NEW YORK — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest project — downsizing his Gotham-based Really Useful Co. — has climbed to the top. Edgar Dobie, for five years RUC’s president, is no longer “working exclusively” for the company. Surrendering his title and staff position, Dobie will work with Webber in the future on a project-by-project basis.
Dobie, branching out on his own as producer of Paul Simon’s upcoming Broadway musical “The Capeman,” says his nonexclusive status with ReallyUseful will enable him to take on other theatrical projects “at a time when the Really Useful Co. does not have new musicals in production for North America.” He says he’ll collaborate with his old boss “when the right opportunity arises,” although it’s unclear in what capacity he’d return.
Dobie’s departure is the latest in a series that began in January when London-based parent company the Really Useful Group laid off 18 employees. Subsequently, the company’s New York operations vacated offices in Rockefeller Center, moving a staff reduced from 14 to the current nine to a smaller space on West 44th Street. Earlier this summer, Really Useful chairman and CEO Patrick McKenna was let go, and his replacement has not yet been named.
Dobie won’t be replaced, a Lloyd Webber spokesman said.
The downsizing comes at a time when Lloyd Webber has no new projects imminent for staging in London or New York. The composer’s “Whistle Down the Wind” closed following its Broadway tryout in Washington, D.C., in February, its New York run canceled indefinitely. (A revamped London staging is planned for next year.)
Ironically, the staff cuts also come at a time when the composer himself is fairly busy, though apparently not with projects either advanced enough for staff collaboration or within the realm of his theatrical employees. (The company operates a six-staffer film office in Los Angeles.) The London production of “Cats” is being videotaped for release on homevid next spring, and the composer recently finished work on the revised “Whistle” score and is writing new songs for the sequel to his megasuccessful “The Phantom of the Opera.” He’s also in the final stages of a studio deal for an animated film version of his “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Reports that Lloyd Webber is planning a film version of “Phantom,” to star John Travolta in the title role, have been neither confirmed nor denied by either party. Sources say Lloyd Webber has met with Travolta, OK’d the actor’s singing, and the two currently are scouting directors.