"We've always kept in touch. We had a few ups and downs. It's fine," says Rice. "But I'm sure if Andrew and I did something together again, it wouldn't be as good as 'Superstar' or 'Evita.' I think it would be probably done for the wrong reasons."
Rice, who has been busy in England as a bigwig in the cricket world, visits New York three or four times a year and catches many Broadway shows. While he didn't care too much for "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," he loved "The Book of Mormon" and cheered Daniel Radcliffe in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." He bemoans the lack of a great new British musical.
"The trouble I find with British musicals these days is that most of the shows are written by old codgers — people like me," he says. "I just wonder sometimes where the next generation of musicals will come from. It'll probably come out of left field. It won't be something that will be predicted."
Left field is where Rice and Lloyd Webber came from and their strange paths to the stage — concept album before full production — has offered would-be writers inspiration. "It was unexpected and we were unaccepted by the establishment for quite a long time," he says. "Every time we got forced into a corner, it turned out to be rather a good corner."
Those fertile late-1960s and '70s, when he and Lloyd Webber were writing "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," ''Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita," remain one of his most productive times.
"There are two graphs in one's life. There's the graph of experience, which starts at zero and goes to 100. And there's the graph of enthusiasm and inspiration that starts at 100 and goes down to zero. When they cross, you're at your top — you've still got a bit of inspiration left and a bit of experience," Rice says.
"I think with 'Evita,' we had that. I'm not saying that therefore 'Evita' is a better piece than 'Superstar.' I wouldn't like to genuinely say one was better than the other."
Rice went on to co-write more hits — "The Lion King" and "Aida" with John — and a few misses — "Chess" with members of ABBA and the musical "Blondel" — had three children, owns his own cricket team and got a knighthood.
He has lately contributed songs to films or special events like Queen Elizabeth II's 60th birthday celebration, and he has done a few collaborations — he and Lloyd Webber wrote a new song for the movie "Evita" with Madonna — but a full-length musical wasn't "anything I felt I desperately had to do."
He was helping young composer Stuart Brayson on a musical adaptation of the James Jones' novel "From Here to Eternity" — most famous for its scene of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster kissing on a beach — when he realized he'd have to take over all lyric writing duties. The musical now has 18 songs, a bright young director in Tamara Harvey and a book writer in Bill Oakes, an old friend of Rice.
"It's a combination of youth and experience. Or, if you'd like to put it another way, old age and inexperience," says Rice, who hopes it will be on a stage in London within a year. "I've written a few songs here and there but it's quite nice to get back to doing one properly."
Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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