"The Wizard of Oz is in previews at the London Palladium, with Dorothy being played by Danielle Hope who was selected for the role by public vote in the TV series Over The Rainbow. One of the more astonishing facts of these TV casting calls has been the range of talent they have brought into the spotlight and all over theatreland there are graduates of the scheme, including Rachel Tucker who was a finalist from the contest to find Nancy in Oliver! and is now one of the leads in Wicked.
Meanwhile, Lauren Samuels, placed third in the Dorothy programme and who went straight into a West End run to play Sandy in Grease, has now taken a sideways step to do something altogether more modest but even more challenging. She is appearing in a tiny West London fringe theatre in a two-hander song cycle called The Last 5 Years, a miniature musical masterpiece by American writer Jason Robert Brown that charts the doomed five-year relationship of a budding novelist and actress.
It sets up a deliberate tension to pull in two directions at once, as we observe the couple from opposite viewpoints: she tells their story from the end of the relationship to its beginning, while he simultaneously tells it going forwards. Only briefly do they collide in the middle but this production knits it together superbly.
There’s a fine onstage band and Samuels and newcomer Christopher Pym are both superb as the couple. One of the themes of the show is how life is full of unequal success and that feeling is amplified by seeing Samuels appearing here instead of at the Palladium but the show she is now in is an unqualified success."