By Tanner Stransky
Updated September 24, 2010 at 06:12 PM EDT
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Image Credit: Getty ImagesAndrew Lloyd Webber has finally found his Wizard of Oz: Stage legend Michael Crawford — who originated the role of the Phantom in Webber’s Phantom of the Opera 24 years ago and is familiar to legions of fans as the hapless Frank Spencer from ’70s British sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em — will assume take on the role as the ruler of Oz in the forthcoming London-based production, according to Variety. It’s an interesting and spot-on choice, but truly not so super surprisingly, considering that Webber often goes back to performers he’s had success with before. (The 68-year-old last appeared on the London stage in 2004 in The Woman in White, which was — surprise! — a Webber production.) We know Crawford can sing and act, considering he launched Phantom in London, New York, and Los Angeles, and that show has gone on to be the longest-running in Broadway history. And just look at that grandfatherly face on Crawford in the photo here: Slap something emerald green on him and — poof! — he’s in business.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this new Wizard of Oz production, here’s a refresher: The forthcoming Wizard of Oz is a rather buzzed-about London production that finds the British Webber — the man behind Cats, Evita, and Jesus Christ Superstar, among many, many other shows — producing and writing new songs with regular collaborator Tim Rice. Says Webber: “We will be going a lot further than simply presenting the movie on stage. We have re-visited the original novel and re-conceived our Oz as a piece of new musical theatre using the wonderful Arlen/Harburg songs and adding a few new ones where there are gaps. I am really looking forward to bringing The Wizard of Oz to life on stage. I am delighted that Michael Crawford, a legend of musical theatre, will take on the role of the Wizard and can’t wait to work with him once more.”

And Crawford added about his casting: “I didn’t hesitate at all when Andrew asked me to take on the role of the Wizard. Working with him and Tim on a brand new production of this timeless classic is so thrilling and I am already looking forward to starting rehearsals later in the year.” The show’s Dorothy was found via the BBC talent-search show Over the Rainbow (clever title, right?), which was not unlike America’s Grease: You’re the One That I Want, which found Danny and Sandy for the 2007 revival of Grease.

Let’s just hope that the Wizard of Oz does well enough in London to warrant a transfer to Broadway, so we American theatergoers can more easily see it. I’m personally very, very intrigued, especially considering the fierce and topical competition Wizard would have with Wicked. Are you buying Crawford as the Wizard? Would you see a new production of The Wizard of Oz if you were in London or NYC?

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky