Following on from How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria, Any Dream Will Do, I'd Do Anything and Over The Rainbow, Lloyd Webber's next televised search for a star will see the composer looking for a new Jesus.
The plan is to find a new lead for a touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar. In a change to the usual winner's prize the star will join a planned tour of arenas around the country rather than try to find the musical a new West End home.
This may well be very wise. Launching a new show, whether it is an original piece or the revival of an old classic, is a costly affair. Public interest for these tv shows does seem to be on the wane, and despite the memorable stars that the show churned out in previous series such as Lee Mead and Connie Fisher, who would honestly recognise recent winner Danielle Hope aka The Wizard Of Oz's Dorothy if they sat next to her on a bus? Despite great sales in the early years of the franchise, none of the previously revived musicals - The Sound Of Music, Joseph or Oliver are still showing in the West End.
Sales for The Wizard Of Oz have certainly been underwhelming. Add to that the critical and financial embarrassment of Lloyd Webber's Phantom sequel Love Never Dies which seemed to leave the stage almost as soon as it arrived - retreating to Australia for a drastic rework. If musicals are loved they can hang around for years - Blood Brothers, Les Miserables and The Lion King are a testament to that. Wicked, Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You have both long surpassed the longest stay of any of the Lloyd Webber tv rebirths and show no signs of coming off soon. In attempting to nurture our feeling of ownership of a "star" we have created by paying to keep them in a contest every week, perhaps opening up the machine puts just as many off who see the process as too calculated.
It certainly seems safer to downscale the prize in the upcoming series in today's make or break climate. Taking the show on a nationwide tour limits the numbers of days at one venue making it easier to fill seats up. Armchair viewers are more likely to travel to a nearby theatre or arena rather than make the potentially costly trek down to London. There are no confirmations yet of who else will be making up the judging panel for the current show. Auditions are due to begin in February and will take in London, Dublin, Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff.
Lloyd Webber has said: "Presenting a new 2012 version of Jesus Christ Superstar for arenas is truly exciting."
Let's hope it is.
[posted by James, 18/01]