Danielle Hope, far right, on stage with other cast members of The Wizard Of Oz
Urmston teenager Danielle Hope became the nation’s Dorothy when she beat off competition from more than 9,000 hopefuls to land the leading role in The Wizard Of Oz.
But having won BBC talent show Over The Rainbow the 18-year-old faced her toughest challenge yet, to fill the ruby slippers of Judy Garland in the hearts and minds of the theatre-going public.
Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber wants his Wizard Of Oz to match the classic film, something no stage version has come close to achieving. Until now.
For Danielle, whose first ever audition was at the Over The Rainbow auditions at Old Trafford in January last year has repaid the faith the public put in her with her portrayal of Dorothy.
Just like Judy Garland, the former Knutsford High School pupil shows the vulnerability and engaging appeal of the young Kansas farm girl on her journey along the Yellow Brick Road to Oz. And just like Judy, whose voice made Somewhere Over The Rainbow one of the all-time favourite film songs, Danielle’s sweet, crystal-clear voice, brings a tear to the eye.
She has mastered the American accent, unlike some of her fellow cast members who are still getting to grips with the Kansas drawl ahead of next Tuesday’s press night.
And she looks very comfortable with Toto, her adorable canine friend (played by four lookalike West Highland Terriers) who came close to getting as big an ovation as she did. She’s also unfazed by the status of her co-star, Michael Crawford, who plays the Wizard, internationally renowned as he is for playing the title role in The Phantom Of The Opera.
All the much-loved songs from the Oscar-winning movie score – Follow The Yellow Brick Road, We’re Off To See The Wizard and If I Only Had A Heart, feature in this production as well as some new additions to the score.
Yet it is those memorable tunes from childhood together with the clever staging and stunning special effects – you almost feel like the Twister scene when Dorothy is transported to Oz is in 3D - make this a must-see show. And watch out for the Wicked Witch Of the West as she flies down towards the audience on her broomstick.
On the strength of this preview performance, Danielle is set to emulate the success of talent show predecessor Connie Fisher whose Maria in The Sound Of Music drew favourable comparisons with Julie Andrews.
And when she had taken her final bow the West End’s newest star went outside the London Palladium to meet dozens of adoring young girls who’d gathered, proof that for a new generation of Wizard of Oz fans, Danielle Hope is their Dorothy.