The Beautiful Game

Original London Cast, 2000 (Telstar) 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) Those who would type Andrew Lloyd Webber as a purveyor of lightweight poperettas may not know what to make of this tragic love story set against a background of social strife in Northern Ireland. Although the score lacks emotional variety, with too many sweet melodies, and Ben Elton’s frequently profane lyrics are hardly clich√©-free, it’s a sincere attempt at something different and challenging from a composer who could certainly have rested on his laurels.¬† Josie Walker and David Shannon sing attractively as Mary and John, the young couple whose lives are destroyed by the escalating violence between Catholics and Protestants. Walker partners beautifully with Dianne Pilkington as a Protestant girl in the unsettling “God’s Own Country” and makes something wrenching out of “If This Is What We’re Fighting For,” a bitter denunciation of the self-righteousness behind the violence. The title number has a harsh, celebratory vigor that one rarely associates with Lloyd Webber, who did the orchestrations with David Cullen. Although this score is far from a total success, the recording is well worth a listen — David Barbour