Lyceum goes to Lloyd Webber

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Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber yesterday announced plans to stage a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in the theatre that the troubled Royal Opera House rejected. It will be the first show at London's Lyceum Theatre since 1939.

Apollo Leisure, which is renovating the Lyceum in time for the show's November opening, had offered the theatre as a possible home for the ROH, which has still to find accommodation for two seasons from autumn 1997 while its Covent Garden base is refurbished.

The Royal Opera House turned down the Lyceum lastNovember, pinning its hopes on a theatre at Tower Bridge which is still to be built. The ROH, which has faced staff picketing over imminent redundancies as well as adverse reaction to Tuesday's BBC2 documentary, has still to find a suitable partner for the venture.

Adrian Leggett, an Apollo director, said: "We were 99.9 per cent on the way with discussions with the Royal Opera House when they decided they wanted to go elsewhere. Sir Andrew had been pressing us for two months but we waited until the ROH said no."

Keith Cooper, the ROH head of public affairs, said that the auditorium was too small for certain productions and added: "The overall equation didn't add up. We weren't able to deliver the same number of performances because of the facilities."

Sir Andrew said that he was now "a bit pessimistic" about his original plan to build a new musical theatre on London's South Bank, with the possible intention of housing ROH productions from 1997-99. Jesus Christ Superstar, last staged in London in 1980, is the seventh musical that Sir Andrew plans to open in Britain this year, a record number for the composer.