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O'Connor last wizard? Kenwright's Love Never Dies tours Jan?

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Rumours are swirling that octogenarian crooner Des O'Connor will take over from Russell Grant as the titular Wizard of Oz in what could be the show's final months at the Palladium, where it's currently booking to 28 October.

O'Connor, who turned 80 in January, made his West End debut last year in Dreamboats & Petticoats at the Playhouse Theatre.

If Oz does finish in October it may well herald a change in direction for the Really Useful Group's producing activities. Andrew Lloyd Webber's company is thought to be planning to focus instead on licensing his back-catalogue, with producer Bill Kenwright having "first call" on the touring rights.

The Everton chairman and current Coronation Street guest actor is behind the new tour of Starlight Express (don't miss our Outing on 15 May) and his touring productions of both The Wizard of Oz and Love Never Dies are believed to be hitting the road next year.

Sources say the new production of Love Never Dies (tipped here last September) is pencilled to make its debut in January 2013 at the Churchill Theatre Bromley - Kenwright's co-production partner. It will then embark on a UK tour.

Bill Kenwright was part of the rescue plan for the troubled West End production of the Phantom of the Opera sequel when its run was halted for four days in November 2010 for re-writes and new direction from Kenwright.

He is also said to be planning a touring production of Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White, which ran for 500 performances in the West end between 2004 and 2006.


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