Letters Reveal Tragic Correspondence Between Alan Jay Lerner and Andrew Lloyd Webber
While editing a book on Alan Jay Lerner's life and career, Dominic McHugh, a musicology lecturer at Sheffield University, came across tragic letters between the My Fair Lady lyricist and Andrew Lloyd Webber. According to The Stage, the letters reveal Lerner's intention to help Lloyd Webber with The Phantom of the Opera, but his inability to do so upon the discovery that he had lung cancer.
The first of the letters was dated March 20, 1986, just three months before Lerner's passing. He wrote, "I really don't see any way that all my parts will be reassembled on time to do the show and I am desolate. All the more because I had a whiff of an exciting collaboration. When I am finally, truly well and no longer look like The Phantom of the Opera, I will call. If there is still time to do one or possibly two lyrics, perhaps I can throw in a few rhymes."
The Stage reports that Lerner penned to Lloyd Webber again on March 31st, right after his diagnosis. "Alas, the inescapable fact is I have lung cancer. After fiddling around with pneumonia, they finally reached the conclusion it was the big stuff."
But in spite of the bad news, Lerner was determined to work with the world-renowned composer on what could have been the highlight of his career.
"I am deeply disconsolate about The Phantom and the wonderful opportunity it would have been to write with you. But I will be back!" Lerner wrote Lloyd Webber. "Perhaps not on time to write The Phantom, but as far as I am concerned this is a temporary hiccup. I have a 50/50 chance medically and a 50/50 chance spiritually I shall make it. I have no intention of leaving my beautiful wife, my beautiful life and all the things I still have to write. As far as I am concerned it is a challenge, and I fear nothing."
Lerner's passion for life and for the arts were truly inspriational, and according to The Stage, his letters include wonderful tidbits of insight on his philosophy on songwriting and the theatre.
McHugh said, "It is known he was meant to write for Phantom, but I had never actually seen any evidence of it. So it was a case of getting in touch with Andrew Lloyd Webber to see if there was anything. He came up with three, and I ended up using two."
McHugh's book, "Alan Jay Lerner - A Lyricist's Letters" is set for publication by Oxford University Press at the end of August.
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