Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope is so happy that she"s Miserables

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope is so happy that she's Miserables



12:53 GMT, 6 April 2012

Cameron Mackintosh has picked Danielle Brown (pictured) to play Eponine in Les Miserables

Cameron Mackintosh has picked Danielle Brown (pictured) to play Eponine in Les Miserables

Danielle Hope was thrown in the deep end of fame when she won that Over The Rainbow TV show and found herself, at 18 and with zero professional experience, playing Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Wizard Of Oz opposite Michael Crawford at the London Palladium.

Often, when an unknown is hurled into the spotlight, they underwhelm. They lose their voice, and play the provinces. Sometimes for ever.

Not Danielle. Her voice can do anything she wants it to, which is why another impresario now has her under contract.

Cameron Mackintosh has picked her to play Eponine in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre from June 18.

Danielle did four auditions. ‘It was nice to do a real audition and earn the part. Eponine is in love with Marius, but she’s helping him to be with Cossette. Unrequited love is the most painful thing — and the most interesting — to play,’ she tells me as we drink tea at the Union club in Soho.

She’s eager to get back to work and feels uncomfortable when she’s not labouring away. While still at school she took a part-time waitressing job.

‘My mum’s a waitress; my dad’s always had building contracts. I don’t come from a particularly special background, but I’ve got a lovely family.

They work hard, I work hard. I didn’t have things done for me at home. I knew how to put on washing, make my bed and get something to eat.’

It put her in good stead for when she moved to London. She lived alone until this week, but is now sharing a flat in Chelsea.

Danielle says she’s pleased to be getting the experience of working in another West End show.

The Wizard Of Oz was her first professional acting job and she was lucky that Lloyd Webber showed her the ropes and Michael Crawford — and Hannah Waddingham, who played the Wicked Witch — took her under their wing, and gave her a nightly master class in stagecraft.

If you want to understand a sense of the enormity of what she went through, then check out the hit U.S. backstage TV drama Smash that starts on Sky Atlantic on April 21.

It shows how an actress with no experience of big time theatre goes up for the title role in a musical about Marilyn Monroe.

Danielle said she learned a lot about comic timing from Crawford, and how to establish a relationship with an audience.

Their friendship has continued after their Wizard contracts ended. Crawford has returned to his home in New Zealand, but they still email and have hopes of meeting up in California when Crawford and his partner go there later this month.

Big break: Danielle Hope was thrown in the deep end of fame when she won that Over The Rainbow TV show and found herself playing Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz

Big break: Danielle Hope was thrown in the deep end of fame when she won that Over The Rainbow TV show and found herself playing Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz

Leicester – then straight on till morning, boys
Being Barrie: Actor Julian Ovenden

Being Barrie: Actor Julian Ovenden

A musical based on the real-life story that inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan will open in Leicester in the autumn, followed, it is hoped, by a West End run some time next year.

The show, Finding Neverland, is based on a movie of the same name that starred Johnny Depp as Barrie and Kate Winslet as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, whose four sons befriended the author.

Julian Ovenden, the award-winning singer and actor, will portray Barrie — a part he played in two back-to-back workshops performed in London last December.

Finding Neverland will go into rehearsals on July 30 with performances starting at the Curve Theatre in Leicester in mid-September, where it will have a four to five-week run.

Harvey Weinstein, the Oscar-winning film studio boss, was behind the 2004 movie and always felt it should be adapted for the theatre.

Weinstein and Victoria Parker, one of his key executives, are the driving forces behind the production, along with director and choreographer Rob Ashford.

Ashford, when he hasn’t been busy choreographing Michael Grandage’s Broadway production of Rice-Lloyd Webber’s Evita, has been extensively re-working Finding Neverland’s book (which was rather slow) with writer Allan Knee, who penned the movie, aided by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, creators of the show’s score and lyrics.

Finding Neverland has some enchanting songs, but all involved know there’s a lot of work to be done. Once it’s on stage there will certainly be flying boys and even an airborne dog.

Auditions for all roles are taking place on April 16. Ovenden’s new album If You Stay will be released on April 23.

Watch out for…

Ronan will sing a number from his album

Ronan will sing a number from his album

Ronan Keating, who will make his debut at the Royal Opera House when he appears as a special guest star at the Olivier Awards next Sunday, April 15.

It’s the first time the theatrical gongs have been handed out at the ROH in Covent Garden, although the BAFTA show has been held there for several years.

Keating (pictured) will sing a number from his album When Ronan Met Burt, which features songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. I gather Keating’s looking to sing something from Promises, Promises. I suspect it’ll be I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, but it hasn’t been settled yet.

Best actress nominees include Celia Imrie, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lesley Manville, Marcia Warren and Ruth Wilson.

Summer Strallen and Tom Chambers, who are in Top Hat, which starts previewing at the Aldwych Theatre from April 19. They star in the roles Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire played in the 1935 RKO movie of the same name.

I caught the show on its pre-London stop in Woking (where tickets were a steep 58 after the booking fee!) and it was 100 times better than when I saw it last year in Milton Keynes.

Summer has more to do and she’s sultry and funny and boy, can she dance. Tom moves more effortlessly than he did in MK, too. The show has some great numbers, and Woking had a ball, so I hope it takes off at the Aldwych.

I should mention that Astaire’s daughter Ava will take part in a discussion about Fred and his early dancing partner: his sister, called Adele. Also taking part in the discussion will be celebrated choreographer Matthew Bourne and writer Kathleen Riley. They will discuss Ms Riley’s biography of The Astaires — Fred And Adele, at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre at 6pm on May 14.

Harry Hadden-Paton, who leads the ensemble of Jamie Lloyd’s splendid production of She Stoops To Conquer, which is on at the Olivier Theatre till April 21. Do catch Hadden-Paton and his fellow cast members, who include John Heffernan, Sophie Thompson, Katherine Kelly, Steve Pemberton, Cush Gumbo, David Flynn and others.

I just caught up with it this week and it boosted my spirits immensely.