Entertainment & Arts

Lloyd Webber to follow Superstar with Profumo musical

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber with the Basca Fellowship award at the 2012 Ivor Novello awards held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London
Image caption Andrew Lloyd Webber with the Basca Fellowship award

Andrew Lloyd Webber on his search for Jesus and why his next musical will be linked to the events of the Profumo scandal.

When Andrew Lloyd Webber was honoured for his contribution to the music industry at last week's Ivor Novello songwriting awards he admitted that he associated such awards with people "in the twilight days of their career".

That was not accurate in his case, he assured the audience at the glitzy music industry bash in London's Park Lane.

He still had plenty of projects on the go.

Among them is the song Lord Lloyd-Webber co-wrote with Take That's Gary Barlow for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The track, Sing, features musicians from across the Commonwealth, the Military Wives choir - and Prince Harry on tambourine.

Speaking backstage at the Ivor Novello awards, with his statuette in hand, Lord Lloyd-Webber confirmed he would be playing the song at the Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace on 4 June.

"We just wanted to celebrate the one thing that the Queen's most proud of - the keeping together of the Commonwealth."

But his major TV appearance this summer will be on ITV talent show Superstar - which aims to fill the role of Jesus for an arena tour of hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

The musical, with lyrics by Sir Tim Rice, was first performed in 1971. It has been translated into 11 languages and performed in 22 countries.

The 2012 arena tour stars ex-Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, comedian and musician Tim Minchin and Radio 1's Chris Moyles.

Dawn French and Jason Donovan have been signed up as judges, with Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden hosting the live heats.

Image caption Andrew Lloyd Webber (second left), with Jesus Christ Superstar cast members Tim Minchin, Melanie Chisholm and Chris Moyles

Lord Lloyd-Webber set the template for his TV star search with the BBC series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

He said: "On Superstar we've got to have a guy with phenomenal charisma. He'll be playing opposite Tim Minchin as Judas, Chris Moyles as Herod, and Mel C as Mary."

It had always been Minchin's ambition to play Judas, he revealed. "He's a wonderfully good singer, so it'll be a little bit of a different side of Tim Minchin we'll see."

And what did he think of the recent series of Britain's Got Talent? "I thought it was brilliantly put together - and so well edited. Looking at it with my telly hat on, I'm pleased that we have the same director on the Superstar programmes."

Once the Superstar search is over, Lord Lloyd-Webber will take "time off" to write his next musical - his first since 2010's Love Never Dies.

"I'm pleased that I've found a subject that I want to write now," he admitted.

That subject is a the life and death of Stephen Ward, the London osteopath who was linked to the Profumo scandal in the 1960s.

Conservative War Minister John Profumo was forced to resign from the Cabinet in 1963 for lying to the House of Commons over his affair with Christine Keeler.

His brief affair with Ms Keeler had begun after he was introduced to her by Ward at Lord Astor's Cliveden country estate in Berkshire in July 1961. Ward took an overdose of tablets and died three days after being found guilty of living on immoral earnings.

"It's not - as people will immediately say - a musical about the Profumo Affair and Christine Keeler," Lord Lloyd-Webber explained.

"It's about the life of this man - and how a man who was probably the most popular, most sought after, most urbane - a figure who you really wanted to meet if you were in London - ended up as a waxwork in the chamber of horrors in Blackpool.

"He was the fall guy for what happened in a whole series of events that spun out of control... but the more you look at the story the more it's quite clear that a lot of things that were alleged to have happened probably didn't happen."

He added: "It's also very much about how both the press and media put pressure on these very young girls to say things that weren't necessarily true.

"It's an incredibly interesting subject for today, and it's right at that time when everything was changing, the old Britain was going and The Beatles were just happening."

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Lloyd Webber's musicals running consecutively in the West End.

His shows include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita, Song & Dance, Cats, Starlight Express, The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love.

"The shows are like children - I don't have a favourite," he said.

One of the most rewarding moments of his career, he added, was winning a Tony for Sunset Boulevard on Broadway.

"In many ways Sunset is the most sophisticated of all the shows, and it's fantastic we got recognised for that. It was an amazing performance with Glenn Close. It's a real grown-up musical."

Now Lord Lloyd-Webber has to find a home for another award, his 14th Ivor Novello statuette.

Reporters at the event were keen to know whether the musical maestro would put it on the mantelpiece - or even in the toilet.

His diplomatic answer? "It'll go with the others. They're not exactly in the toilet, but they're not far away."

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