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BWW Exclusive Q&A: Michael Crawford Talks Return to the Stage

BWW Exclusive Q&A: Michael Crawford Talks Return to the StageJuggling both film and stage careers, Michael Crawford had established himself as one of theatre's finest leading men long before he opened as "the Phantom" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, beginning one of the most widely acclaimed and memorable performances in theatre history. Few stars are as widely connected to a single role as Crawford is to "the Phantom." His Los Angeles and Broadway performances earned an astonishing catalogue of critical recognition including the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, and the Los Angeles Dramalogue Award and Drama Critics Award.

Since leaving PHANTOM after nearly four years in the role in London, New York and Los Angeles Crawford has become a multi-platinum recording artist and one of the world's most sought after concert and stage performers, playing to sold-out venues around the globe. In addition to his recent concert work, stage credits in London and on Broadway include Billy, Flowers for Algernon, Black Comedy, Dance of the Vampires, The Woman in White, and Barnum.

It was announced late last night that he will make his eagerly awaited return to the stage alongside Danielle Hope, winner of the BBC's smash hit Over The Rainbow, when the show opens at the London Palladium next year. We checked in with the star to get the first scoop!

The first question is of course -- how did all of this come about?

Andrew (Lloyd Webber) had the idea about my being involved about 6 months ago he tells me and then I heard about 2 months ago from him about it. At the time, I was away traveling around Europe with my family and when I got back about 3 weeks ago, I started having some initial meetings with Andrew and the creative team. We talked about it and I became more and more intrigued and I also refreshed my memory and re-watched the movie which was so, so great.

So, it became more and more intriguing to me and then I met the director Jeremy Sams and got along very well with him and I also met with Bill Kenwright, who is the other producer, and they were all very good and very constructive meetings.

And what intrigued you about the project so much?

It was very exciting to just see what the conversion to the stage would be and understanding that. Really, Dorothy is the star of the show and I'll play one of the hopefully supportive and important sidekicks, who is also important to the story. I think that there are six roles all on the side of being 'equal' in terms of performance - the two Witches, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and of course the Wizard. They're all important characters to support the story.

Also, the design and the staging look very exciting. It's of course a long way to go to the stage -- a long, yellow brick road - but there's a lot of effort and a lot of creative juices flowing...

Along with all of the classic songs, there's of course word that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are writing new material as well - including a song for you -- what can you tell us about that?

I've heard one new song that Andrew has added to it for me and Tim has written the lyrics for and I liked that very much. Hopefully I'll be singing it with Danielle (Dorothy) who has a lovely voice and she is very gifted.

How much time have you gotten to spend with her so far?

We did that photo together, before the deal was set... I was leaving London, so we met to take the picture, with the hope that we'd then finalize the deal (which we did). She had been up and working since 6am that day, taking ballet class and she's a very dedicated young girl.

BWW Exclusive Q&A: Michael Crawford Talks Return to the Stage

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Danielle Hope and Michael Crawford (photo by Gabrielle Crawford)

 

Will the part of the Wizard be changed or expanded from the film? Will you be popping up as he did on screen throughout the show?

It's similar to the effect of the film in terms of the amount appearances -- certainly no more than that. It's not being written up, it's just to be really adapting what was on screen and on the page for the stage.

How long are you currently signed to be with the show?

Right now, for 6 months.

And might Broadway be next?

If it's a success, that's always a hope that one would hope to go to Broadway. I think shows that start in either place are always hoping to travel across the water. 

It's been a while since you've been seen on stage, how are you now preparing?

I've been working on my voice every day and just did 100 lengths of the pool. I'm doing everything to make me as fit as possible and I'm still using Ian Adam's (Crawford's singing teacher who passed away in 2007) tapes. They're of course converted to CD now, but I'm still using the lessons from 30 years ago, and it's still great to hear his voice and use his technique and I'm doing that every day.

You've talked about being reluctant to return to the stage and have been enjoying your time -- what made this role 'push it over the top' to bring you back?

I do not know. I honestly do not know. I think that it's something that has the possibilities of light heartedness, that I rather like. It has SUCH a joyous feel about it and the original music is so beautiful and it's such a classic piece that I was just drawn in.

BWW Exclusive Q&A: Michael Crawford Talks Return to the StageAnd you'll be working with Andrew Lloyd Webber again...

Andrew's stuff has been very good for me before and there's no denying that and so I'm very grateful from that point of view. It's hard to believe, when you actually look at the dates of when we opened and when we started Phantom that it's been so long.

It's a whole new audience of people - some of whom weren't even alive then and that's very exciting!

Amongst that new audience, will I assume be your grandchildren getting to see you onstage as well?

Yes and it's important to me that they're very excited - that definitely was a factor! I told my daughters about it four to five days ago, because nothing was sorted out fully and nothing was finalized. I've really been superstitious about that kind of stuff always, because it's not fair if someone else was to then do it, for them to read that it was offered to me first ... so it's best to be as discreet as possible and that's a definite superstition.

How did they react?

They were really, really pleased and they told my grandchildren who were also very excited. My daughter asked one of my granddaughters - "can you keep a secret?" And, she said "Yes...I just have to tell one other person!" Now thankfully, word is out!

The Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum is directed by Jeremy Sams, choreographed by Arlene Phillips, music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg, with additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice with the set and costumes designed by Rob Jones.

Tickets are available from The London Palladium Box Office on 0844 412 2957or online from www.wizardofozthemusical.com

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