The format has previously been used to cast Lloyd Webber's productions of The Sound of Music in 2006 and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2007 that respectively yielded new stars in Connie Fisher as Maria and Lee Mead as Joseph through the TV shows "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" and "Any Dream Will Do." It was also used last year to cast Cameron Mackintosh's production of Oliver!, currently running at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, with the show "I'd Do Anything" producing Jodie Prenger to play Nancy.
Lloyd Webber had previously been reported to have withdrawn from doing a public TV search, with scheduling difficulties cited over his forthcoming musical Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, and fears that there may have been a conflict of interest in the publicity that would ensue. At the time, Andre Ptasysnski, chief executive of Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group was reported as saying, "It's just too risky. It's only been in the last two or three weeks that we've realized how much of a field day people would have with it. Andrew would be accused of doing the BBC show just to get publicity for Love Never Dies. The BBC would then be made to look like it was giving him undue prominence. We spoke with BBC director general Mark Thompson and we agreed to pull it. It is no reflection on our relationship with the BBC - Andrew loves making shows with producers there."
Now, that relationship is to be renewed, with "The Wizard of Oz" program being commissioned by Jay Hunt and Mark Linsey, controller, Entertainment Commissioning. The show will see the return of Graham Norton as host, with Lloyd Webber – together with a panel of experts, yet to be announced, and BBC1 viewers, who will choose a Dorothy to perform in the West End next year. The series will transmit in 2010, and will be made by Talkback Thames. The executive producer is Suzy Lamb, who fulfilled the same function on his previous musical theatre productions of the BBC. The search for Dorothy will begin with auditions in several UK cities in early 2010.
In a press statement, Lloyd Webber commented, "Our previous musical talent searches have provided an incredible shot in the arm for musical theatre in Britain and I can't wait to work with the BBC again in the hunt for Dorothy – an iconic role of course made famous by a young Judy Garland in the film in 1939, but, as a cat man myself, however, I approach casting Toto with considerable trepidation."
Hunt added, "The Wizard Of Oz is one of the great musicals and I am sure BBC1 audiences will delight in having a front row seat in the casting of a new musical star."