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'Four months into the run, I began to feel really unwell.It got so bad I had to pull out of the show, but no one seemed to know what was wrong.‘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.
As we sit between shows in his Palladium dressing room, Michael recalls those dark times.
Ironically, I’d helped design that rubber costume, and it had been like stepping into a sauna for three hours every night.
I look back on it now and realise that creating that suit was one of the worst ideas I ever had.’Nothing seemed to cure him, so he prescribed himself constant sunshine and moved to New Zealand, living in a small house near Auckland.‘For two years, I didn’t feel well at all.
Brought up in Sheerness, Kent, he began at 12 as a boy soprano, left school three years later and embarked on a career in film, stage and TV alongside such stars as Gene Kelly, Barbra Streisand, Buster Keaton, John Lennon and Steve Mc Queen.
He was christened Michael Patrick Dumbell-Smith, and only discovered years later that the Battle of Britain pilot Arthur Dumbell-Smith – known as Smudge – who he believed to be his dad, was not in fact his father.
‘I thought my career had come to an end because I no longer had the energy, or even the inclination, to work again.‘I’d be totally exhausted by mid-afternoon, and I could barely climb the stairs at home.