When Jedward were dropped after one single, few people were surprised. Television talent shows are not, after all, expected to regularly churn out stars that can survive in the real world – for every Leona Lewis there is a corresponding Leon Jackson. And yet those keen to ensure the future of live theatre are rather less dismissive of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hunt for a new Dorothy, which begins on BBC1 tonight. In fact, Over the Rainbow and its ilk may well be the best thing to have happened to UK theatre and live performance for some time.
- Next on:
- Tomorrow at 19:10 on BBC HD
- Tomorrow at 19:10 on BBC 1 London
- Sunday 2nd May at 19:15 on BBC HD
- Sunday 2nd May at 19:15 on BBC 1 London
- Saturday 8th May at 18:45 on BBC HD
- Saturday 8th May at 18:45 on BBC 1 London
- Sunday 9th May at 19:15 on BBC 1 London
- Sunday 9th May at 19:15 on BBC HD
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Should you fancy a credible career in the performing arts, and have the talent to back it up, then battling to be Lloyd Webber's Dorothy in his new production of The Wizard of Oz might be a pretty smart move. Connie Fisher, Lee Mead and Jodie Prenger have all gone on to lead WestEnd shows – but those who didn't win the competition have also carved great careers for themselves. Fourth-placed Nancy Rachel Tucker is about to embark on the challenge of Elphaba in Wicked; fifth-placed Niamh Perry is creating the part of Fleck in Love Never Dies. Of the Josephs, everyone seems to have forgotten that Daniel Boys first came to prominence through Any Dream Will Do? – mainly because his work in Avenue Q over the past two years speaks for itself. Former Maria Aoife Mulholland, meanwhile, is now flashing the best abs in the business on a nightly basis at the Savoy Theatre as Brooke Wyndham in Legally Blonde.
And before the complaints that reality TV casting offers shortcuts into showbusiness, allowing untrained amateurs to leapfrog hardworking professionals, remember that many of the Lloydd-Webber alumni have had training or some kind of professional experience. Fisher had graduated from drama school; Mead had been part of the company of Phantom Of The Opera; Prenger had been working as a cabaret singer. Those who didn't have training – Nancy runner-up Jessie Buckley notoriously bewailed her multiple rejections from drama school – clearly have talent that would lead to success anyway, regardless of whether or not they were on the telly.
In any case, whether or not you approve of the way in which these actors have been cast, it's difficult to ignore the fact that UK theatre ticket sales are up – and a big weekend reality series must have played a part in that. (Let's face it, we've all seen enough productions of The Sounds of Music, Joseph and Oliver! to never really need to see them again). And yet, we all have been – for which we all owe a debt of thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber. No, really, we do.