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The Lloyd Webber whirligig: Jesus Christ Superstar to Broadway? Wizard of Oz to Toronto?

Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2008

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

There's a lot of speculation out there right now about where Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals are coming and going. Which is just the way Lloyd Webber likes it, that crafty composer.

First of all, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of Jesus Christ Superstar continues to generate buzz that it is bound for Broadway. Lloyd Webber visited the Ontario production two weeks ago. Lyricist Tim Rice followed a week later.

Then, this weekend, a short item in the New York Times added more fuel to the fire.

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Director Des McAnuff told the Times that "we're definitely taking calls from New York and elsewhere about having a future elsewhere, but it's very much an open question."

Which prompted the Times to ponder: "With the musicals Sister Act and The Book of Mormon now singing to the heavens on Broadway, and a revival of Godspell set to join them this fall, is there room in the congregation for a fourth musical with strong spiritual underpinnings?"

So Ontario may send a Lloyd Webber-Rice musical to New York, but will Lloyd Webber send another of his collaborations with Rice to Ontario in exchange?

This week, the British impresario was musing to Playbill about just that possibility.

Lloyd Webber's retooling of The Wizard of Oz is currently a hit in the West End, booking through to February 2012. This production includes all the Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg songs from the 1939 film, plus a few new ones penned by Lloyd Webber and Rice, and its Dorothy was cast on a reality TV program called Over the Rainbow.

Now, Lloyd Webber tells Playbill, he is looking to ship this smash show to Oz-lovers overseas. "Productions are planned for Canada, Australia and a U.K. tour," summarizes Playbill succinctly.

So might we see Toto in Toronto soon - perhaps with an accompanying CBC TV show a la How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

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Well, perhaps. Lloyd Webber is a real Toronto tease: He has talked about bringing his Phantom sequel to to the city in the past (still hasn't happened), while a new Canadian production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat with Mirvish Productions was announced and then canceled.

I emailed John Karastamatis, the droll director of communications at Mirvish Productions, to see if they were thinking of helping Lloyd Webber bring The Wizard of Oz to town. He confirmed that the Mirvish organization has been inquiring about the show but noted that "[W] are in constant communication with all the major producers of English-language theatre around the world (and even some producers of theatrical shows that are performed in other languages)…"

It other words, some day, over the rainbow, The Wizard of Oz may very well play in Toronto - but don't hold your breath.

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