THEATRE / Production Notes: The actor Tim Flavin on stepping into somebody else's shoes in the musical Crazy for You

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The Independent Culture
I've never taken over a role before, but how often does a role like this (Bobby, the lead) come along? First time around, I auditioned my tush off. I kinda thought it was mine. In this business, you gotta believe you're the cat's miaow or what's the point? But the director had different ideas. Kirby Ward got the job and I got on with the rest of my life.

Two weeks into rehearsals, I got a call from the management asking me if I would be the standby. On a show like this you have the understudy who plays a small role in the show, the cover who turns up and waits off-stage to cover the understudy and a standby who waits by the phone at home. I said: 'Forget it. I don't do this.' But Barry Burnett, my agent, said, 'Hold on.' So we thought about it and he talked to the management and we cooked up this great deal where I agreed to do standby on the condition that I would take over when the role was recast.

So there I was for the last four or five weeks of the original rehearsal period. I know this sounds corny, but the director Mike Ockrent and Susan Stroman the choreographer were extraordinary. They were incredibly generous with their time. Usually, understudies barely get to work with the team, they're looked after by the staff director and the dance captain.

When the recasting happened, about 70 per cent of the ensemble and three of the principals left the show. I had already been on for two weeks when Kirby took his holiday, but we all had another four weeks' rehearsal.

On Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows he has staff directors who go round the world ensuring that performances in each city are identical, but we didn't work like that. There was no question of asking me to recreate Kirby's performance. I couldn't. We're like chalk and cheese. Kirby was 5' 9'. With me and Helen Way, the tall squad has taken over. The role of Bobby is about personality. I learnt the lines and the steps and brought my personality to the role. Kirby and I have completely different styles. He has the fastest feet in tap. I have more ballet training, which pays off on the turns and the non-tap numbers, some of which had to be simplified for him.

I would like to have played opening night and done the cast recording but, hey, you can make far too many enemies by being bitter. You wouldn't be human if you didn't have regrets. I love it, but a few weeks in, I still have Sundays set aside entirely for sleep.

Tim Flavin was talking to David Benedict

'Crazy for You' is at the Prince Edward, London (071-734 8951)

(Photograph omitted)

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