From the Daily Mail, 4 March 2011 (story by David Wigg).
Michael Crawford, star of West End blockbusters Barnum, The Phantom Of The Opera and The Woman In White, is back on stage for the first time in seven years.
He’s playing the Wizard of Oz in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lavish new production at the London Palladium, and although voice problems caused him to miss some preview performances before last Tuesday’s official first night, he insists he’s fully fit – something he never thought he’d hear himself say until recently.
For what Michael has rarely spoken about until now is that for the past seven years he has been battling the debilitating illness myalgic encephalopathy, or ME.
‘If anyone had told me when I was struggling with ME that one day I’d be back in London’s West End, I wouldn’t have thought it possible,’ he says. ‘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. It was particularly alarming because all my life I’d enjoyed doing all my own stunts in shows, taking on every physical challenge. Yet suddenly, I’d become like a very old man. I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea what.’
Eventually he was diagnosed with ME, the rare chronic fatigue syndrome that can be triggered by a viral infection. The next step was to find out what had brought it on, and once the cause was pinpointed beyond doubt, he realised he had no one to blame but himself.