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‘Evita’ win proves Acad must love Rice

In the pic’s sole win among five nominations, the Academy awarded “Evita” the best original song Oscar for “You Must Love Me.”

The nod to songwriters Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber proved that Rice, who has nabbed five nominations in the category in the past four years (he was nominated twice with Elton John in 1994), possessed sufficient cachet among Acad voters to earn a trophy even when he wasn’t behind a Disney animated film tune.

The win for “Evita” marked Rice’s third Oscar and took many observers by surprise. It was widely expected that the trophy would go to “Because You Loved Me,” the Diane Warren-penned nugget featured in Touchstone Pictures’ “Up Close and Personal” and warbled by Celine Dion. The tune has become a radio staple and is the finale in Dion’s roadshow.

Dion in fact sang two of the evening’s nominated songs. Natalie Cole was to appear on the telecast singing “I Fi-nally Found Someone,” from TriStar Pictures’ “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” but she was ill and could not perform.

Dion performed the song, sung by Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams on the pic’s soundtrack, with sax legend Arturo Sandoval — and learned the tune in one day.

Backstage, Rice said Alan Parker, the director of “Evita,” was “very brave to do the type of film that hasn’t been done in a long time.”

He also joked that he’s too old to collaborate but would work with Lloyd Webber when they “have an idea that grabs” them.

Lloyd Webber, who picked up his first Oscar, said it “was very exciting when the audience embraces a musical.” He added that he’s “keen on doing ‘Phantom of the Opera’ for the bigscreen.”

The pair said they were “big fans of Madonna” and thought she did a “wonderful job.” Rice called “Evita” “a jolly good film.”

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