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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Antonio Banderas team up for Spanish venture

Andrew Lloyd Webber (left) and Antonio Banderas in Madrid, Spain, on Monday
Jesucristo Superestrella? Andrew Lloyd Webber (left) and Antonio Banderas in Madrid, Spain, on Monday. Photograph: Emilio Naranjo/EPA

One is an award-winning composer whose musicals have been staged the world over. The other, an Oscar-nominated actor whose career has crisscrossed continents, genres and languages.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Antonio Banderas are joining forces in an attempt to launch musicals, stage plays and live entertainment aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences around the world.

“We haven’t always treated Spanish-speaking audiences the way we should have,” Lord Lloyd Webber told reporters in Madrid. “We want to bring them excellence.”

He and Banderas were in the Spanish capital to announce the launch of a joint venture named Amigos Para Siempre, a nod to the pop ballad of the same name penned by Lloyd Webber for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The collaboration was the brainchild of Lloyd Webber, who put it to Banderas during a recent dinner in London. The pair’s friendship dates back decades, forged after Banderas played Che in the movie version of Evita.

Productions will range from Spanish takes on some of Lloyd Webber’s biggest hits, such as The Phantom of the Opera or Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as new works developed by the company.

“The idea is to join forces to achieve the same quality of shows you get in London’s West End or New York’s Broadway, but in our language,” said Banderas.

The aim is not simply to put Spanish lines on Lloyd Webber’s best-known productions – a strategy the composer readily admits has been hit or miss in the past. Instead the productions plan to pay heed to the diversity that exists across the Spanish-speaking world.

“In the past, a translation might be done in Spain and then performed in Mexico or Argentina,” said Banderas. “And that’s not fair because even though we speak the same language, we don’t have the same expressions and in the end the shows don’t land as they are supposed to.”

The hope is to go wherever there are Spanish speakers, including US states such as California, Florida and New York, tapping into an audience that ranks as one of the largest and fastest-growing in the world.

The ambitious strategy comes as many in the entertainment sector continue to reel from the devastating impact of the pandemic, offering a potential salve after Lloyd Webber said last year he had been forced to remortgage his London home.

Banderas, who in 2019 opened his own theatre in the southern Spanish city of Málaga, described the project as a balm for the steadily eroding tradition of going to the cinema. “In contrast, there is no Netflix for theatre. You can stream works but that’s not theatre,” he said.

The duo declined to give a timeline, saying instead that the summer would be spent scouting potential production spaces and collaborators.

One musical that probably will not be the headliner is Cats, the musical hit that in 2019 became a movie described by the Guardian as a “purr-fectly dreadful hairball of woe”.

Lloyd Webber hinted that the movie had left him scarred. “I hated it,” he said. “There’s an American airline where you can bring a dog with you if you have a justifiable reason, such as if it’s for therapy or you get nervous. I made the request and put the reason as the ‘Cats movie,’” he added. “They understood perfectly.”

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