I Wanted to Be Fred Astaire

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), September 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

I Wanted to Be Fred Astaire


Byline: LAURA DAVIS

HE MAY lack a heavyweight's physique, but veteran dancer Wayne Sleep is a prize fighter.

The diminutive former Royal Ballet principal has succeeded where many other classical ballet dancers have failed - to continue performing professionally, decades after retirement.

He has tried Shakespeare, TV drama and films - playing a dance tutor in the 1998 Oscarwinning film, Elizabeth - but it is in musicals that he has really held his own.

He is now starring as Emcee in Bill Kenwright's touring production of Cabaret, which visits New Brighton's Floral Pavilion next month.

"It was a natural progression for me because I knew I was at the top of my form and I would never have gone downhill with it," he says.

"I was lucky to be able to cross another bridge into another kind of art form."

But it wasn't exactly a smooth ride, reveals the 61-year-old.

"It's quite a challenge for us because people think if you're a classical dancer that's all you can do," he explains.

"They don't want to cast you in other things.

Whereas people who are actors can get into musical theatre very easily.

"People know you for the dance.

"You get pigeonholed and you have to fight and say 'I do other stuff'."

Emcee is a dream role for Sleep as it gives him the chance to show off his many talents - singing, dancing and acting - in a single production.

It is one he is returning to after playing the part in the West End of a year in the mid-80s.

"I was in the first show to be done after the movie 25 years ago," he says.

"This production is very, very different.

"That's why I took it on because it was a different kind of challenge. …

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