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Jason Manford reprises his celebrated role as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz in Manchester


Michael Harrison and the Really Useful Group are thrilled to announce final casting for the UK and Ireland tour of The Wizard of Oz which begins rehearsals today. The new musical, based on the iconic story by L. Frank Baum, tours the UK and Ireland throughout 2024, following a celebrated run at the world-famous London Palladium. It will be heading to the Palace Theatre next year where it plays from 24 Apr - 5 May 2024.

Jason Manford is set to reprises his celebrated role as The Cowardly Lion at the Manchester Palace for two-weeks only next spring, where he is joined by Allan Stewart as The Wizard (Stones in His Pockets, West End, UK Tour, Toronto; STV Hello, Good Evening, Welcome).

Jason says of his return to Oz "I’m delighted to be returning to the Wizard of Oz next year and bringing my Cowardly Lion to the Palace Theatre. This show is a real treat for all the family - audiences can expect the story they know and love with a modern twist and incredible staging. We can’t wait to transport the people of Manchester to the Emerald City.”

They join previously announced RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner and Dancing on Ice finalist, The Vivienne (The Wicked Witch of the West) principal casting is today confirmed as: Aviva Tulley (Book of Mormon, UK Tour) as Dorothy, Benjamin Yates (ITV’s Emmerdale; Jersey Boys, West End) as The Scarecrow, Emily Bull (9 to 5, UK Tour; Matilda UK Tour) as Glinda The Good Witch and Abigail Matthews as Toto (Bleak Expectations, West End; War Horse, West End).

The cast is completed by David Burrows, Adam Craig, Cole Dunn, Tyler Ephraim, Olivia Kate Holding, Thomas Kalek, Sadie Levett, Kelsie-Rae Marshall, Martin McCarthy, Rose Ouellette, Fanja Parent, Alexandra Regan, Nathan Routledge and Sydney Spencer.

Jason Manford (The Cowardly Lion): Salford-born Jason Manford is one of the UK’s leading multi-talented performers, with a career also spanning acting, presenting, and singing on both stage and screen.

Jason has hosted many shows for the BBC and ITV including Unbeatable, Sunday Night at The Palladium, and The Royal Variety Performance.  Earlier this year, he returned to judge the second series of ITV1's Saturday night show Starstruck and hosted BBC One's primetime show Big Night of Musicals for the second time. Jason also hosts his award-winning three-hour show every Sunday on Absolute Radio.

His other TV credits include: First & Last (BBC One), The Masked Singer (ITV1), What Would Your Kid Do? (ITV1), Scarborough (BBC One), 8 Out of 10 Cats (Channel 4), The Nightly Show (ITV1), Live at the Apollo (BBC One), Have I Got News For You (BBC One) and QI (BBC Two).

On stage, Jason has starred in numerous musicals in the West End and across the UK, including Sweeney Todd, The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Guys and Dolls, and Curtains. This summer he starred as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at The London Palladium.

He just announced a major UK stand-up tour for 2024/5, A Manford All Seasons.

Allan Stewart (The Wizard): started his career at the age of 10 in the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. He appeared in clubs and theatres during his school days, and at the age of 16 wrote and recorded his first single at the Abbey Road studios, with the legendary Beetles producer, George Martin.

His voice broke and when he came back into the business two albums and the hit single Opening Night followed. Although he was initially known as a singer he was seduced by the sound of laughter and turned his attention to comedy and television. He starred in many series for STV including Hello, Good Evening, Welcome, The Allan Stewart Tapes, and his national television break came in the 80s with the hugely successful series Copy Cats, Live from the Palladium, Night of a 1000 Stars and many other high profile TV guest spots filled his diary.  He hosted his own quiz show Chain Letters and appeared in two Royal Variety performances.

He played the lead in the original musical of Jolson’s life at London’s Victoria Palace, and in The Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. He toured in the hit play Stones in his Pockets and played the part of Roger De Bris in the Mel Brooks musical The Producers. This year he headlines his 27th consecutive pantomime in Edinburgh. Allan is very excited to be touring in this wonderful new production of The Wizard of Oz

Aviva Tulley (Dorothy): Aviva trained at The Brit School and Arts Educational School, London. Recent roles include Erzulie in Once On This Island (Southwark Playhouse) and in concert, Roles We’ll Never Play (Turbine Theatre). She played Nabulungi in the 2022 UK Tour of The Book of Mormon to celebrated reviews.

Benjamin Yates (The Scarecrow): Television credits include: Olly in Emmerdale (ITV). Theatre credits include: Jersey Boys (West End); School of Rock (West End); Wicked (UK Tour); Wonderland (UK Tour); West Side Story (Kilworth House); Cats (London Palladium, UK and European Tour); Jesus Christ Superstar (World Arena Tour); The Who’s Tommy (Blackpool Winter Gardens); Grease (Ljubljana Festival).

Emily Bull
(Glinda The Good Witch): For Tonight (Adelphi Theatre); 9 to 5 (UK Tour & South Korea); Matilda (UK Tour); Mary Poppins (International tour); Sunset Boulevard (London Coliseum); The Station Master (Tristan Bates Theatre); How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Royal Festival Hall); Cabaret (UK Tour); Sweeney Todd (Adelphi Theatre & Chichester Festival Theatre); Les Misérables (Sondheim Theatre) and Grease (Piccadilly Theatre).

Abigail Matthews (Toto): Bleak Expectations (Criterion Theatre, West End); Bye Bye Birdie (Rose and Crown, Offie Nominated for Best Supporting Actress); War Horse (Gillian Lynne Theatre); A Winter’s Tale & The Hired Man (Landor Theatre, Offie Nominated for Best Supporting Actress); The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (360° Theatre, Kensington Gardens); Evita (UK & European Tour).

Join Dorothy, Toto and friends on an unforgettable adventure down the yellow brick road to the merry old land of Oz.

Featuring the iconic original score from the Oscar-winning MGM film, including Over The Rainbow, Follow The Yellow Brick Road and We're Off To See the Wizard - with additional songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice - this spectacular production will be a truly magical experience for all the family.


Directed by Nikolai Foster (Billy Elliot The Musical, A Chorus Line) The Wizard of Oz has choreography by Shay Barclay, Set Designer is Colin Richmond, Projection Designer is Douglas O’Connell, Costume and Puppet Designer is Rachael Canning, Lighting Designer is Ben Cracknell, Sound Designer is Adam Fisher, Creative Consultant is Mark Kaufman, Musical Supervisor is George Dyer, casting by Debbie O’Brien, Props Supervisor is Marcus Hall Props, and Wigs, Hair and Makeup Designer is Elizabeth Marini.

The Wizard of Oz is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from April 24th to May 5th 2024.


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