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BBC & Lloyd Webber Cast West End Wizard of Oz

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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s on-again, off-again TV talent search to cast a new production of The Wizard of Oz is back on again – and now officially announced (See The Goss, 20 Jul 2009). BBC One confirmed today that is has commissioned the series, Over the Rainbow, which will air in 2010 and will reunite Lloyd Webber with host Graham Norton.

Following the success of I’d Do Anything, Any Dream Will Do and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? - which found Jodie Prenger, Lee Mead and Connie Fisher for productions of Oliver!, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Sound of Music respectively - as-yet untitled new series will search for a Dorothy for a new West End revival of The Wizard of Oz - as well as a dog to play her faithful companion Toto.

In a release issued by the BBC today, Lloyd Webber said: \"Our previous musical talent searches have provided an incredible shot in the arm for musical theatre in Britain, and I can\'t wait to work with the BBC again in the hunt for Dorothy – an iconic role of course made famous by a young Judy Garland in the film in 1939, but, as a cat man myself, however, I approach casting Toto with considerable trepidation.\"

The Wizard of Oz series has been commissioned by BBC One controller Jay Hunt and BBC Entertainment commissioning controller Mark Linsey. Hunt said today: “The Wizard of Oz one of the great musicals, and I am sure BBC One audiences will delight in having a front row seat in the casting of a new musical star.\"

Linsey added: “I\'m thrilled to be announcing this commission today. BBC One has a proven track record in musical theatre talent searches so I\'m delighted to be working with Andrew again and can\'t wait to see what wonderful talent we unearth in the process.\"

Judges for the series, made by Talkback Thames and produced by Suzy Lamb, have yet to be announced, though Liza Minnelli, the daughter of Judy Garland, has previously been tipped (See The Goss, 12 Mar 2009). Previous judges have included John Barrowman, Denise Van Outen, Barry Humphries and stage show co-producers Cameron Mackintosh, Bill Kenwright and David Ian.

The resulting stage show of The Wizard of Oz will be produced in the West End in 2010 by Lloyd Webber’s own Really Useful Group, which will have another blockbuster on its hands next year. Love Never Dies, Lloyd Webber’s hugely anticipated sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, is expected to go on sale within the next few weeks ahead of a March opening at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre.

According to earlier media reports, the BBC and RUG previously decided not to go ahead with The Wizard of Oz for fears that there may be a backlash over conflicts of interest. In an interview with The Sun newspaper (See The Goss, 20 Jul 2009), RUG chief executive André Ptaszynski said: \"It\'s just too risky. It\'s only been in the last two or three weeks that we\'ve realised how much of a field day people would have with it. Andrew would be accused of doing the BBC show just to get publicity for Love Never Dies. The BBC would then be made to look like it was giving him undue prominence.\"

L Frank Baum wrote the first 1903 stage version of his 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The story is best known from the 1939 Hollywood film. 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. It just had a major London outing at the Royal Festival Hall in summer 2008, when Sian Brooke played Dorothy in a cast that also featured Gary Wilmot, Adam Cooper and Roy Hudd.


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