THE world of Scottish showbiz could have been a much duller place, had Allan Stewart’s back-up plan been activated.

The Coatbridge singer and comedian, who got his big break at the Barrowland, became a household name after a string of TV successes in the 80s hosting much-loved shows like Copy Cats and Chain Letters.

He dazzled in front of the Queen on the Royal Variety Show, had his own series on Scottish Television, and built up a successful career performing on cruise ships and around the world. For many years, he has been Edinburgh’s king of panto, and next month in Glasgow he will take on one of the most famous roles in musical theatre, the Wizard of Oz.

It could all have been so different, however.

Allan Stewart as the Wizard of OzAllan Stewart as the Wizard of Oz (Image: Wizard of Oz UK tour)

“I won a competition at the Barrowland Ballroom when I was 10, and the prize was to sing there every Saturday afternoon for 10 weeks, at the children’s disco,” explains Allan.

“Then, I started singing in the social clubs all over Scotland, with my dad as my manager. I think I did always know it was what I really wanted to do but my dad, who worked for what was then the GPO, later BT, wanted me to have ‘something to fall back on.’”

(Image: Wizard of Oz UK tour)

Allan grins. “It was a sensible thing to do, but I remember turning up that first day at the GPO, and being handed ‘protective clothing’ – a big donkey jacket and a pair of wellies – and thinking, no. This is not for me.”

Allan is joining the cast of hit musical The Wizard of Oz for part of its UK tour, including dates at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow in July.

The new musical, based on the iconic story by L Frank Baum, started in the West End at London's Palladium. It stars Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood as the Wicked Witch of the West and Aviva Tulley as Dorothy, and it features the iconic original score from the Oscar-winning MGM film with additional songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

(Image: The Wizard of Oz UK tour)

“I can’t wait to perform in Glasgow,” says Allan. “The last time I was on stage there was in the musical Jolson and it was an incredible week, a real high point of the tour, so it will be lovely to come back.”

Allan admits he felt a “bit like a rabbit in the headlights” when he first joined The Wizard of Oz cast.

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“They were already 70 or 80 performances in, so it was a bit scary,” he grimaces. “I do still get nervous – actually I think the nerves get worse the older I get.

“As a kid, you just do it, don’t you? But you’re not as fearless when you get older. My big fear is learning the words.”

(Image: The Wizard of Oz UK tour)

He sighs: “I take ages to learn words, I really do. But this production is fantastic – it’s visually exciting, with lots of projections and a fantastic cast. Aviva, who plays Dorothy, is wonderful. She just comes right over the footlights.

“The Wizard of Oz is so loved - it’s a story everyone knows."

Allan landed the role after a chat with producer Michael Harrison at the opening night of the show in the Palladium.

“He leaned over and asked, 'who do you want to play when we go on tour?'" explains Allan.

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“I said ‘Dorothy’ and we laughed and I thought that was the end of it. But six months later he got back in touch and asked me if I’d like to play the Wizard.”

Allan’s success on stage – his outstanding run in Jolson, for example, which went on to tour Canada; his portrayal of Roger De Bris in Mel Brooks’ The Producers; a tour of the Marie Jones play Stones in his Pockets; and his self-penned play Canned Laughter – have brought much critical and audience acclaim.

Might he ever return to television?

“I had a good run on TV, but I knew when it was about to end,” he says, slowly. “The whole regime was changing, a new wave of ‘alternative’ comedians had arrived...I saw the writing on the wall.

"I’m really happy to be on stage. I’ve never lamented over television, that was just the way it was, so I moved on."

He adds: "But I would love to do it again - as an actor this time, rather than in light entertainment.”

After that first day on the job at the GPO, Allan's dad, Alec, relented and promised his eager son he could try “six months of full-time showbiz” and if it did not work, it was back to the donkey jacket and wellies.

“And here I am,” says Allan, smiling.

“Sixty-three years after I first sang at the Barrowland, I’m still here, on stage in a fantastic production, with an amazing role, in a beautiful made-to-measure suit."

He adds, laughing softly: “And not a donkey jacket in sight…”

The Wizard of Oz is at the King's Theatre from July 2 to 7.