Moments after Starr reviews his plan for the New Kids show, an assistant walks up with a fax containing a list of songs: It's the New Kids' notion of what should be in their concert. After glancing at the sheet, Starr comments, ''You can't just come out and do things you've been doing for two years.'' He clearly likes his plan better, but he has to be diplomatic about how to resolve this difference. The New Kids are no longer compliant teens who always follow orders. They have musical ambitions of their own. ''I have to take my hat off to them,'' Starr says. ''They've learned a lot in the past five years.'' Although New Kid Donnie Wahlberg acknowledges Starr's importance to his group, he thinks the Kids themselves deserve more credit for their success. ''We don't write all of our songs, but a lot of groups don't write their own songs,'' he says. ''Maurice hasn't been doing shows for the past 6 1/2 years. Maurice doesn't sing on the records. There's a limit to what Maurice is to the band.''
Creative differences caused a split between Starr and New Edition after he produced their debut album in 1983. (The group has continued to put out hit singles, including ''Cool It Now'' and ''If It Isn't Love.'') When asked what he learned from that breakup, Starr replies cryptically, ''To keep the paperwork in order.'' He doesn't manage New Kids, but he is in partnership with Dick Scott, who does. To take care of his other acts, Starr has just formed General Entertainment Management, an all-purpose management and production company. He doesn't want to produce anyone he doesn't manage, even though he gets plenty of offers. Starr's need to be in total control of everything from songwriting to producing to managing has caused people to call him a Svengali. He doesn't like the term, preferring to refer to himself as ''the man who gets the job done.''
Starr's power over his roster starts even before groups exist. ''People say that the New Kids were manufactured and that Maurice was the mastermind,'' New Kid Joe McIntyre says, ''and that's true.'' Starr controls the nature of his acts by picking singers and musicians according to preconceived music- marketing concepts. Each band has an antecedent. When he discovered New Edition during one of his talent shows in the early '80s (they came in second), Starr realized they could re-create the approach of the Jackson 5. Starr developed the New Kids to update the Osmonds. For Perfect Gentlemen, the model is the Delfonics; for the Superiors it's the Temptations. Now there's Rick Wes, described by some Starr associates as ''the new Elvis.'' Starr doesn't claim that his groups are entirely original. ''These are not new ideas,'' he says. But he makes them fresh again, not to mention marketable.
Knowing what sells may be the secret of Starr's success. Despite the phenomenal popularity of New Edition, Starr says, ''I honestly believe that if they'd been white, (the group) would have been 20 times as big.'' After Starr lost New Edition, he decided to put together a group of white kids and switched his recruiting from the predominantly black area of Roxbury, where he lived then, to the racially mixed section of Dorchester next door. Starr never stops looking for new talent. Corey Blakely, one of the three Perfect Gentlemen, was a next-door neighbor's kid in Roxbury who scooted up to Starr last year on a tricycle. ''Do you want to be a star?'' the impresario asked. ''I don't know,'' the boy said. Blakely, now 11 but still a boy of few words, says about his present stardom: ''It's fun.''