Entertainment

Breathing room Lloyd Webber's latest endeavor

Andrew Lloyd Webber has earned seven Tony Awards, a knighthood and hundreds of millions of dollars for writing some of the most popular musicals of all time (from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," to "The Phantom of the Opera").

Nearly as legendary is his ego, a self-confidence worthy of an impresario whose success has emboldened him to think on grand scales.

Which is why it was hard to believe Lloyd Webber when he said during a recent interview that he may stop involving himself in productions of his work.

But he sounded perfectly sincere expounding on that comment as he sat high above the stage of his London Palladium Theater, like a lord in the heavens of the upper balcony. Stagehands below were setting up the yellow brick road for the evening performance of "The Wizard of Oz," a largely faithful musical adaptation of the film that he produced and for which he and Tim Rice wrote a few new songs. He said he may bring "Oz" to Broadway. Or he may not.

Lloyd Webber, 63, chalked up his ambivalence to the otherwise happy occasions of recently seeing "the two best productions of my shows that I had nothing to do with": the revival of "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, which he hopes will come to Broadway, and a production of "Love Never Dies," a sequel to "Phantom," in Melbourne, Australia.

"Love Never Dies" has been a bittersweet experience for Lloyd Webber, to hear him describe it during a rare candid discussion. One of the highest-stakes sequels in history, "Love Never Dies" coincided with Lloyd Webber's treatment for prostate cancer.

"So I've now decided what I might do is to have nothing to do with my shows for the foreseeable future, which is probably a very sound idea," said Lloyd Webber.

To assume he might be pulling back from the theater underestimates both his workaholism and his creative interests, which have only widened thanks to his infatuation with casting stage shows through television contests.

The BBC show sought to find an actress to play the lead role of Maria in a "Sound of Music" revival. Lloyd Webber served as a judge, offering performers advice and deploying a double entendre or two.

While he credited the television series with expanding the audience for musical theater, he also described them as simply a pleasure to do during a time when he needed more laughter in his life.

"There's no getting around it: Writing is hard, while working with young performers is nearly always a joy," said Lloyd Webber, who is cancer free but whose health still wavers. "I do want to write again. I hope to. But it's also important for me to realize, as I get older, that I don't have to be doing everything all at once."

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