Michael Crawford will play the Wizard in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Wizard of Oz, co-starring opposite Over the Rainbow winner Danielle Hope. The production opens at the West End’s London Palladium on 1 March 2011 (previews from 7 February).

In 1986, Crawford famously originated the role of the titular masked man in the premiere of Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, making him an international star. After that, he concentrated his career efforts on concerts, recordings and other solo projects until 2003 when he starred, briefly, in the critically panned Broadway musical The Dance of the Vampires.

In 2004, Lloyd Webber lured Crawford back to the West End stage to star as Count Fosco in his musical based on Wilkie Collins’ gothic novel The Woman in White, which premiered at the Palace Theatre and earned him a Whatsonstage.com Award. This will be the actor’s first West End appearance since then.

Crawford told today’s Daily Telegraph: “I’ve been fortunate working with Andrew before so I thought there was no harm in trying again.” Lloyd Webber added that he was “delighted” that such a “legend of musical theatre” would take on the role of the Wizard, who also makes other cameo appearances in the story.

The Wizard of Oz, best known from the 1939 Hollywood film starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, is, as previously reported, being “totally reconceived” and will include new songs written by Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice especially for it to add “extra colour to the story as it moves from film to stage”.

The production is helmed by the same creative team behind Lloyd Webber’s Whatsonstage.com Award-winning revival of The Sound of Music starring his first reality TV winner Connie Fisher – director Jeremy Sams, designer Robert Jones and choreographer 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.

Danielle Hope’s alternate in role of Dorothy, with Over the Rainbow runner-up Sophie Evans, who will perform on Tuesday evenings and during Hope’s holidays.