French, best known for her work with comedy partner Jennifer Saunders (who is penning the recently launched Spice Girls musical Viva Forever), said: “I’m gagging to find Jesus with the help of the Good Lord. I have actually been searching for him my whole life, and I can’t believe that inside a few weeks we are going to find him."
Donovan, who has assisted Lloyd Webber in the early stages of the competition, added: “We have unearthed some cracking talent so far and I’m really pleased I’ve had time to get to know the finalists as we’ve moved through the competition stages. It’s an honour to sit by Andrew on the judging panel and I can’t wait for the live shows to start.”
As previously announced, Tim Minchin - the co-writer of Whatsonstage.com Award-winning musical Matilda - will play Judas Iscariot in the production, alongside Chris Moyles as King Herod and Melanie C as Mary Magdalene.
The last major London production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which tells of the political and interpersonal struggles of Judas Iscariot and Jesus, was at the Lyceum Theatre in 1997. The show includes hits such as “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, “Gethsemane” and “Superstar”, and has proved one of the most popular of the Lloyd Webber/Rice collaborations.
The tour kicks off at London’s O2 Arena on 21/22 September, before visiting: Glasgow SECC (25 September), Newcastle Metro Radio Arena (28 September), Manchester Arena (30 September), Cardiff Motorpoint (2 October), Birmingham NIA (4 October), Belfast Odyssey (9 October), Dublin O2 (12 October), Liverpool Echo Arena (16 October) and Sheffield Motorpoint (21 October).
Initial auditions took place across the country from February to March in London, Dublin, Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff. In a similar format to fellow ITV show X Factor, wannabe stars performed on stage in the hope of impressing the casting panel for a place in the final live shows.
The new series will follow a similar format to Any Dream Will Do, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, I'd Do Anything and Over the Rainbow - which were all broadcast on the BBC and found principal actors for shows in the West End. The respective winners were Lee Mead, Connie Fisher, Jodie Prenger and Danielle Hope.
The first episode of Superstar will air on 7 July at 7:25pm on ITV1. You can read reactions to each episode from our blogger Glenn Meads, and look out for our exclusive interview with casting director David Grindrod next week...