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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Lloyd Webber's Saturday night fever
By Caroline Briggs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lord Lloyd-Webber has composed more than a dozen musicals
After creating some of the most successful stage shows of the last 30 years, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has become a star of Saturday night TV.

Last week, six million people tuned in to BBC One's Any Dream Will Do - Lord Lloyd-Webber's attempt to find a leading man for Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat.

It follows the popularity of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, his reality TV quest to find a new star for The Sound of Music.

"Nobody ever really dreamt that there would be a prime-time Saturday night series devoted to musicals," laughs Lord Lloyd-Webber. "But there you go."

The success of Maria led ITV to jump on the musical bandwagon with its own Saturday night offering, Grease is the Word to find a Sandy and Danny for a West End revival of Grease.

But it is losing the ratings battle - something Lord Lloyd-Webber admits he is finding satisfaction in.

In the end all Grease is is a talent show, and that's what we are emphatically not
Lord Lloyd-Webber
"There are very few musicals that you can do this with," he explains.

"Grease isn't one of them. It's a fatally flawed idea because the characters are spoofs.

"On paper it looks absolutely wonderful, because everyone knows the songs. But when you think about it, what are you going to say? 'Oh, here's a girl who can dance and sing. Really, OK, fine.' And that's it."

And the differences between the two shows run deeper, he insists.

"In the end, all Grease is is a talent show, and that's what we are emphatically not," he says.

"We are about nurturing these artists, and not torturing them, and it's not about making silly snide remarks or jokes. It's about finding the right person for the role and a role you can actually talk about."

Despite the success of his TV shows in the UK, Lord Lloyd-Webber says he has no immediate plans to take the format across the Atlantic.

Graham Norton hosts Any Dream Will Do
Graham Norton (centre) hosts Any Dream Will Do
He blames the US version of Grease - headed by theatre producer, fellow Maria judge and Grease is the Word producer David Ian - for turning off the American public.

"Right now, the Grease programme has completely killed the idea in the States," he says.

"It's a tragedy, because had it been done right, it would have been as popular as it is here.

"Doing casting on television like that was my idea, and I think, as so often happens, when people run off with your idea and do it, they don't actually know what was behind it."

Right choice

The eventual winner of Joseph has a "heck of a journey" ahead of him, and Lord Lloyd-Webber admits only "three, maybe four" of his 10 finalists would be able to pull it off.

He cheerily admits he puts a lot of faith in the general public to make the right choice.

"When I started off with the Maria programme, I was very concerned that the voting would go right, and it would not sort of be just because someone came from Wales or something. It does not seem to have happened that way."

Connie Fisher triumphed as Maria, and has proved both a winner with the critics and theatregoers.

But despite its success, Lord Lloyd-Webber says he is not sure he will do another TV show when Joseph wraps.

Connie Fisher as Maria von Trapp
Connie Fisher has won numerous awards for her role as Maria
"I must do another musical now," he says simply.

And Lord Lloyd-Webber says he is "99.9%" sure the stage musical in question will be a follow-up to his 1986 phenomenon The Phantom of the Opera.

"It would have to be a stand-alone, and not a sequel," he says.

"It's got to be the story 10 years on and it has got to be completely its own piece so that if you went to see it, and if you have never seen The Phantom of the Opera, you would follow it and get it."

Rumoured to be called Phantom of Broadway, he admits he would like to see his original Phantom leading lady - and ex-wife - Sarah Brightman reprise her role.

"I happened to have dinner, quite unexpectedly, with Sarah the other night, and I was talking to her about it," he says.

"I don't know whether it was fate that suddenly found me talking to my original Christine, I thought it was rather strange and out-of-the-blue.

"It wasn't really the time or place to go through it, but I'm very intrigued to think what she thinks of the story."

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