NY1 VIDEO: Donna Karger hosts the February 8, 2014 edition of On Stage.
BONUS INTERVIEW: TIM RICE
Celebrated lyricist Tim Rice ("Aida," "The Lion King," "Evita," "Jesus Christ Superstar") returns to the world of musical theater for the first time in more than a decade with the new show “From Here To Eternity." Rice wrote the lyrics and is producing the musical, which is based on the novel by James Jones. On Stage’s Frank DiLella recently caught up with Rice by phone to discuss his latest theatrical venture.
Frank DiLella: Why turn the property “From Here to Eternity” into a stage musical?
Tim Rice: It came to be because Stuart Brayson (the composer) brought it to me. I thought it's a good story, and he wrote some good tunes.
FD: What was your relationship with the property prior to working on the show?
TR: The first thing I said when Stuart said he wanted to do this – I said we need the rights to the original book. The movie only covered some of the book. The same basic story is there – in both the movie and show - but we wanted to do our own thing with the musical. The film took one approach which is excellent and for the stage show; we took another approach.
FD: You mention Stuart Brayson (the show’s composer). “From Here to Eternity” marks his first musical project on the West End – what was it like collaborating with him?
TR: In some respects no different than anyone else. Brayson is not a recognizable name when it comes to musical theater, but his tunes are outstandingly good. When I agreed to do this project, I didn’t care that he wasn’t a well known face. To be honest, I thought there would be more interest in him than has been. Most people who talk about our show don’t have the realization that we're very short of great composers in theater. Musical theater is now celebrity or big name driven, which is a pity. I didn’t feel any concern that this is his debut – it made it more interesting.
FD: This musical marks your first show in 14 years. Why more than a decade before returning to the musical stage?
TR: I didn’t really have anything I wanted to do. I had plenty of other things here in England to keep me occupied. But I heard Stuart’s tunes and I knew I wanted to do this project. I spent a lot of the last 10 years getting this show up and running – getting people to back it – it was a long slog.
FD: “From Here to Eternity” is closing at the end of March in London. This show is undoubtedly an American story – will we see it on Broadway?
TR: I would like to. It’s a flop in England. Funnily enough though, we got pretty good reviews. I would accept things are wrong with it. Launching a new show is difficult. I think we made some mistakes on the business end of it, but I feel the piece is good enough to come again. We will go back to the drawing board – we will keep the score and story – I would love to see it have a go again in England. Looking back, we should have tried it out of town to get it 100% right. Instead we did a very expensive workshop on the West End which was not the right way to do it. That being said, I think we can start again and do it in America.
FD: Your one-time collaborator, Andrew Lloyd Webber, recently opened his new show on the West End: "Stephen Ward." The two of you did "Joseph…," "Evita," and "Jesus Christ Superstar" together. Any desire to collaborate with him once again?
TR: I don’t have a desire to do any musical unless it's a fantastic idea. If Andrew came to me and said "I have a fantastic idea" – then sure. I’m not sure if I have any more great ideas in me – or bad ideas at that. The idea/story – is more important than who you work with. I think Stuart Brayson is brilliant. If you listen to his tunes, you’ll get into his music. I think Stuart’s music has been undervalued.
FD: It was recently announced that Elton John’s film company, Rocket Pictures, is going to turn “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" into an animated feature. You of course wrote the book/lyrics and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music for that show. Can you give us details?
TR: Yes – we’ve done a deal with "Joseph…" and Rocket Pictures. It’s some way off. I doubt it will hit the screens until 2018. I think it has good potential for an animated film. Once we get going and have a director on board, I think Andrew and I would maybe talk about writing a new song. Also maybe we’ll make a few adjustments, because that’s what you do for film –maybe add some dialogue. We won’t get into the artistic aspects until we have a director or team – and we probably won’t have a director until the end of this year.
FD: Animated feature aside, a new national tour of "Joseph…" is about to launch with former American Idol stars and real life husband/wife team Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young. Plus the show is still on tour in the UK. Why so much "Joseph…" and why now?
TR: It's been touring England for 30 years – it’s the children. Children love it. If you can create a piece of theater that children love – but also theater that adults enjoy – you’re on your way to have a winner. If you have a children’s show that’s moronic/only aims for children – that doesn’t always work. "Joseph…" appeals to adults and children. Another one of my shows like that is "The Lion King."
FD: Finally, there’s been a lot of chatter over the years about the musical "Chess" coming back. You wrote the lyrics for "Chess" and Benny Andersson and Bj—rn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame wrote the music. It was a flop when it first hit Broadway, but the show definitely has a cult following. Are we going to see "Chess" again?
TR: I've been talking endlessly about this one. We've had a few discussions about a few returns to Broadway – completely different from the last time. We've also talked about a rock arena tour, and we’ve had a few offers for a movie. I think something will happen with "Chess." Nothing is rock solid. "Chess" was a disaster on Broadway, and yet it gets done all the time in America through stock and amateur and some professional productions. The piece is alive.