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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: SIR ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER FEBRUARY 10TH, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: And now on a lighter note to West End musicals, the doyenne of the West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced that two of his long-running and hugely successful shows are closing. Starlight Express has already hit the buffers after 18 years and Cats was going to close anyway in May, we'll find out if that's still true, but not all bad news for music lovers, Andrew Lloyd Webber has invested hundreds of thousands in the new production, Bombay Dreams, which he's producing, he didn't write this one, opens in June, I'll be speaking to him in a moment but first a clip from the past and the future.
DAVID FROST: The man himself is here, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Andrew good morning.
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Good morning.
DAVID FROST: I mentioned there about Cats, that you were going to close Cats on May the 11th, are you still going to do that?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Yes I think so, I mean there's been a fantastic interest in the show and yes¿practically sold out now for the rest of the run but I think, I think May the 11th is the day.
DAVID FROST: Is it, it's just there is, there comes a time?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: I think there does, you know and quite frankly I mean I would like to get at the Cats again myself and there's so much I want to do now with the orchestrations to make them more contemporary and you can't do that really when it's, when it's running like it is now. So I think it would be best for it to have a kind of bit of a rest and then hopefully do it again.
DAVID FROST: And a rest for Starlight Express, but you'd like to bring that back sometime as well?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Yeah I'd like to, I mean that's a show, because it's a pop show, it's not really a musical in the conventional sense at all, that's just again could have you know some new songs and it would be great to have a go at it again, but I mean right now I would, I really want to, I think I've found a subject that I'd like to do myself, you know in the last few days.
DAVID FROST: Really, in the last few days, what sort of subject?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Well it's kind of, it's very, very much of today, but its, I'm keeping very quiet about it at the moment, I need to find a writer.
DAVID FROST: It's very much of today, that's a clue, that's a clue. And, and at the moment you're producing, I mean you've got all those theatres but you're actually producing the Bombay Dreams?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Yes Bombay Dreams is a musical written by a wonderful Indian composer called AR Rahman he's hugely successful in India and I'm, I'm a great fan of his music and I asked him if he would be interested to write a musical.
DAVID FROST: Oh when, where did you get the inspiration for that, a visit to India or?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: No I've heard a lot of his stuff from, you know because I was interested in why the whole Bollywood musical phenomenon was happening and so I started to listen and find a few of the movies and his work kind of stood head and shoulders to me out of you know among the whole lot of them.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of the West End theatre itself, you wanted to talk about, because there's been all sorts of scare stories about the effects of September the 11th and the effects of foot and mouth disease, how bad were they for the West End theatres?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Well it's really interesting because I thought you'd probably ask that question and so I did some research in the last week and the total number of visitors to the West End theatres was about 11.7 million, ie 40,000 people a night on average last year and that was only just, I mean a tiny percentage point down on what it was the year before. So the whole foot and mouth story, I think he did, yes of course it affected a certain number of Americans but I think what, what, what really compensated was the huge success of plays in the West End. I mean I don't think 20 years ago you'd have seen a run of a Tennessy Williams play like Long Day's Journey Into Night on Shaftesbury Avenue and running and sold out and successful in the way that, it's a wonderful production by Bill Kenwright of course but I mean I think it's very, very encouraging.
DAVID FROST: An extraordinarily interesting statistic because one would have thought that September the 11th would have had more impact?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Yes you would have done but when I actually looked at the figures I, that is, that's the truth, the percentage point is only literally a little off what it was the year before which is one of the best years the West End's ever had. So it makes me think actually that if the other side of everything got together we could get the infrastructure of the transport right and make the whole experience of going to the West End more pleasant but actually the West End has got to have a fantastic future.
DAVID FROST: What does it need, what does the West End need in terms of traffic, parking, initiatives?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Well I mean quite interestingly the Mayor has agreed now that this new charge for coming into London won't apply after 6.30 which is as a consequence of an initiative by the theatre people. So I think you know, I think people are beginning to see sense but it's, it's, you know what it's like in London, I mean in New York, you know you've got one Mayor who's got huge power and can bulldoze things through, it's much more difficult here.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of, in terms of attracting people, you said the plays did better, I suppose for the musicals the testing time will be the period when Americans used to come a lot in the summer period and that, there hasn't been a summer since September the 11th, that'll be a test won't it?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: That will be, yes it will be.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of other plans do you find as you, as you look at the shows that are on, look at the shows that you've written, want to make some changes to Cats when it comes back and so on and so forth, how much of styles and tastes changed in the musical since, since you began?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Well this is always a difficult one to answer really because I mean one of the things is there haven't really been the new young writers one would have hoped to come through which is why I'm excited about this guy Rahman you see because he's, he's a completely new piece of, you know, it's a completely, extraordinary new fusion of talent I hope. But I think the one thing that one has noticed is that younger people today, there's a huge culture of sort of going to bars and you know they tend to meet at sort of 6.30 in a bar somewhere and then decide what they want to do. There isn't so much now the culture of you sort of book up for something way in advance, that's going to be an interesting trend, I mean yet at the same time as I said, you know the figures in the West End are hardly any different then they were two years ago.
DAVID FROST: And you said you'd like to do something about the food in the intervals of plays and in the West End?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Well, in the theatres that I'm involved with we are just about to launch some really good, I think, innovations there. But it always depends you see, because theatres are very confined for space and at a theatre like Drury Lane you can do a great deal, a theatre like the Adelphi it's much more difficult because there isn't really the space to do anything much. But I think though, I, hopefully by the summer things will be rather different.
DAVID FROST: And what about, just in conclusion, the story that we discussed early on, the new battle of Greenham Common?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Yes I saw my face in some. I don't quite know what I've got to do with this, I don't know very much about the new battle with Greenham Common, is it about the supermarket?
DAVID FROST: Well it's, it's, yes and there's a huge picture of you but that's a mystery?
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Yes a mystery I'm afraid.
DAVID FROST: Andrew thank you very much, good luck with the new show.
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: Thanks.
DAVID FROST: Andrew Lloyd Webber.
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