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Not My Job: Singer Sarah Brightman Gets Quizzed On A Different 'Phantom'

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill. Thanks so much, everybody.


SAGAL: We're taking the week off from the news. You know, we're just putting our feet up and rocking back-and-forth, saying, it's not happening, it's not happening, it's not happening.


KURTIS: Well, in case you don't just want to listen to us descending into madness, let's listen back to our interview with soprano Sarah Brightman. Peter started by asking her about a remarkable accomplishment.


SAGAL: I came across that fact, and I was amazed that you are the most popular soprano in the history of the world. That's really quite impressive.

SARAH BRIGHTMAN: I know - so they say. Thank you very much.

SAGAL: Yes. I mean, there are some other pretty good sopranos out there, like Maria Callas, you know - Kiri Te Kanawa.

BRIGHTMAN: Well, she's not with us, I'm afraid, anymore, so one sort of takes over...


BRIGHTMAN: ...If you know what I mean.

SAGAL: If she wanted to keep up with you, she should've stayed alive.



SAGAL: So we've had a lot of fun looking into - you had an interesting start to your singing career, which I didn't know about until I looked into it. Can you tell us about it - your first big act?

BRIGHTMAN: "I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper."



SAGAL: Disco.

BRIGHTMAN: Disco era.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Sarah, this is Paula Poundstone. I'm not a music aficionado by any stretch, but it's really hard to see how "I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper" dovetails into a soprano doing "Phantom Of The Opera."

BRIGHTMAN: Yes, I know.


BRIGHTMAN: Well, you see, I'm kind of multifaceted, if that makes any sense.


SAGAL: No, it makes complete sense.

POUNDSTONE: So what was...


POUNDSTONE: What was the step after the starship trooper?

BRIGHTMAN: Well, the thing was I loved pop music, I loved progressive rock music and I loved listening to sopranos. So I just went into all sorts of different music, and that's what happened.

SAGAL: You became a cat in "Cats." And you came to the attention of a gentleman named Andrew Lloyd Webber.

BRIGHTMAN: Yes, who I married in the end.

SAGAL: You did. We understand that he wrote the lead role in "Phantom Of The Opera" for you.

BRIGHTMAN: Yes, he did.

SAGAL: Mr. Lloyd Webber - I need to call him Lord Webber because he was raised to a peerage. Do you have to call him Lord Webber when you call him up?

BRIGHTMAN: Yes, I do, actually.

SAGAL: Really?

BRIGHTMAN: Yes. And he doesn't laugh.


SAGAL: Before we go to the game, tell us about the new record. This is your first new record in a while, right?

BRIGHTMAN: Yes. What do you want to know?


SAGAL: Tell me what it's like.

BRIGHTMAN: Well (laughter), it's great.

SAGAL: Of course.


POUNDSTONE: There you go.

BRIGHTMAN: It's just great. You've got to listen to it. I came out of the Russian space program, as one does, and I decided - and I went and found myself a house on the beach while I...

SAGAL: Whoa, hey, wait.


SAGAL: What? Hold on. Let's rewind a little bit. The Russian space program?

BRIGHTMAN: Yes. I was going to go to the ISS and...

SAGAL: Wait a minute.

LUKE BURBANK: You trying to find that starship trooper?

BRIGHTMAN: But I didn't go.


SAGAL: They were going to send you to the International Space Station?

BRIGHTMAN: Oh, it was - yeah, it was an interesting and challenging time. But I didn't go in the end. I came out of it and came up with this lovely album called "Hymn." And it's going great. I'm really happy with it, and I hope you all enjoy it if you're interested in listening to it.

SAGAL: I think we are. I'm just going to say something. You are, as I've said, the most popular soprano in the world, but you don't act like it. I mean, you seem a little surprised that people might want to hear you sing. And you're Sarah Brightman.

BRIGHTMAN: (Laughter) You're funny people. I don't know what to say.


POUNDSTONE: Sarah, it's not the weird thing that you said. The weird thing that you said was, I came out of the Russian space program, as one does.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Well, I've done it. Bill's done it. Haven't you guys? You guys have done it.


SAGAL: Duh. Well, Sarah Brightman, it is a delight to talk to you. But we have asked you here today to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: It's Not Over Till Gene Simmons Sings.


SAGAL: So you, of course, created the lead role in "Phantom Of The Opera." But before that, the band Kiss starred in their one and only TV movie called "Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park." We're going to ask you three questions about the second most popular TV movie of 1978. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Sarah Brightman playing for?

KURTIS: Suzanne Robertson of Atlanta, Ga.

SAGAL: All right. You remember how this works. We're going to ask you three multiple-choice questions. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Here we go.


SAGAL: Here's your first question. In the movie, the members of Kiss have superpowers, which they use to battle an evil scientist at an amusement park who attacks them with robot versions of themselves. Everything I just said is true.


SAGAL: But drummer Peter Criss of the band Kiss really wasn't into this project, and he explained it was because - was it, A, he thought it was beneath his dignity - quote, "I can't see John Lennon getting beat up by Dracula" - B, he didn't like the idea of killing the robots because, quote, "they may be artificial, but their feelings are real"; or, C, he didn't like his fake superpower in the film, saying, quote, "I want to feature my real superpower, my extraordinary empathy"?


BRIGHTMAN: It has to be C.

SAGAL: It sadly wasn't. He...


SAGAL: It was A, the one about John Lennon. He thought that this silly comic book movie was beneath the dignity of serious musicians like Kiss.


SAGAL: All right. You still have two chances, which is great. In the first draft of the script of the movie, all guitarist Ace Frehley said - all his lines were just the noise, ack. Ack, he'd say. Why - A, Frehley was concerned that speaking dialogue while acting might hurt his singing voice; B, it was a tribute to Frehley's recently deceased pet parrot; or, C, when the film's writers met with the band to get a feel for how they spoke, Frehley refused to say anything to them but ack?


BRIGHTMAN: Let's go for C, then.

SAGAL: Yes. It was, in fact, C.

KURTIS: It was C.


SAGAL: So he picks up the script, and he says, how come the only thing I say in this movie is ack? And they said, because that's all you ever said to us, said the writers.

All right. Last question - if you get this right, you win. The production was plagued by tensions and clashing egos. It was a terrible time on the set. It resulted in which of the following happening - A, drummer Peter Criss quit the film after producers asked him to change his famous cat makeup to dog makeup; in one scene, since Ace Frehley had stormed off the set in a huff, you can clearly see his African-American stunt double instead; or, C, all of the Kiss songs in the movie actually ended up being performed by Aerosmith?


BRIGHTMAN: OK. I'll go for B, then.

SAGAL: Well, that was very wise of you...


SAGAL: ...Because it is B.


SAGAL: In some scenes - if you watch this movie, and, of course, you can, in some scenes, Ace Frehley's scenes are performed by a black stunt double wearing whiteface. It's that good.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Sarah Brightman do on our quiz?

KURTIS: She slipped a couple right ones in there, so, Sarah, you're a winner.

SAGAL: Congratulations, Sarah.


SAGAL: Sarah Brightman's new album is "Hymn." Sarah Brightman, what a pleasure to talk to you, and thank you so much for talking with us.

BRIGHTMAN: It's lovely to talk to you, and it was so interesting.


SAGAL: Thank you. Take care.

POUNDSTONE: Thanks, Sarah.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.