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Theater : L.A., Land of Andrew : As prolific composer Lloyd Webber receives his star on the Walk of Fame, his shows are popping up all over town

March 07, 1993|BARBARA ISENBERG | Barbara Isenberg is a Times staff writer

It was the battle of the fans. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was about to receive his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and two people in the crowd both claimed to be his biggest admirer.

First to seize the title was musical veteran Ann Miller. Wrong, argued soap-opera star Michael Damian, currently starring in Lloyd Webber's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." " I'm your biggest fan. I wore out four CDs of 'Phantom of the Opera' and I've seen the show 12 times."

Big deal. Also outside the Pantages Theatre for the ceremony were people who'd seen the show 100 times.

Now Lloyd Webber and company are hoping that all those fans will buy tickets to his other musicals. His many other musicals.

Shakespeare he's not, but Lloyd Webber is certainly the biggest name in theater today. His fame as a composer could rival that of many pop superstars. The 3 million people who have already trekked to see "Phantom" at the Ahmanson will soon be able to satisfy their appetite for more Lloyd Webber fare in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Universal City and more.

When "Aspects of Love" officially opens March 11 at the Wilshire Theatre, it will be the third Andrew Lloyd Webber show playing in the Los Angeles area. "Phantom" celebrates its fourth anniversary at the Ahmanson Theatre on May 31 (before closing in August), while a revival of "Joseph" opened at the Pantages on Feb. 25 en route to Broadway.

A touring production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" will be at the Universal Amphitheatre for at least one week in May, while "Superstar" creators Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are talking about creating their own revival of the show next year. An "Evita" tour stops in Costa Mesa in April and Pasadena in June.

The prolific composer is colonizing Los Angeles. Lloyd Webber's North American chief Edgar Dobie is already here one week a month and expects to be around full-time by August. Century City's Shubert Theatre is undergoing major renovations for the U.S. premiere of Lloyd Webber's newest blockbuster, "Sunset Boulevard," in November.

Lloyd Webber was here in February, hosting a press conference to kick off "Joseph" fanfare. Actress Sarah Brightman, the former Mrs. Lloyd Webber, did the same a few weeks later for "Aspects of Love."

The morning after "Joseph" opened at the Pantages, Lloyd Webber was back at the theater unveiling his star there. Up on the Walk of Fame's makeshift stage, sharing a microphone with Hollywood's honorary mayor, Johnny Grant, Lloyd Webber told his fans he had a hunch Los Angeles could support a lot of musicals.

"I was always told a show would never run in Los Angeles for any length of time," Lloyd Webber told the crowd. "But 'Evita' and 'Cats' broke the record (for long runs) and 'Phantom' has been here for nearly four years. That proved to me that it is absolutely essential we open 'Sunset Boulevard' first in Los Angeles (after its London world premiere). It was my great hope to open 'Sunset Boulevard' here, and the only reason we're not is because of renovation to the Shubert Theatre. "

People involved with the shows, such as Ahmanson producing director Gordon Davidson or the Phantom himself, actor Davis Gaines, even see Lloyd Webber's omnipresence as a sign of the resurgence of Los Angeles theater. Their responses may reflect self-interest, but when asked if so many Lloyd Webber shows could siphon off audiences for other productions here, others at small and large venues alike also say no--at least publicly.

Listen to Diana Gibson, producing artistic director at Hollywood's small Cast Theatre: "I'm for anything that's going to get people in Los Angeles going to the theater. I figure some of them are eventually going to come see new American plays here at El Centro and Waring."

Food and drink were on the table and cameras ready in the Wilshire Theatre lobby last month when actress Sarah Brightman arrived. Swathed in black leather pants and fringed jacket, the glamorous, young soprano took a seat alongside co-star Barrie Ingham to answer questions about the show, ex-husband Lloyd Webber and more. No, she demurred, he didn't write "Aspects" for her--it was novelist David Garnett's story, after all--but the music he wrote for character Rose Vibert was "obviously subliminally" affected by their being married at the time.

Brightman, who played Vibert on Broadway and London's West End, is joining "Aspects' " national tour in Los Angeles and San Francisco. "I love doing the part," she says. "There are so few parts like this written for women, and there was the timing in my schedule to do it."

"Aspects" ran in London for more than three years, and on Broadway for nearly a year. Billed as "a chamber opera," the musical spans 17 years and the assorted romantic and sexual liaisons among its five main characters.

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