Richard Stilgoe

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Best known in America as a contributing lyricist for several Andrew Lloyd Webber productions, Richard Stilgoe was also a longtime television personality in his native England, thanks to his wry sense…
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Best known in America as a contributing lyricist for several Andrew Lloyd Webber productions, Richard Stilgoe was also a longtime television personality in his native England, thanks to his wry sense of humor and sharp wit. Born in Surrey, Stilgoe grew up in Liverpool and was a choral singer early on, but scrapped that in favor of rock & roll; he performed with the Cambridge Footlights comedy revue, and subsequently moved to London, where he performed humorous, often satirical songs in small nightspots. He parlayed this act into regular performances on BBC Radio 4's Today show, and by the late '60s had graduated to television, appearing on several revue-style comedy shows. He became a household name in Britain during the '70s after landing a regular slot on the popular satirical show Nationwide, where he often set the text of viewer complaints to music. From there he moved to the similarly successful That's Life, not to mention several other, shorter-lived series. A longtime fan of musical theater, Stilgoe seized an opportunity to provide Andrew Lloyd Webber with a few additional lyrics for his blockbuster success Cats, which opened in London in 1981. Webber employed Stilgoe as the primary lyricist on his next project, the lavish roller-skating extravaganza Starlight Express; after its London opening in 1984, Starlight Express became the second-longest-running musical in British history (behind Cats). Although he wasn't the chief lyricist on 1987's Phantom of the Opera, Stilgoe again contributed extensively, and also worked on the show's book. In addition to his work with Webber during the '80s, Stilgoe also wrote a couple of children's musicals (Brilliant the Dinosaur and Body Work), and formed a performing partnership with Peter Skellern, which toured every so often over the next two decades. He later became a regular on the game show Countdown, where he traded puns with host Richard Whitely and made anagrams out of contestants' names. Stilgoe has received the Order of the British Empire and devotes much of his time to his charitable venture the Orpheus Centre, which gives disabled children the opportunity to play music.