THERE couldn’t be a more appropriate role for Urmston’s Danielle Hope to perform than Dorothy in the classic story of The Wizard Of Oz.

For the 19-year-old’s dreams really do come true every time she performs to thousands of theatre-goers at the London Palladium every week.

“Doing something like this was my absolute dream and aspiration,” she says.

“To start my career doing this is amazing. I can’t believe that I’m now doing this for a living. I had a couple of part time jobs in a pub and as a waitress but this is my first real job.

“The strangest bit is that I’m the leading lady and I’m fresh out of school – I didn’t even get to go to drama school.”

The former Highfield primary school pupil beat thousands of stage hopefuls to win BBC’s Over The Rainbow last year to star in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new smash-hit musical.

The film The Wizard Of Oz, starring the legendary Judy Garland, was first released in 1939 and is one of the most watched motion pictures of all time.

The special effects in this stage version are amazing and the show manages to stay true to the film’s original backdrop but with a modern day twist.

And the whole cast is fabulous – from the Tin Man to Toto – not forgetting the legendary Michael Crawford as the Wizard.

“Michael is great – he’s a father figure for Dorothy in the show and he’s like that off-stage too,” says Danielle.

“He was performing at the Palladium 30 years ago and has so much experience. He’s taken me under his wing. Having said that, I think he learns from me too. I bring the fresh, young approach and he brings the knowledge and wisdom.”

Four dogs are used to play the role of Toto every week and while a bit daunting at first, Danielle has got to know her canine characters.

She explains: “Because there’s so many shows we can’t use the same dog all the time. I adore dogs and get on with all four so that’s a help. It’s second nature now to look after the dog and perform at the same time but at first I was like ‘Oh my god – how am I going to do both.”

Danielle performs seven times a week – three matinees and four evening performances – and says she’s adjusted to the routine, although it does put her out of sync with family and friends.

“The opportunity to live in central London is great and I’m the type of person who likes to lie in and stay up late so the hours suit me in that respect.

“On the days when there are two shows it can be hectic. The shows can be emotionally and physically draining because of the amount of effort you put in so you need to conserve your energy. We have to take care of ourselves and get plenty of rest in between shows.

“I find texting family and friends is easier than phone calls because most people I know are finishing work or collage at 6pm and that’s when I’m warming up for the shows, so it’s like we’re at opposite ends of spectrum.

“It’s great when people come down to see the show because even though the audiences are warm anyway, to know that there are people in the audience completely routing for you is great.”

There have been so many highlights since winning the TV show last May, that it’s hard for Danielle to pick any single moment.

When Messenger caught up with her she was excited about being photographed for The Half – a new book of photos by Simon Annand portraying actors half as themselves and half in character.

“I love this book and had it on the coffee table at home growing up – I can’t believe I’m going to feature in the next volume,” she enthuses.

She will also feature in the new series of John Barrowman’s Tonight’s The Night to be aired soon.

Danielle is huge theatre fan and recently enjoyed a whistle-stop visit back home to catch Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

“I do try to get back home to Urmston once or twice a month but I was only there for three hours last time to watch the play.

“I had commitments in London but I’d bought the tickets ages ago so had to go. I love straight theatre and I’m a huge fan of Arthur Miller.”

And Danielle is attracting quite a following herself now she’s a leading lady - but says thankfully, she’s not recognised too much in the street.

“Kate Moss was in my dressing room the other day as she’d taken her daughter to see the show,” she says.

“I’ve met a few famous people like Katherine Jenkins and McFly and when Andrew Lloyd Webber took me to the Night of Heroes which was on ITV recently I sat next to David Beckham and his son Brooklyn.

“But even though I get asked for autographs in theatreland, a lot of people don’t recognise me when I’m out and about and I don’t walk around wearing dark shades or anything.

“I was in the shop this morning buying flowers and when I was about to walk out of the door the woman who served me gasped ‘Oh my God, that’s Dorothy!’ It’s hard for people to spot me if I’m not wearing a gingham dress and red ruby slippers.”

Danielle – who hopes to one day achieve her ultimate dream of performing on Broadway – will be starring in The Wizard of Oz until April 2012.

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