Monday, July 23, 2007

Webber Trumps Simon?

Move over, Simon Cowell and Donald Trump. Andrew Lloyd Webber is ready for his TV close-up.

The composer has signed with the William Morris Agency, taking his first Hollywood agent to make a network deal for an American reality show that he’ll headline to search for a young unknown to star in one of his musical stage productions, Variety reports.

Working in Mr. Lloyd Webber’s favor are two highly rated British reality series he built around revivals of “The Sound of Music” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Working against him is the failure of the recent NBC reality show “You’re the One That I Want,” which Mr. Lloyd Webber said swiped his concept and applied it to “Grease.”

The composer already has talked with his “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” collaborator, Tim Rice, about mounting a production of that show in America and using it for the series. According to Variety, he thinks that with more than 250 productions performed last year in schools, it’s familiar subject matter for reality-rabid young viewers.

Mr. Lloyd Webber will travel to Hollywood in early fall to meet with network execs and try to persuade them that NBC’s spin on casting “Grease” through a TV competition shouldn’t deter them. The buyer stands to be a financial partner in the stage production that is the end product of the reality show.

“I went to William Morris so I wouldn’t be stymied by that abysmal ‘Grease’ program, which was a complete rip-off of my idea,” Variety quotes Mr. Lloyd Webber as saying.

He said TV shows had pumped theater audiences, especially among the young.

“Frankly, it made theater cool, and that’s something I’d love to do in America,” he added. “The endgame can be bigger than ‘American Idol.’ Here, we’ll be creating a production of a show that will have enormous legs, whether it goes to Broadway or stadium tours, which is the way I originally did ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ ”

WMA also will represent Mr. Lloyd Webber for lecture tours and possibly for movie transformations of his stage hits, which include “Sunset Boulevard.” However, he wants to concentrate on TV first after he spends the remainder of the summer honing a sequel to his smash stage hit “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“I’m trying to balance the fact that my day job is to be a composer, but there has been a huge demand around the world for me to do television, and I really enjoy it,” Mr. Lloyd Webber said.

Fanfare for Fan Fair

Since the Country Music Association’s CMA Music Festival, originally called Fan Fair, debuted in Nashville in 1972, its goal has been to provide country music fans the rare opportunity to see their favorite stars perform and then interact with them.

TV viewers may have missed out on the latter (this year’s festival took place June 7 through 10) but tonight’s “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” (ABC at 9 p.m.) is chock-full of highlights from the former.

Among those showcased in the two-hour special are Jason Aldean, Brooks & Dunn, Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire.

Former “Nashville Star” contestant Miss Lambert, who spoke with us earlier this month, has seen the festival from both sides — first as an audience member and, for the past three years, as a performer. “It’s something special for the fans. … They’re the reason we’re out there,” she says.

Miss Lambert recalls that in her concert-going days, she was “one of those people that would run and try to get the best seats.” Her last time in the crowd at the festival, she “sat on the floor 12 rows back.”

“Last year, I was onstage performing, and I could actually see that seat where I’d sat,” she says. “It was so neat to be there as an artist.”

Tough tot is Piven kin

He may have received his third Emmy nomination Thursday, but Jeremy Piven isn’t the only star in his family.

His 2-year-old niece, Pearl, steals the show in Will Ferrell’s video on, playing his trash-talking, unforgiving landlord.

“Imagine how I feel,” Mr. Piven told “Suddenly I’m upstaged by my 2-year-old niece, who’s 19 times funnier than I am and a much better actor. It’s overwhelming.”

Mr. Piven, 41, says he’s genuinely impressed by the talent of his sister’s daughter. “Pearl is just a comedic crazy kid,” he says. “She’s so present. Whatever you say, she takes the time to really hear what you say and then repeat it. It’s surreal.”

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Jenny Mayo from staff, Web and wire reports

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