The Lloyd Webber effect It's really useful to rule the world

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The Independent Online
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's plans for world domination are exemplified by the construction of a pounds 25m theatre outside Frankfurt, designed solely to stage Sunset Boulevard. Lloyd Webber persuaded a hotel group to fund it, and to agree to the Really Useful Group producing the show.

Just over the Swiss border in Basle, another theatre has been built for The Phantom of the Opera. This pounds 15m project was funded by city businesses, and has again ceded all production rights to Really Useful, with an "on-going option" to put on more Lloyd Webber shows.

Every theatre that takes a Lloyd Webber show is contracted to adopt the original West End director, designer and sets. Audiences will never be treated to an "exciting new production" of Cats or Phantom. To Lloyd Webber, shows are like paintings: they hang forever as the artist created them. This is why he was prepared to lose pounds 1m by closing theoriginal West End production of Sunset Boulevard for a month to have it restaged in the manner of the later Broadway version: he was revamping it not just for the Adelphi Theatre but for stages across the globe.

Perhaps the only area of showbusiness in which Lloyd Webber's ambition has been thwarted is cinema, but this may be partly because film musicals have fallen out of fashion. Last year, though, Polygram gave him $100m to go off and make a few: the first will be a musical version of Mary Hayley Bell's Whistle Down the Wind, with a rock'n'roll score. If the film of Evita is a hit, Hollywood will give his other juggernauts the big-budget treatment. Cats, which on Monday becomes the world's longest- running musical, is set to be made into a cartoon feature.

SCOTT HUGHES

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