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American Idol Tracker: Andrew Lloyd Webber forsees big night for Brooke White

God of theater though he may be, a day of rehearsing with the six remaining contestants on "American Idol" left Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber ready for a break. “We have a rather weary composer here,” he said by telephone moments after finishing up with the Idols. “It's probably best to define him as de-composer.”

An American television singing competition may seem like an odd place to find the man who owned musician theater for three decades, dominating Broadway with a string of sensations, including “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera,” but the grand man of the stage had flown in to serve as "Idol's" guest mentor, guiding the surviving six warriors of song through their Tuesday night performances, which will be devoted to his songbook.

Looking back over his day with the contestants, Lloyd Webber was cautiously hopeful that his works would survive their encounter with American reality television and enthused about the singers the show has fielded. Not having seen the show on air this season, he said after working with the group, “The six kids were really in their own ways all very talented. I think that in their own way they're a pretty diverse bunch, and in their own way they've all got something.”

Although Lloyd Webber was barred “under pain of death” from revealing the song choices, he was allowed to speak of being struck by one moment in particular.  “The girl who I was really quite impressed with was Brooke. She was really -- I got something out of her. I mean, whether or not, you know, that is there at the end, I really couldn't tell you.

"The one thing is, working with me, one on one, where I'm on the other side -- I'm sort of actually, in her case, holding her hand to get the performance out of her. It's very different than sitting in a great big television studio with a big audience and you've got a camera in front of you. So, one will have to see.”

For the contestants, having to transition from the pop hits of Mariah Carey and Dolly Parton to the complex character-driven songs of the Lloyd Webber catalog will be one of the season's major tests.  Asked how he trains pop singers to sing a song like "Memory" from "Cats," he said, “With that song in particular, it's very much about understanding the words because they're very heavily based on T.S. Eliot and the four quartets. And it's a song that is very, very much word-driven as much as it's music-driven, of course. The relationship of the music to the words is important.

“It's a different value that happens,” he continues, speaking of pop singers taking on his works, “because you get people who've got the -- as they say -- the money notes. And with a song like 'Memory,' you absolutely can get through it on those. But it may not be the performance, if I was there, I would absolutely -- I would direct them to do.”

If he seems to be speaking from experience, it is because "American Idol" is not his first step into reality television. Back in Britain, the composer has led a series of TV competition shows to cast West End productions of beloved musicals, starting with the search for a Maria for “The Sound of Music,” then for the title role for a production his own “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and now, the show currently airing, which is auditioning the role of Nancy in “Oliver.”

His reality TV career recently, in fact, brought an "American Idol" icon soaring to his defense. In March, actor and current Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey openly complained about the BBC running a show that promotes upcoming Lloyd Webber productions, griping, “You are not a commercial broadcaster, and I thought that was crossing the line. Where's our 13-week program when we put a play on?”

Stepping into the limelight to rebut the attack very quickly was none other than "Idol" judge Simon Cowell, who said in an interview: "It sounds like Russia in the '60s, that mentality. I don't think that applies to the modern world. What the BBC does is very good for the West End because it reminds millions of people what the West End is all about -- they're going to sell a lot of tickets off the back of that."

He went on to declare "I love Andrew to bits," calling the composer “a national treasure.”

Lloyd Webber, for his part, expressed his gratitude and appreciation for Cowell's support, calling him “brilliant” and “one of the best A&R executives ever.”

Giving a little more away about what is in store on Andrew Lloyd Webber week, he revealed that the group number was “something I suggested,” and went on to say, “It's a bit of an odd choice perhaps. I think it will work. We'll see.” When badgered for more information, he would reveal only that, although his shows are rife with rousing group numbers, this song in fact was not originally sung by a group.

Continuing on the experience of watching the cast perform his work, Lloyd Webber said, “I hear my songs all over the place, all over the world. You hear versions of them where they work, but they're not necessarily what I would do if I were there and were able to have input to the artist, which is why it is quite interesting to have a bunch of kids singing my own music. Very strange choices some of them made as well.” He laughs. “But I'm not allowed to tell you about it.

-- Richard Rushfield
(photo courtesy of Fox)

Comments () | Archives (10)

Hoping beyond hope that Carly sings "Memory"--it's perfect in the position that she is in...and her voice would take it and fly with it.

If the contestants were limited to the "Phantom - The Las Vegas Production" songbook, then here are my song choice predictions.
Carly: "Think of Me",
Jason: "Angel of Music",
Syesha: The Phantom of the Opera",
David Cook: "All I Ask of You",
Brooke: The Music of the Night", and
David Archuleta: "Wishing You Somehow Here Again".

Personally, I would love to hear selections from "Evita" and "Jesus Christ Superstar". But, I am not promoting the new Las Vegas production, right?
Having said that, I can personally guarantee an extra 100 call-in votes for David Cook if he wears a tuxedo! Go Cookie!!
Can't wait to see the show.
Good Luck Idols!!
Colleen AZ

I would love to see David Cook do "Jesus Christ Superstar."

If they are smart they'll steer clear of most of Sound of Music and Cats. Those shows are so overproduced and so mainstream that if I were a judge and someone performed from them in a professional competition I would laugh them off the stage. Too much Phantom could be tragic too.

I am looking forward to seeing something from Joseph or Jesus Christ Superstar. Hopefully someone has the guts to touch those.

Good luck contestants!
Thanks for the fun music Andrew!

I love Carly's voice and I hope she picks a strong song to match it. Obviously being Irish influences me towards her, but I think she is the strongest female in the competition. David C is the best male vocal and I think David A plays it safe in a lot of ways with his song choice each week. I'd love to see Carly and David C in the final two ... but, a lot of women vote each week based on looks, cuteness etc, and not necessarily on vocal ability.

Carly should go with "Rainbow High" from Evita. Not "Memory"--too well-known by female artists and if she gets nervous, she'll yell on the top notes.

David Cook should try "Gethsemane" or "Heaven on Their Minds" from JC Superstar. Why reinvent the wheel--Superstar is one of the all-time great rock operas with so many incredible songs written for men. The Brown Album is a must for any music fan, not just musical theater fans.

Archuletta should sing something from Aspects--"Love Changes Everything"--or else "Memory" from Cats. He's good with those ballads. But NOT something from Joseph, for goodness sakes (though any bets on him doing "Close Every Door"?).

Brooke should go with "Unexpected Song" from Tell Me On a Sunday. That would be so great, but I bet this song is overlooked.

And Syesha...hmmm...I wouldn't mind hearing her do "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (though I bet Brooke snapped this one up). Or, "Buenos Aires" for an up-tempo, since she's been doing ballads lately.

Love love love Sir Andrew. The problem isn't so much when they do musical theater themes--the problem is the kids don't know the songbooks well enough to pick from many, many great numbers that could totally be contemporary and end up picking the songs that they know.

I think they should help the kids with their song choices on AI. They always talk about how vital it is, but the show is a singing contest, not a pick-the-best-song contest. Some of the contestants are so green, they just don't know the catalogs that are offered to them enough to make the best choices.

It would make for a better show, and it's more realistic--in the real world, these artists are not going to be choosing what they put on their album.

According to ALW himself, Carly's singing a rock song from JC Superstar:


I am so stoked to hear Jason Castro tonight -- no matter what he chooses. He is the most interesting uber-TALENTED contestant the show has had in many seasons. I would love for him to sing "Music of the Night" or something from "J C Superstar." If he picks "Memory" from "Cats" he will probably change it up, as he always does, to make it unique. "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" would also be an unusual choice. (ALW said some of the kids made unusual choices.)

I hope Brooke sings "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from "J C Superstar." I think that has got to be the perfect song for her, and a great chance to redeem herself after the past few horrible weeks' worth of performances.

Carly would do well with anything from "Phantom," I think.

David A. would do well with something from "Dreamcoat."

David Cook can probably take any song and make it sound like "his own," as the judges say.

Syesha has a "Broadway voice," so she should sing well tonightl. Whether or not the voters agree, well that is a different story! Good Luck to all!

I am cautious about tonight. I love Broadway but the last time Idol did Broadway the contestant's choices were awful because most of them were unfamiliar with the genre. ALW's music is not easy and many in the audience will not be familiar with it so judging the contestants will be dicey. Looking forward to their choices & hoping against hope that they made good ones!

David C: Heaven on Their Minds or Superstar (JCS); Clean The Kit (Beautiful Game); Money Kept Rolling In (Evita), would blow my mind if he did Chaiyya Chaiyya from Bombay Dreams!
David A: All The Love I Have (The Beautiful Game); Close Every Door, Any Dream Will Do (Joseph)
Jason: Oh What A Circus, High Flying Adored (Evita); Gesthemene (JCS), Benjamin Calypso (Joseph)
Carley: I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You, Rainbow High (Evita), Memory (Cats)
Brooke: Another Suitcase (Evita), Think of Me, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, (Phantom); Will probably do one of Mary's songs from JCS.
Syesha: Shakalaka Baby (Bombay Dreams)

If I have to assign one show per person:

David C: JCS
David A: Beautiful Game or Joseph
Jason: Evita
Carley: Cats / Phantom
Brooke: Phantom / Cats
Syesha: Bombay Dreams

Would love to have heard Michael sing Sunset Boulevard.


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