Michael Praed's still boyish 40-something face is on the poster of Contact, the dance show that opens at the Queen's Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 23.
A television star as well as a stage one, he isn't known for his dancing skills — so what attracted him to the role? Theatrenow went to the Queen's stage door to find out.
Is this your first dance show? A friend of mine went to see a preview of Contact and said he was surprised to see you dance so well. "Yes! The script précis called for an actor who could dance very well, which was a challenge, but I only really dance at the end of the piece, fortunately. I'm glad your friend thought all those hours of rehearsals paid off!"
Contact was a big hit in New York, but not a lot is known about it over here. Can you tell us about it? "It's a dance piece. The Lincoln Center in New York gave Susan Stroman 15 dancers and a room in the basement, with six weeks to come up with something amazing, and with complete freedom as to what it would be — the management never went down there to check on how things were going on.
"The result, which was as amazing as they'd hoped, is a dance evening that's split into three separate sections. In the first, a brief one, a couple on a swing engage in an incredibly sexy dance. In the second, a husband and wife visit a restaurant. The wife is unhappy, and she fantasizes about another life, with the attractive waiter, but the husband, who's fairly abusive anyway, ruins the dream, and the piece ends very sadly. "What's fascinating about it is that traditionally audiences are given an upbeat curtain piece to send them off to the bars with a real buzz, whereas here they love the piece, and are moved by it, but think 'My God! How sad!'"
And where do you come in? "I'm in the second part of the evening, playing a successful businessman who seems to have it all but is actually hugely depressed and lonely. He catches sight of a girl in a golden dress and falls for her, but neither can relate — she dances rather than speaks, he can't really dance. At the end there's a resolution, and that's where my dancing skills come in..."
What was it like working with Susan Stroman as choreographer? "Extraordinary. You'd expect me to go on about her professionalism etc., but it's all true, and one of the most impressive things about her is the way she never loses her cool, and always seems to have at least one solution for any particular question or problem that crops up."
How have the previews gone so far? "Really well, and the audience reaction is great. We've made some changes, as you'd expect, and unlike a lot of actors, I'm always up for some constructive criticism. So once you've seen the show, come round and tell me what you think!"