A standard criticism of Lloyd Webber, especially from drama critics, is that his music is derivative—a gloss on his betters when it is not an outright theft. Since most drama critics are, to put it charitably, nonmusical, this is an odd criticism, and one that smacks of received opinion: "Puccini-esque" is a term one encounters often in criticism of Lloyd Webber&aposs music,but aside from "Growltiger&aposs Last Stand," which parodies the first-act love duet from Madama Butterfly, there is precious little Puccini in Cats. Indeed, Lloyd Webber has always been more highly regarded by music critics, who not only know the repertoire he is alleged to be pilfering, but also can place him correctly in a dramatic-operatic context. Far from being the love child of Puccini and Barry Manilow, as some would have it, Lloyd Webber is more correctly seen as a kind of latter-day Giacomo Meyerbeer, the king of the Paris Opera in the mid-19th century, whose name was synonymous with
spectacle. But a little ignorance goes a long way, and with "Memory" the notion that Lloyd Webber is a secondhand pastiche artist—if not an outright plagiarist—got its start.
This is partly Lloyd Webber&aposs own fault. His melodies sometimes skirt perilously close to earlier classical and Broadway sources, and while the showbiz axiom that "good writers borrow, great writers steal" may well apply, it is also true that some of his tunes, both large and small, evoke earlier sources. As drama critic John Simon wrote after the première of Phantom: "It&aposs not so much that Lloyd Webber lacks an ear for melody as that he has too much of a one for other people&aposs melodies.... I predict that Gershwin and Rodgers, let alone Puccini and Ravel (another of his magn), have nothing to fear from him." Other critics have been less subtle: "Webber&aposs music isn&apost so painful to hear, if you don&apost mind its being so soiled from previous use," wrote Michael Feingold of the Village Voice.