David Land is a jolly English entrepreneur and agent who was the first to trust the then-embryonic talent of two songwriters named Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. They came to him with a recording of a show for children called "Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat," and a plan to open an exhibit about pop music. They were barely out of their teens and Webber was working as a librarian at the Royal College of Music. He told them they should be writing full time and gave them a small stipend so that they could.
Land, who is irresistibly cheerful, is also proud to say that he introduced the Harlem Globetrotters to England, and that he is the director of the largest "girl's bagpiping band in England." Land was in town attending to the opening of "Evita," which he produced in association with the Robert Stigwood Organization, for whom he now works.
Webber and Rice's first project, he recalled, was a musical about King Richard (the Lionhearted). It never quite worked. Then they came up with a musical about Jesus, which they recorded for $70,000 -- it sounded preposterous. "In England you couldn't give it away," he said. It was "Jesus Christ Superstar," and before long Land was being harrassed by bootleg concert versions and midnight calls from overseas asking for the rights to produce it. "Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat" is running in New York, and "Evita" is playing in nine countries (as well as here in Washington) with several more, including Paraguay, planned. The three U.S. companies of "Evita" gross over $1 million a week.
Yet for all this success, the Dagenham Girl Pipers seem to have a special place in Land's heart. They were organized in 1930 by an English clergyman who started with a dozen 12-year-olds. They grew up, but kept piping, a brace of "bonny open-air lassies" who played for the tropps during the war and then went on to Broadway, the Latin Quarter and Las Vegas. "I lost six when I took them to Las Vegas," Land said. "After that I made them sign a contract promising they wouldn't get married during a tour."