Former Abingdon schoolgirl Marianne Gallagher was spellbound when Andrew Lloyd Webber came knocking.

The composer dropped by backstage to praise her performance in West End show The Wizard of Oz.

Now, after being given a lead role, she gets covered in bright green paint every night at the London Palladium and flies above the stage on a zipwire.

“This is something I’ve been working towards my whole life,” she told the Oxford Mail.

“I even get to sing the big number Red Shoes Blues, which Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote for the show, and I’m performing in front of 2,000 people eight times a week.”

Marianne, 29, a former Larkmead pupil, has loved musical theatre since she was five, growing up in the town’s Winterborne Road.

After taking every opportunity to sing, dance, and play the cello at school, Miss Gallagher completed her A-Levels then took a three-year course at musical theatre specialists Arts Educational Schools in London.

It wasn’t long before she had her own agent and, after touring the UK in a number of different shows, she became an understudy in Brian May’s musical We Will Rock You.

Earlier this year, she became understudy to Hannah Waddingham for the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz – and last month she took over the role.

She said: “Hannah was ill in the summer and I got to play the Wicked Witch.

“Afterwards there was a knock on the door and it was Andrew Lloyd Webber to tell me how much he enjoyed my performance.

“Not long after that I was given the part.

“It is everything I’ve dreamed of since I was performing in plays at Larkmead.

“It takes 15 minutes to spray me with the green paint and 40 minutes to get it off.

“But it’s worth it because I get to go on stage at the London Palladium.”

Miss Gallagher, who uses the stage name Marianne Benedict, lives in London with fiance James Hassett, 33, a sound engineer for We Will Rock You.

Her mother Anna Zawadzka, who still lives in Abingdon, said: “I hope Marianne inspires children from Abingdon to go on and do great things. She used to listen to tapes of The Phantom of the Opera when she was little, so to be picked by Andrew Lloyd Webber in this way is wonderful.

“She played the cello and piano from a young age and she had a very good grounding in music and theatre.”

Miss Gallagher said she expected her role in The Wizard of Oz to continue until at least February.

The production also features Danielle Hope, who won BBC talent show Over the Rainbow, as Dorothy.