Rice is cross with the Lord over search for a new Jesus


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The Independent Online

A quarter of a century ago, theatre producer Robert Stigwood looked on hopefully as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice repaired to the music room at the latter's country house. Lloyd Webber sat at the piano and unveiled the title music for his latest brainwave, an operetta based on The Phantom Of The Opera.

Stigwood recalls: "Silence from Tim. Andrew played it again... da-dah-dah-dah. Tim speaks. 'Most boring music you've ever written'. End of meeting."

That encounter failed to lift the velvet curtain which continues to divide a duo whose strained relationship has now exploded in the most public manner. Rice, 67, has declared his hostility to Lloyd Webber's new television search to find a lead for an arena tour revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. Forty years ago the biblical-themed collaboration between the pair, now titled Sir Tim Rice and Lord Lloyd-Webber, became their first success.

But the lyricist, a winner of three Oscars, 12 Ivor Novello awards and many Grammys, Tonys and Golden Globes, has called the peer's forthcoming ITV series, Superstar, "tasteless" and "tacky". Sir Tim complained that his former writing partner had refused to take his concerns seriously. He said: "I've had several meetings with Andrew and said that I don't want this done, but now it appears it's been signed and sealed.

"Andrew wants to rehash things all the time, but I really don't think Superstar needs that tasteless reality television treatment.

"Those shows are relentlessly downmarket, which is fine if the show is a lightweight bit of fluff.

"I am fully behind an arena show, but I just don't think you need another television series to do that."

Sir Tim is threatening to derail the whole proposition, a move which could cause an irreparable rift with his former partner.

"They can't cast the show without my approval," he said. "If I didn't like the person, I could say so."