Richard Stilgoe is a British songwriter and lyricist famous for his clever, humorous songs and television presence. He has become famous working with popular composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber on several of Lloyd Webber’s musicals.
Richard Stilgoe was born in Surrey, but grew up in Liverpool, England. He first attended the Monkton Combe school, and completed his education at Clare College, Cambridge. While there, he was a member of the famous Cambridge University Footlights, a college theatre club started in 1883.
He entered the world of show business when he appeared in the West End musical Jorrocks in 1966. From there, his career transitioned to television; he distinguished himself as a presence on the BBC television teatime programmes called Nationwide and Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life! where he would write catchy comedic songs about current trivial domestic disputes or set viewer complaints to music. He also made many appearances on BBC radio, and wrote and presented his own radio specials.
He re-entered the theatrical world when he aided Andrew Lloyd Webber by providing a few lyrics for his musical Cats which opened on the West End in 1981. After the success of that collaboration, Webber invited Stilgoe to be the primary lyricist for his next musical, Starlight Express (1984). Starlight Express was a smash hit on the West End and ran for 7,409 performances making it the eighth longest-running musical in history. Its Broadway run was also a success and garnered Stilgoe a nomination for Best Original Score. Webber and Stilgoe’s next project together was on the now-iconic musical, The Phantom of the Opera (1988). Although Stilgoe was not the primary contributor, he worked with Charles Hart to provide the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s hit score. With productions still running on Broadway and on the West End, The Phantom of the Opera holds the record for longest-running Broadway show, and third-longest West End production. Stilgoe’s lyrics earned him a Tony nod, and the West End Production and the Broadway production were both nominated for Outstanding Musical and Best Musical at their respective awards ceremonies, with a win at the Tony Awards. In addition, he also wrote several children’s musicals, Brilliant the Dinosaur and Body Work.
Later in his career, he became a regular on the BBC television show, Countdown, appearing over 200 times and making jokes with the host, Richard Whitely. Because of the commercial success of his work as a lyricist, Stilgoe has devoted much time and money to charitable organizations. He donated all of his royalties from Starlight Express to a small Indian village. He also founded the Alchemy foundation, which disburses money from the American royalties of The Phantom of the Opera and Starlight Express to charitable causes. In addition, he founded the Orpheus Trust in his old family home which offers performing arts experiences to children with disabilities. Due to his charitable donations and contributions to the arts, he was knighted and appointed to the Order of the British Empire.
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