Andrew Lloyd Webber, the facile vulgarian who wrote the music for such theatrical curiosities as "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita," has a serious side, and it comes out tonight, sometimes glowingly, in the PBS "Great Performances" presentation of Lloyd Webber's new "Requiem," at 9 on Channel 26 and on the Maryland Public Television stations.
WETA has curiously decided against a simulcast of the performance on WETA-FM, but viewers of the Maryland stations who live within its reception area can hear a simulcast on Baltimore's WBJC-FM (91.5). There doesn't seem a great deal to recommend the TV version if you have to hear it through the standard tinny TV speaker. "Requiem" has been available for weeks as a conventional LP and for days as a compact disc, and there isn't a lot of visual excitement to the TV version, taped at the world premiere performance on Feb. 24 at St. Thomas Church in New York City.
You do get to see the composer, chubby yet frail, take a bow at the end, but director Humphrey Burton approached the performance more stuffily than reverentially. For some odd reason, he doesn't believe in panning the faces in a choir, not even the boys' choir that is part of the ensemble. The church itself is a magnificent setting not adequately explored. Placido Domingo, the featured tenor, looks uncomfortable, like his limo is double-parked outside, so he's not exactly a thrill to behold.
Soprano Sarah Brightman, with her fittingly angelic composure, is more compelling, never more so than when teamed with boy soprano Paul Miles-Kingston for the most melodically and emotionally arresting part of the work, the "Pie Jesu," which comes very near the conclusion, and just after an electric "Hosanna" movement. Lloyd Webber is a canny showman, adept at interpolating a sure-fire "hit" into every project he packages. As "Memory" leaps out of "Cats," so does the "Pie Jesu," inappropriate though the term "hit" may be for it, leap out of "Requiem."
Indeed, this vibrant and haunting duet has been turned into a music video, and that is shown at the end of tonight's taped performance. It hasn't been very imaginatively visualized -- something about digging out after a bombing, World War II or III variety -- but Brightman and Miles-Kingston are in it, and they both have highly photogenic gazes.
Lorin Maazel conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Winchester Cathedral Choir and the St. Thomas Choir in the performance. In some poorly framed shots of the conductor at work, the first few rows of spectators are visible. They do not look enthralled, they do not look exalted, and with good reason. Yet "Requiem" is a respectable as well as a respectful piece, and it makes a fitting and satisfying Good Friday presentation -- undoubtedly a perennial one. 'Me and Mom'
"Me and Mom" needs less "Me" and more "Mom." This latest in an unmercifully insistent strain of flippant detective capers about mix-and-match sleuths, premiering at 10 tonight on Channel 7, is standard to substandard every shlep of the way except for a delightful, funny, live-wire performance by Holland Taylor as the mom of the piece, whose private-eye daughter has teamed up with her late father's partner and started her own agency.
Zena Hunnicutt, as played by Taylor, is a reluctant detective. But she's no whiner. She plunges right into the assignment when, while in a swank hospital recovering from an accident, she notices something shady going on in the next bed. In the morning the patient is a goner. Zena tippytoes off in her fur coat to search the hospital administrator's office, blithely bluffing a key out of a cleaning man.
Taylor also gets something sorta swell going with John LaMotta as Jimmy, assigned to be her bodyguard. LaMotta is apparently not a regular; he ought to be. He and Taylor have endearing exchanges, and their parting at the conclusion is sweet sorrow. LaMotta looks like a macho Hugh Herbert. He's a grizzled charmer.
While the diversionary details are awfully nice on the show, the central premise is a bust. Two wildly overqualified actors, Lisa Eilbacher and James Earl Jones, are essentially legpersons who get the exposition done while Taylor is jauntily dressing up the joint. Jones in particular seems much too large for such a mundane task, and there's a look in his eyes that seems to say, "Maybe I don't need the money this badly."
One of Taylor's first lines is "Am I interrupting something?" It's a most welcome interruption but no, what was going on in Marsha Miller's dull script would not qualify as something. The most is made of the few bright spots. When her daughter the detective tells Mom, "I'm on a stakeout," Zena barks, with motherly concern, "In this weather?" She tells her daughter that the key to a more successful detective agency is improved office decor.
Taylor, previously seen to good advantage as the ad agency boss on "Bosom Buddies," redeems the honor of rich ladies with her performance. She's no "Dynasty" schemer and she certainly has her wits about her. She turns the show into "Mom and Me," and almost single-handedly supports the illusion that there's something going on above and beyond the usual two-bit car chases and one-bit conspiracies.