Why Lloyd Webber can't resist giving us a tune? It's in his genes

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS on last night’s TV: Why Lloyd Webber can’t resist giving us a tune? It’s in his genes

Who Do You Think You Are?


Great British Dog Walks


When Ludwig van Beethoven rolled into the boozer for a night of carousing and his mates steered him protesting towards the piano, I’ll bet you anything he called out: ‘Right, here’s one you all know.’

And then — Da-Da-Da-DUMM!

Every tunesmith is a sucker for his own greatest hits. Andrew Lloyd Webber, investigating his ancestors on Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1), needed no encouragement.

As soon as he spotted the dodgy joanna in an East End pub, he was tickling the ivories with a rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina — in D flat, he added, in case we were wondering.

Lord Lloyd-Webber has written more smash-hit musicals than anyone since his hero Richard ‘Sound Of Music’ Rodgers, and it’s charming to see how much he enjoys this success. 

Andrew Lloyd Webber (pictured), investigating his ancestors on Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1) , needed no encouragement


Alexander Armstrong In Sri Lanka (Ch5) saw the presenter visiting a Hindu temple, topless. 

‘It’s a mark of respect,’ he protested, as he flaunted his chest. 

Oh Xander, after all those Full Monty shows you’ve done, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

He opened the programme by giving us a tour of his Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which he has devoted two decades to restoring.

At the Royal College of Arms, he wondered aloud whether he ought to treat himself to a family emblem — perhaps something feline, in honour of his musical Cats.

‘We have to steer people away from having too many domestic pets,’ the college’s heraldic expert retorted tartly.

There was no mistaking what Andrew thought of that execrable movie version of Cats, the one with James Corden and Idris Elba. ‘I needed an antidote, and it’s called a dog,’ he said, cuddling his Havanese pooch, Mojito.

The good lord was already well informed on his family tree, so the researchers went to great trouble to surprise him. They traced a link to a Tudor noblewoman, his 12-times-great-grandmother, who was married to Henry VIII’s crony the Duke of Suffolk at the age of 14.

There was a hero of the Battle of Waterloo, and a Victorian missionary whose life’s work was saving the prostitutes of the East End and preaching to Battersea navvies.

But the discovery that really excited Andrew was an 18th-century playbill, announcing performances by a showman called Henry Magito (or Mojito, as a delighted Lloyd Webber decided to pronounce it).

Mr Magito — his five-times-great-grandfather — had a tightrope act on roller skates, which could almost be the inspiration for Lord L-W’s roller-musical Starlight Express. He also had a brother called Alexis, a composer and a brilliant cellist. Since Andrew’s brother Julian is also a celebrated cellist, the coincidence of history repeating itself was almost too much to believe.

‘It really is something I could not possibly have dreamt of,’ Andrew declared. ‘I can say I’m blown away.’

It was this ancestry show at its most entertaining, and the rest of the series will face a challenge to better it.

Phil Spencer faced his own challenges on Great British Dog Walks (More4) as he set out across the Yorkshire Dales in sub-zero conditions and a wind chill that felt like minus 10˚C.

Phil Spencer faced his own challenges on Great British Dog Walks (More4) as he set out across the Yorkshire Dales in sub-zero conditions

A lesser man would have given up, or at least postponed his hike, when a blizzard blew in. But affable Phil is made of strong stuff, and he was soon sitting at a picnic bench, outside a pub on a hillside, cradling a cup of coffee.

His walking companion was the blind Paralympian sprinter Libby Clegg, who brought her guide dogs Bramble and Hatti.

They visited Hardraw waterfall, which was still flowing despite the big freeze, before Phil joined a shepherd who demonstrated how his border collies Lola and Keith were each trained to respond to different whistles.

Poor Phil did his best to look interested. But those Dales looked bitterly cold, and you could tell he was yearning to be indoors, doing a property show instead.

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