspects of Love,” “Starlight Express,” “Sunset Boulevard” and the rest. One could live with an effort that falls short; “Now and Forever…” doesn’t seem to try.
Yet for as frustrating as that may be, Lloyd Webber fans ought not miss this homage to arguably the most commercially successful living musical-theater composer.
Max Quinlan’s “Gethsemane” from “Jesus Christ Superstar” anchors a talent show second act that should leave any North Shore patron thankful for having a company of Marriott’s quality and professionalism in their back yard.
Also highly worthy of plaudits is the Stephanie Binetti and dancers’ rendition of “Buenos Aires” from “Evita.” The electric mix of vocals and dance in this number, a combination absent in too many others, hints at the “Now and Forever…” that might have been.
“Now and Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” runs until March 17. Performances are Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Ticket prices range from $40 to $48, with discounts available for seniors and students. Dinner-theater packages are also available. Parking is free. Tickets are available at the Marriott Theatre Box Office, 847-634-0200 or on their website.