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‘In 2004, I was on the West End stage in The Woman In White, and for every show I had to climb into a fat suit to play the obese Count Fosco.
It was hard work, and unbearably hot, but I sailed through because I’d always kept myself fit.
But he ended up suffering two crippling falls and eventually had to have a hip joint replaced.
Then came The Woman In White (also a Lloyd Webber musical) – and disaster.
'By the time I got to Sicily and spent two weeks with the grandchildren, I was so fired up with the fun I was having with them that it actually persuaded me I wanted to do it,’ he says. They had seen me as Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em, but they’d never seen me perform on stage, so I really did it for them.‘They came to watch one of the previews and they were speechless, because they’d only ever known a sort of serious Poppa, which is what they call me.
Afterwards, I was told by the oldest boy, who’s 14, “Oh Poppa, you were wonderful.” 'You learn so much from them and they had a lot to do with my recovery.
‘Andrew and I kept in touch and he’s asked me to do several things before, but I’ve never really been able to until now.’ The Wizard Of Oz has taken £11 million in advance ticket sales and Crawford is contracted to spend at least six months in the show.
‘I’m not on stage all the time, and I’ve only got a couple of big musical numbers, but it’s a good way of getting back after such a long absence.’ He is full of praise for 18-year-old Danielle Hope, who won the role of Dorothy in BBC1’s talent show Over The Rainbow. ‘I’ve never seen talent like it in someone so young.’ Now in his 70th year, Crawford has been performing for some 50 years.
I went for all sorts of brain and body scans until ME was finally diagnosed.
Just before he was due to go, he got a call to say that Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted him to play the title role in the Wizard Of Oz.
He asked for time to think about it, and watched the original classic film starring Judy Garland.
He got lots of tempting offers to return to performing, but was enjoying his stress-free life too much to get back on stage – ‘where I’d always pushed myself to the limit, and look what good it had done me.
Obviously, quitting did cross my mind but I thought, no, I still love what I’ve been doing all my life.