Title: Lloyd Webber on The Wizard of Oz, Over the Rainbow – and Avril Lavigne

Try as they might to dress his lordship up as a meanie, Andrew Lloyd Webber is no Simon Cowell.

In the British composer’s appearances as a judge on the recent CBC Television contest Over the Rainbow, producers would play thunderous music and flash the lights before revealing him sitting atop an imposing throne with armrests shaped like growling lions’ jaws.

But the 64-year-old composer of The Phantom of the Opera never came across as anywhere near as frightening or intimidating as his most famous dramatic character.

Indeed, observing a taping at the CBC, you might have seen Lloyd Webber in an off-camera moment hugging runners-up and whispering encouragement in their ear, cracking awkward uncle jokes with the studio audience, or sheepishly admitting that he was only going to be pretending to play the piano on the air.

Danielle Wade, the 20-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., who won the competition to be Dorothy in Lloyd Webber and David Mirvish’s new production of The Wizard of Oz that opens in previews this week in Toronto, says the composer would even sometimes sing along with contestants when they were performing one of his compositions.
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