The Diary: Hot fat man among the rubber dancers

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The Independent Online
It's Sunday and I'm knackered. One week as a luvvy and I feel so weak you could carry me around in a bucket. I "opened" as Amos Hart in Chicago, The Musical last Monday and this is my one day off. Today is dedicated to watching sport on the telly. I used to be a PE teacher about two breweries ago, so now I spend my time watching on TV that which my body is no longer capable of performing. With some 46-year-old men it's sex; with me it's sport. I've fallen asleep on the sofa three times today. Panic sets in as I realise what being in a West End show is like. It's like... having a job. Arghh!

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MY NEW wife Roxie in the show is Chita Rivera. When it comes to musical theatre she's a legend and I'm a scrag-end. She is extremely nice to me - lovely, in fact - but I'm sure she's never seen a little fat bloke in a West End show, at least since Humpty Dumpty The Musical fell off the wall. I'm learning that things can change quickly in Showland. Last week Roxie was 20 years younger than me. This week she's a few years older. From sugar daddy to toy boy in no time at all. That's showbiz!

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OPENING NIGHT for the new Roxie and Velma. The West End is out in force to welcome, nay worship, Chita and Valarie Pettiford (hotfoot from Fosse on Broadway). They deserve it. They are ... the only word is extraordinary performers. It is a relief for yours truly to be accepted by the audience as a minor meteorite in this starry firmament, not least because my partner Gareth Hale is in to watch, and his record when I appear in musicals is suspect. When we were at college together, I directed and appeared in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. On the last night Gareth and another "friend" turned up and threw tomatoes at me during the curtain call. He told me afterwards that I should think myself lucky he bothered to take them out of the can first. No tomatoes tonight, though. Gareth loved the show. Off to the Ivy for supper. My treat. Oh love!

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BACKSTAGE at the Adelphi there is a huge mirror, in front of which is a ballet barre. To the side of these there are an electric fan and a water cooler. It is in front of the fan and next to the water that I have made my nest. Eight times a week - we do eight shows, y'know - I watch the Ensemble warm up on the barre in front of the mirror. "What are they an 'ensemble' of?" I ask myself. Extremely talented dancer-singer-actors? Undoubtedly, but also a disconcerting troupe of elastic-limbed rubber people. Every day, and twice on Friday and Saturday, they warm up by splitting their legs and persuading them past 180 degrees. This is unnatural. If God had wanted human legs to do that, He would have put the hinges on the other way round. By the way, if you're into irony, here's one for you. In the heat of summer, the disturbingly fit, slim and lithe dancers wear virtually nothing in the way of costume. The fat boy gets a cardigan. I can see their smothered sniggers as they watch me sweat. That's why I stand in front of the electric fan. Clammy yes, stupid no.

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ALL TV STARS are pampered. Do you believe that? You should, because it's true. Can you credit that Cilla has her own pimple-popper and nipple- scratcher? Of course she does. We all do. When you turn up in a TV studio there's a queue of people waiting to tend to your every need. A cup of tea? A bacon sandwich? A light flaying of the buttocks, should that be your pleasure? It's all available in the great world of television. So imagine my surprise on walking into my dressing-room at the Adelphi: a fridge, a sofa, a table and two mousetraps. My wife and I have to take measures to rectify the situation. A quick trip to Ikea to purchase two lamps, a telly and, of course, a futon (which is an industrial pallet with an eiderdown over the top). Now the room is a place fit for half a TV double act.

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I HAVEN'T yet managed to work out a West End rhythm. When to eat and drink, for example. I've never been very good at breakfast. I always feel slightly nauseous first thing in the morning - so why spoil a good feeling by eating? Lunch is OK because I'm ravenous, but I can't eat before the show because I'll end up going on stage feeling like a Christmas pudding instead of just looking like one. The problem arises after the show. I'm starving, but it's 11 o'clock at night. I'm in that terrible food hinterland populated by the pizza and the kebab. Furthermore, I haven't had time to get drunk in order to justify the purchase of either. Talking of which, how am I going to get enough alcohol inside me before bedtime? Do I stay up for four hours and drink at a normal rate, or do I speed-drink for an hour and hope that no one notices my desperation? Answers on a postcard.

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