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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

This is a new production from Robin Phillips, director general of Edmonton, Alberta's Citadel Theatre, where it had its world premiere in fall, 1991. Director Trevor Nunn's massive sets and frequent scene changes have been scaled back, and the piece itself has been rewritten, re-orchestrated and re-choreographed.

"Aspects" is a far smaller show than Lloyd Webber fans are used to, and Brightman's star power is clearly designed to lure more people during the show's longer runs in California. The actress went to Hartford in mid-February for rehearsals, took a day off to promote the show here, then went on with the show to Houston to rehearse.

"We thought Sarah has a very high profile on the West Coast and would be very positive for the show at this time," says Garth Drabinsky, whose Toronto-based Livent, Inc. is producing the "Aspects" tour. Or as executive Dobie puts it: "Los Angeles is a very important city, and we thought if Sarah was interested in doing it, we should move heaven and earth to make that happen."

As anybody knows who has ever attended a Lloyd Webber show, these people know how to seize an opportunity. Or create one.

Dobie and colleagues are persistent suitors. "The Young and the Restless" star Michael Damian also took a little coaxing to play the title role in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

First they convinced Damian to take a look at the Toronto production of the show, now touring Canada and some U.S. cities with Donny Osmond. Then they came up with a ploy so he wouldn't have to abandon his role as Danny Romalotti on CBS' long-running hit soap opera.

Why not have Damian's character on "The Young and the Restless" get a Broadway show? asked Dobie. After all, he explained, it couldn't hurt sales that the popular TV show plays to nearly 12 million people five days a week in the United States alone. Think of all those Danny Romalotti fans (among whom is Dobie's 11-year-old daughter, Anna).

Damian has done "The Young and the Restless" since 1981, so when his rehearsal schedule demanded three weeks off, the show's story line accommodated him. "What better way of explaining his absence than using the actual show?" asks "Young and Restless" creator and executive producer Bill Bell. "It certainly doesn't hurt their show, and it gives us an excuse for the (disappearances)."

"Joseph" director Steven Pimlott appeared on "Young and Restless" a few weeks ago coaching Damian for his stage role. (Lloyd Webber was asked but reportedly declined because he didn't feel comfortable as an actor.) Damian's character Romalotti frequently sings, and the actor even sang a song from "Joseph" on the TV show.

There were plenty of young Damian fans shrieking out in the "Joseph" audience one recent evening, a reminder of the show's start in 1968 as a school play. When he and lyricist Tim Rice stopped by the London Palladium production of "Joseph" one night, Lloyd Webber has aid, one of the children who sang in the show's original children's choir was there with her grandchild.

It's certainly changed plenty, however, from the 20-minute children's show Lloyd Webber composed when he was 20. With a top ticket price of $55, the Pantages version employs a singing camel, an Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh and four children's choirs. More reminiscent of Las Vegas than ancient Egypt, the settings for this Bible story required 19 trucks to haul in revolving sets, stuffed sheep, smoke machines and more.

Marketing is a crucial part of the mix for every major theatrical production and Lloyd Webber's company is among the best. One reason is that he has held onto the rights to his recent material. His company acquired rights to "Joseph" in 1989 and, he says, "Superstar" rights recently reverted back to him and co-creator Rice.

Even the popularity of amateur productions of his work has played into his hands. Consider, for instance, all the high school and community groups that have produced the show during the past 25 years. Music Theatre International, which is licensed to administer stock and amateur rights to "Joseph," sent merchandise packets urging group sales to 2,000 such former "Joseph" producers in California and, Dobie says, response is "very high."

Restrictions on amateur and stock productions, however, are very strict. Van Nuys High School, for instance, had hoped to do a production this spring of "Joseph," says choral director Linda Blackwell, but were unable to get amateur rights because of the Pantages production of the show. "We held auditions and had a great cast," Blackwell says, "assuming we could get the rights. But they said there was a professional production (in town) and to try a little later."

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