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Sep 30, 2010
When Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera had its first preview in London's West End in 1986, few involved could have predicted the show's phenomenal success (unparalleled anywhere in the world of entertainment) or the catapulting of its original "Phantom," Michael Crawford, to the position of the theatre world's preeminent leading man. Long a star of stage and screen prior to Phantom, the show's best selling cast-album of all time (40 million copies and counting) have made Michael Crawford's voice known and loved worldwide.
Because of Webber and Crawford's previous successes and collaborations--which included Crawford's last stage appearance as well, in 2004's The Woman in White--headlines were made last week when Crawford announced that he would star in Andrew Lloyd Webber's upcoming The Wizard of Oz as the titular "Wizard." Based on the mega-hit 1939 film, and including all of the familiar songs along with five new tunes by composer Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, the show has been in the British public eye since earlier this year when Over the Rainbow, a British reality program, set out to find the show's Dorothy and averaged 5.45 million viewers a week.
Talking about the show's hopes, including a potential Broadway bow, Crawford said, "If it's a success, there's always a hope that one would go to Broadway. I think shows that start in either place [Broadway or the West End] are always hoping to travel across the water." He added that, 25 years on from Phantom, "It's a whole new audience of people--some of whom weren't even alive then and that's very exciting!"
Michael Crawford is this new category's first Character Approved entry because his off-stage charity work is equally as impressive as his many onstage, onscreen, and concert performances. Crawford became the president of London's Sick Children's Trust (the British equivalent of our Ronald McDonald House, which allows families to stay with their seriously ill children), in 1987. Long an advocate and supporter of children's causes, he has since worked on a number of other charity efforts as well, including The Lighthouse Foundation in Australia and Free Arts for Abused Children in the US. Crawford also created a charitable fan association in 1990 to support not only his career, but his many philanthropic endeavors.
It's partially his love of children that drew Michael to return to the stage, because it means that his own grandchildren will be able to see him perform. If that's all not enough, the show itself will be raising funds on February 15, 2011 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.
[Image: Gabrielle Crawford]