Sheila Hancock, Charlotte Church and John Partridge will help Andrew Lloyd Webber to pick a Dorothy on BBC television this spring.
The trio will join the composer on the judging panel of Over The Rainbow, a televised talent show in which the public will vote to decide who should wear the iconic ruby slippers in a new West End production of The Wizard Of Oz.
The BBC programme follows Lloyd Webber’s previous casting competitions which propelled Connie Fisher, Lee Mead and Jodie Prenger to West End stardom.
A much-loved star of stage and screen, Hancock’s recent theatrical outings include Cabaret, for which she won a Laurence Olivier Award, and currently Sister Act, in which she plays Mother Superior. She commented: “I’m incredibly interested in TV series which really show the ins and outs of live theatre, and Over The Rainbow will do just that.”
She is joined by Partridge, who, though best known for his current role as Christian in EastEnders, started out in musical theatre, appearing in shows including Lloyd Webber’s Cats and Starlight Express, Miss Saigon, Grease, Rent and, most recently, The Drowsy Chaperone in the West End.
Welsh classical crossover artist Church, who became a singing sensation aged 11, said she was looking forward to working with Lloyd Webber, who she described as “an icon of the music industry and a real hero of mine”. Church is no stranger to television, having presented her own self-title chatshow in 2006.
Initial auditions have already taken place to find contestants for Over The Rainbow, which, as with Lloyd Webber’s three previous casting shows, will be hosted by Graham Norton.