Entertainment & Arts

Danielle Hope 'competent' in Wizard of Oz musical

Andrew Lloyd Webber's new production of The Wizard of Oz has opened in London's West End, with Danielle Hope playing the lead role of Dorothy.

The 18-year-old from Greater Manchester won the part after being voted the winner of BBC One talent search Over the Rainbow.

Hope is joined on stage at the Palladium by Michael Crawford, making his West End return in the dual role of Professor Marvel and the Wizard.

Early reviews praised the show's visual aspects, though some critics expressed reservations about the lead performances.

But others were more positive, the Daily Express's Paul Callan giving the production five stars out of five.

In the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts said that "the story lacks the emotive motor of a love affair" and that the "dramatic buzz" is "not much better than you'd find at a decent pantomime".

"The most appealing star of Lord Lloyd Webber's latest telly-marketing musical is not veteran hoofer Michael Crawford or even Danielle Hope," he continued.

"It is Toto the West Highland terrier."

The Guardian's Michael Billington said the musical - adapted from the classic 1939 movie that was itself based on L Frank Baum's 1900 novel - is "quite an eyeful".

Yet he went on to claim it is "somewhat lacking in humanity" and that he "came out feeling blitzkrieged rather than charmed".

Hope, he continued, "shows a natural, easy presence" but "can't hope to compete with the scenery", while Crawford seemed "slightly subdued".

The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer echoed those sentiments, saying that Hope "offers a thoroughly competent rather than an inspired performance".

She "sings Over the Rainbow with feeling" but "lacks the heart-catching vulnerability of the young Judy Garland".

He also wondered "why Michael Crawford has bothered to come out of semi-retirement".

"You can't fault the proficiency of Hope's performance or her clear, serviceable singing," wrote Paul Taylor in The Independent.

"But she is never going to break your heart."

Taylor also joined Letts in his praise of the actress's canine co-star, saying he was "touched" by "the endlessly endearing Westmoreland terrier... who didn't put a paw wrong as Toto".

The Wizard of Oz is one of two current West End musicals inspired by L Frank Baum's famous characters.

Broadway hit Wicked - described as "The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz" - is now in its fifth year at the Apollo Victoria.

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