Encore Theatre Magazine
:: Friday, September 01, 2006 ::
More Problems Like Maria
It's real car-crash television isn't it? David Ian is a deeply unsettling and creepy figure, a kind of ageing roué with his strange and seedy remarks about the contestants. Andrew LW is just shockingly strange, his lower jaw gnashing away as he watches the auditions. In the Daily Mail showbiz hack Baz Bamigboye made some (rather mild) criticisms repeating some of the claims we made a month ago. Apart from picking up the rumours that Emma Williams has been hired to play the 'real' Maria, he also notes that an understudy has been hired. So there will be three Marias. How many shows is the TV-found Maria actually going to do?
This seems to have rattled his Lordship who has defended the show on his own website. Apparently stung by Bamigboye's suggestion that the show is 'tawdry' and that 'The idea of casting a major West End show through an end-of-the-pier type programme thoroughly debases the theatre', he notes that he has alternated leads on two previous shows, which only adds to our sense that he's been debasing the theatre for quite some time. In any case, as Mark Shenton points out in his blog, Maria is nothing like as demanding a singing role as Evita or the Phantom.
Trevor Nunn has joined into the general kicking, which is significant, given that he directed Lloyd Webber's last show, The Woman in White. He suggests - reasonably - that it demeans the casting process, since we are invited to enjoy the performers' distress. And this is true: if you went for a job and the person phoned up and said, 'we've made a decision and the decision is [pauses for twenty seconds] you're out', you'd be entitled to be very angry indeed.
Today's Holy Moly! announces that 'The winner of the BBC's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? is only assured a month on the production. There is no guarantee about the number of performances she makes within that month, and she can be booted out at any stage.' When you think of the flood of complaints that Big Brother received when it put dangerously-disturbed-child-woman Nikki back into the house, one might expect some rebellion from the viewers when the waste of their votes becomes clear. Except that there aren't that many of them. The show's averaging around 5m viewers in a slot that Doctor Who was netting around 8m, which is respectable but hardly a smash.
Meanwhile, Whatsonstage.com is reporting that Andrew has fallen out with his co-producer after Ian David was chosen to appear in the US version of the show, designed to find leads for a new production of Grease and called, with sickening inevitability, You're The One That We Want.
But perhaps this is all a smokescreen to mask the really bad news story. Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced that his next
act of cultural vandalism musical will be an adaptation of The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. For the love of God, somebody stop him.