Russell Grant is to play the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz.
The 60-year-old astrologer and entertainer, who wooed the nation with his flamboyant turn on the last series of Strictly, will replace the incumbent Wizard, Michael Crawford, for a 12-week run in the London stage musical from 14 February.
Grant will be working closely with former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips, the show’s choreographer, to hone his new-found dance skills and bring them to life on stage for a new audience.
He will star opposite Sophie Evans, runner-up of BBC’s Over the Rainbow TV star search.
Grant began his career acting before making his name as a TV astrologer, making regular appearances across the media throughout the 1980s and 1990s. No stranger to music, in 1983 Russell Grant and The Starlettes released cover versions of No Matter What Sign You Are and Where Is Love?
Grant told RadioTimes.com he’d recently engaged in a regime of voice coaching to “brush up” on his singing skills ahead of his new role.
Russell said: “I am thrilled to be back where I’m at my happiest – in showbiz! I want to thank the great British public for their kindness in supporting me in Strictly: without them, I wouldn’t be back in the West End again.”
Based on the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, the London stage play The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, directed by Jeremy Sams, began previews in February 2011 at the London Palladium. The original cast included Michael Crawford as The Wizard, and Danielle Hope, winner of Over the Rainbow, as Dorothy.