ACCORDING to Neil Morrissey, one of the most amazing feelings in showbiz is standing on stage, singing your heart out.
Add that to taking on one of Dickens’ most famous characters and it’s not hard to see why he’s so excited.
Oliver! burst onto the stage at Leeds Grand on Tuesday – the only Yorkshire venue on its nationwide tour.
And with ragged clothes, fingerless gloves and a crooked smile, the TV star has transformed himself to play the king of thieves, Fagin.
“It’s one of the great roles of musical theatre, it’s exciting,” he said. “This is the biggest thing I have done – with a massive set, fantastic cast, 16-piece orchestra, lots of children and a dog – it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Speaking to the Guide last week, the 50-year-old said he was looking forward to his stint in Leeds.
“I love Yorkshire,” he said. “The diversity is fantastic. And it has some of the best ales in the county.”
Oliver! is Morrissey’s third musical after performing in Acorn Antiques the Musical and Guys and Dolls in the West End.
Worlds away from his role as the docile-but-lovable Tony in the iconic sitcom Men Behaving Badly, Morrissey said the singing and dancing required for Oliver! proved a fun challenge.
“I’d only seen the film version but that was quite spectacular. You’ll definitely go out tapping your toes and singing. Consider Yourself is a big toe-tapper, everyone loves that,” he said.
“The challenge was working up to that stamina. I have never been the fittest boy in the world!”
And his 36 young co-actors may even steal his limelight as they prepare to join Morrissey on stage as London’s street urchins. He said: “They are all fantastic, they are so talented. The best in the business in the whole town.”
Oliver! is at Leeds Grand Theatre from now until Saturday December 8. Matinees are Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets cost from £25 to £48.50. To book, call the box office on 0844 848 2700 or visit leedsgrandtheatre.com.
Interview: SAMANTHA ROBINSON