A diary of theatrical addiction

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SUPERSTAR is an ITV Studios production for ITV1



Andrew Lloyd Webber starts a nationwide search on ITV1 for the next musical superstar

The prize on offer is a unique opportunity to play the title role in new arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar across the UK, sales
starting at London’s O2 arena

And the final decision will be in the hands of the British public

ITV1 and Andrew Lloyd Webber today announce ‘Superstar’– a brand new show that will give the British public the chance to choose the country’s next major rock star.

The winner’s life-changing prize will be the leading role in a new arena tour of the legendary rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar which will open at London’s O2 arena.

Superstar will help talented singers achieve their potential and Andrew Lloyd Webber hopes the British public will help him discover an extraordinary new voice to fill the country’s largest arenas.

Andrew Lloyd Webber says: “Presenting a new, page 2012 version of Jesus Christ Superstar for arenas is truly exciting. Some of the best performances of this show have been in rock venues and I’m thrilled to see the show return to its roots. ITV is providing the perfect platform for us to find a new, British Superstar.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber has previously discovered brilliant new stars for West End productions of The Sound of Music, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Oliver! and The Wizard of Oz. Theatre audiences have grown, there has been an increase in musical theatre licensing by amateur societies and a surge in applications at stage schools.

“It is the public who lead the casting process and they’ve got it absolutely right four times already. It’s been wonderful to see the careers of so many of the contestants blossom, so it will be especially fascinating to see who the public chooses as their Superstar!” says Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Tomorrow (March 22) Stephen Sondheim turns 85 — and Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 67.

It’s one of musical theatre’s great coincidences that the two giants of musical theatre of the second half to the last century share the same birthday.

They’re also both irrepressibly active still. sondheimSondheim recently told The Times in an interview that he’s in the midst of writing All Together Now with playwright David Ives, sale based on two Luis Buñuel films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, and said it’s “coming along slowly.  If I’m lucky I’ll finish it. I don’t see it as my final piece, but there can’t be that many left. It takes a long time to write them.”

In the same interview, he also addressed the long-gossiped about subject of a sex dungeon in the basement of his Manhattan home:

There is no basis of truth in it whatsoever. It bothers me. What it represents is people trying to put me down and trash me. It’s like saying, ‘So and so’s a drunk’, ‘Who does he think he is?’ If you go downstairs there’s a washing machine and a boiler. There’s one great thing down there and that’s a cedar closet with all my original manuscripts in it.

And today I’m of to see the “pie shop” Sweeney Todd again, transposed from Tooting to Shaftesbury Avenue; and on Tuesday week (March 30), I’ll also be at the opening of another production of the show at the London Coliseum, inaugurating ENO’s new partnership with Grade/Linnit to bring musicals there, with an all-star cast that’s led by Bryn Terfel (reprising a role he’s previously played in London at the Royal Festival Hall) and Emma Thompson and also featuring the welcome return to London of three-time Olivier winner Philip Quast, who’s been living back in his native Australia for the last few years. (Phil will be appearing not once but twice in London this year; in June, he returns in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting for Godot to the Barbican).

This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up unMeanwhile Lloyd Webber is readying his next musical School of Rock, which will premiere on Broadway in December — the first of his shows since Jesus Christ Superstar to open there ahead of the West End (Whistle Down the Wind was also supposed to open on Broadway before coming to London, but its first production was aborted after a Washington DC try-out and a different production opened in London instead).

I’ve never seen the 2003 Richard Linklater film on which School of Rock is based, but the title worries me a little: I absent-mindedly just typed Rock of Ages into google when I was looking up the show. The comparison doesn’t bear thinking about…..
I’m the first to admit it: I have a theatre addiction. But it is at least an addiction that I work at and make work for me (in every sense, sick including financially) to give my life shape and meaning. At its best, unhealthy it fills the existential hole that we all have to face. (Sometimes, of course, it opens up a chasm, too; just see me after a run of bad shows!)

I’m going to take stock here at least once a week — on the week that’s just gone, and the week to come. By the end of tonight, I’ll have seen ten shows this week — it would have been eleven, but I decided to take this afternoon off! Not all of them, I hasten to add, are for reviewing purposes; sometimes I play ‘catch up’, sometimes I see things purely for pleasure (yes, imagine that — a critic who actually enjoys the theatre enough to go for his own entertainment!)

My count this week has included two cabarets (one of an engaging – and cute! – new New York singer-songwriter called Rob Rokicki, pictured left, who I’d never heard of before I was invited to hear him at the Bridewell, but has been developing a number of fresh-sounding musicals off-Broadway; the other of Broadway veteran Charles Strouse tonight at the Pheasantry, joined by Bonnie Langford) and four musicals (the brand-new The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole 13¾ at Leicester’s Curve, reviewed by me for The Stage here; the current touring production of Calamity Jane at Wimbledon Theatre; the pie-shop Sweeney Todd, transposed from Tooting to Shaftesbury Avenue; and a return trip to the Union’s production of Loserville on its last night).

I also saw four plays: Matthew Parker’s terrific fringe UK premiere of the late Snoo Wilson’s lovesong-of-the-electric-bearLovesong of the Electric Bear (pictured left), that re-tells Alan Turing’s story in a surreal way, at Islington’s Hope Theatre that I’d never been to before; the UK premiere of two American plays, Buyer and Cellar at the Menier Chocolate Factory that I’d first seen in New York in its original Off-Broadway run and is reviewed by me for The Stage here, and The Royale at the Bush; and a new production of Strindberg’s The Father at Trafalgar Studios 2).

That’s a fairly eclectic bunch of shows. I also wished I’d been able to squeeze in the premiere of Robert Holman’s Breakfast of Eels that opened at the Print Room on Friday, and the 20th anniversary production of Trainspotting that was brought from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe to the King’s Head, where it also opened on Friday. I also wish I’d gone to the last night of Once last night, as my friend Bill Rosenfield did — he paid £32.50 to watch it from a standing position at the back of the upper circle, which strikes me as a steep fee (in every sense), but at least he was there!

I, too, splashed out when I was in New York over Christmas to see the last performance of a favourite show Pippin, but was glad to have been there; it coincidentally was the same day as Once closed on Broadway, too, but I opted to be at Pippin. And last night I opted to be at Loserville’s last night at the Union, just as I’d been at Loserville’s last night at the Garrick a few years ago. It was a pleasure to see this bright, energised production again, especially as the first time I saw it at the Union there was a long delay to the start of the performance owing to a problem with the lighting deck, which then malfunctioned for much of the first act.

You can’t, as I always say, see everything — though clearly I try!

This coming week, I’m going to see a more sedate six shows, including two Donmar repeats: I’m going back to the West End transfer of My Night with Reg on Friday afternoon to see the understudy performance, at the invitation of one of the cast; and back to the Donmar on Saturday afternoon for Closer so that my husband can see this terrific production of a terrific play for the first time, and I can enjoy it without the pressure of having to review it afterwards!

But I’m also looking forward to two trips to the National — one to see the premiere of Sam Holcroft’s Rules for Living on Tuesday; and then on Friday to see Nick Hytner’s public send-off in a a platform performanceNicholasHytner, followed by a private backstage party I’ve also been invited to. I’m also going to the Barbican Centre’s annual press launch of its next year’s season on Wednesday, followed by staying to catch Ivo van Hove’s Antigone with Juliette Binoche that I missed the opening of earlier this month when I was in New York. And I’m also seeing two musicals this week: a rare London revival for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida at the Finborough on Thursday, and back to the Union on Saturday for the revival of another more recent British musical Spend Spend Spend.

Hope you, too, have a great week ahead!