O'Connor succeeds Russell Grant in the role, which was originally played by Michael Crawford, from 22 May to take the show through to its final performance on 2 September 2012. Sophie Evans, runner up in BBC’s Over the Rainbow casting show, continues in the role of Dorothy.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whatsonstage.com Award-winning production of The Wizard of Oz, which opened at the Palladium on 1 March 2011 (previews from February 2011), is directed by Jeremy Sams and choreographed by Arlene Phillips.
L Frank Baum wrote the first 1903 stage version of his 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The stage musical version, adapted by John Kane from the Warner Bros movie, was premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in 1987, with a young Imelda Staunton as Dorothy. It has music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and EY Harburg and last had a major London outing at the Royal Festival Hall in summer 2008.
Des O'Connor, who turned 80 in January, made his West End debut last year in Dreamboats & Petticoats at the Playhouse Theatre. He first appeared on TV in 1963 and has starred in his own shows for over 45 years – making him one of the most enduring entertainers in the world. His most recent titles include the Des O’Connor Tonight specials, the award-winning ITV talk show Today with Des and Mel and his interview last year on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.
He is also a successful music and recording artist, having produced no less than 36 albums, selling over 16 million copies to date. He has performed over 1,000 times at the London Palladium, with his starring role in Oz returning him to a theatre with which he is synonymous.