BBC didn't axe me says Andrew Lloyd Webber on eve of his new ITV show launch
21:57 GMT, 5 July 2012
With just one day to go until Andrew Lloyd Webber launches his first ITV talent show, the theatre legend has been strenuously trying to quash rumours that the BBC axed him.
Lord Lloyd-Webber told me: ‘The people at ITV now were the same ones who took a gamble on me in the first place at the BBC, so that’s why I have moved over.
‘ITV wanted very much to do a programme with me. They got very excited when I said, “I don’t really want to do another stage show, I’m thinking of an arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.” They said that was something they would really like to do, too.’
Defector: Andrew Lloyd Webber, pictured with with Jason Donovan and Dawn French who will be helping him on his hunt for the next theatre star, will launch his first ever show with ITV Superstar tomorrow
Senior Beeb sources had been whispering that they severed their long-standing ties with Andrew because they feared that his search for the lead role of Jesus would be too controversial.
The Voice got the Saturday night time slot and budget that had been previously reserved for Lloyd Webber’s successful shows, including How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria, Any Dream Will Do and I’d Do Anything — which discovered new stars for his West End musicals.
'I'd Do Anything': Samantha Barks, who came third in Lloyd Webber's 2008 search to cast Nancy in Oliver, has just finished filming Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman
But The Voice ended up being a flop. Andrew, 64, says he was persuaded to bring his new series, Superstar, to ITV by the broadcaster’s director of television, Peter Fincham — the former BBC1 controller who first convinced him to move into television.
Superstar, which starts tomorrow at 7.25pm on ITV1, follows a similar format to Andrew’s previous series, except the live shows will run back to back. He said: ‘It’s a very rigorous show. All the finalists will have to learn 140 songs because night to night we don’t know who is going to go forward.’
Critics of TV talent searches have recently claimed that all the best singers have already been discovered during a decade of various shows.
But Andrew is defensive of the genre, pointing to Samantha Barks, who came third in his 2008 TV hunt to cast Nancy for Oliver! — and has just finished shooting a Hollywood remake of Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman.
‘She was a 17-year-old girl I would never have seen in my life if it wasn’t for TV,’ says Lloyd Webber.
‘Now she’s bagged a huge role in a huge movie.
‘There are a lot of people who now apply just to get an audition with me and the team because they have seen the consequences of just being on the show.’
Little chance of kiss and make-up on 2012 X Factor
Backstabbing on The X Factor has started early this year — before the series has even begun.
Sources tell me that executives are furious with Simon Cowell for not renewing the contract of popular chief make-up artist Natalya Nair (left).
Instead, he has replaced her with his close friend Julia Carta. Carta was believed to have been earmarked for Cowell’s American X Factor last year, but couldn’t get a visa in time.
A backstage source on the UK show told me: ‘This is a case of Simon Cowell looking after his friends and not thinking about the wider consequences for the show.
‘Natalya was a top-notch make-up artist and really proved herself last year. She is very upset to be axed at the last minute — she thought she would be returning.’
Let slip: Cliff Richard revealed he'd been asked to be a judge on next year's The Voice
Sir Cliff Richard has put his foot in it with The Voice’s judges — following an avalanche of problems for the BBC1 show.
The pop veteran, 71, let it slip this week that he’d been informally offered a place on next year’s panel.
His claim, which the Beeb is officially denying, has upset existing judges Sir Tom Jones, will.i.am, Danny O’Donoghue and Jessie J.
And show insiders say the gaffe is ‘unfortunate’, as it comes at a time when they are trying to decide how many of this year’s judges will return.
A source close to one of the four panel members told me of their fury.
‘Why should they hang around waiting for the BBC to make up their minds about who’s in and who’s out’ the source said.
‘The fact is the bosses were lucky to get the ones they had. Scouting around for other talent behind their backs is simply rude.’
ITV is now resigned to a ratings bloodbath during the Olympics — and expects the BBC to get the lion’s share of viewers.
But a huge bounce-back is being engineered around the return of The X Factor and Downton Abbey.
An ITV source said: ‘We realise our shows will not get much attention until after the Olympics. We’re prepared for that.’
Special guests will see a preview of the third Downton, starring Dame Maggie Smith in London on July 24.
Simon Cowell has gone on a signing spree — snapping up several acts from the recent Britain’s Got Talent.
Welsh choir Only Boys Aloud, headed by choral director Tim Rhys-Evans, is now under Simon’s record label Syco. I’m told it is banking on the lads’ debut album being a big Christmas hit.
Ashley and Pudsey, Jonathan and Charlotte, Loveable Rogues and Ryan O’Shaughnessy all have deals, too.
Most surprising is Manchester rapper Zipparah Tafari, aka Mr Zip. The plasterer, 49, sang Where Me Keys, Where Me Phone which will be released as a single next month.
He’s filming the video today with Emmerdale actors.