I'll Move near the Beach for the Kids . . . and We'll Have the Lloyd Webbers as Our Neighbours; DAVID IAN - 'THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN BRITISH THEATRE' - SOLVED HIS MARIA PROBLEM ON BBC1, BUT IS STILL HAVING A LITTLE TROUBLE WITH A MAJORCAN VILLA

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Byline: MARK ANSTEAD

Until BBC1's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? came to our screens this summer, hardly anyone had heard of theatre impresario David Ian.

Until recently he kept a low profile, busily producing a handful of West End musicals. He surprised even himself when he emerged in the public eye as one of the Maria show's most popular judges.

Last month, he saw his famous casting dilemma come to a climax in the public's choice of 23-year-old Connie Fisher to play the lead in The Sound Of Music, but now David is struggling with his next problem: an unwanted villa in Majorca.

David, 45, bought his magnificent clifftop villa near Valldemossa for a1.7million ([pounds sterling]1.15million) in 2003 as a family holiday retreat, but now he realises he chose a spot too far away from the area's main draw - the beautiful village of Deia.

Every time David and his wife Tracy, 36, and their two children James, nine, and Emily, seven, arrive at the villa he faces the same problem: it's an almost two-mile trip whenever they need to do some shopping, and all the best eateries are in Deia, nearly six miles away.

'I thought it would be great to have a beautiful sea view and I had been hunting for a property in a clifftop location, which means being off the coastal road,' he says.

'We have a glorious panorama of the Mediterranean, but our kids will soon be at an age when they want to do their own thing, and I don't want to be their taxi service. If I want to eat out, one of us can't drink and that spoils it.

Buying it was a mistake but it occurred to me only once we started staying there.' Deia is a big draw for celebrities because of its artistic reputation; it was once home to the poet Robert Graves. Now Caroline of the Corrs has a place there as do Claudia Schiffer, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Douglas and David's close friend and colleague, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Also, draconian restrictions imposed by the Spanish government on island development, combined with the absence of suitable plots in the area, have kept cranes and concrete mixers from intruding.

And the beach is far too small to attract hordes of tourists.

'Andrew and I bought our Majorcan villas over the same weekend three years ago,' laughs David. 'We were both hunting around and we met up for dinner one night and said to each other, "I found one". But he's in a much better position - he's just outside Deia in a gorgeous property and he can walk into the village if he wants. I'm very envious.' Fifteen years ago, David was a struggling theatre actor who shifted to a behind-the-scenes role when he invested in a touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar, with Paul Nicholas. It was successful enough to persuade him to take out a second mortgage on his Essex home to co-fund the West End production of Grease, moving from there to produce Saturday Night Fever and The King And I.

In recent years, his theatrical influence has grown and he is now a chairman of the American group Clear Channel, looking after 20 theatres in London and 40 in America.

He has produced three West End shows that are now taking bookings - The Sound Of Music, The Producers and Guys And Dolls - and four musicals currently on tour.

Last year, The Stage named him 'the most powerful person in British theatre', knocking Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh off the top spot. He was clearly at ease in front of the cameras on the Maria show and has already been lined up for a follow-up programme next year casting the leads for Grease.

David has not been slow to invest in overseas property. Seven years ago, he bought a three-bedroom farmhouse for [pounds sterling]150,000 in the tiny French hamlet of Angunand, 10 miles from Perigueux in the Dordogne.

He spent [pounds sterling]150,000 having it replastered, rewired and replumbed, adding en suites to each bedroom and dividing the loft to create a fourth. …