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'Cherish musicals for what they are'

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

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BEST known for his television work in Robin of Sherwood and Dynasty, Michael Praed has also had a varied and extensive stage career.

While he has starred in many of the classics it is the musical which has really captured his heart and a genre he believes is very important.

His stirring defence is not simply because he is appearing in High Society at Plymouth's Theatre Royal, but is a genuinely held belief.

"Musicals are a particular joy to do because the great truth and gift of music is that it does have the facility to speak to your heart, for want of a better phrase," he said.

"When you marry music and lyrics it can make the emotional experience significantly more intense than, say, in a play.

"Obviously a play can move you, but for reasons I can't understand, music does it quicker.

"In this country there is an elite which does, from time to time, prevail and they will suggest that the musical as comparable to an Ibsen or an Arthur Miller play is a second-rate art form, which is, of course, absurd.

"If you analyse what plays are, at their root level they are simply stories. I get really infuriated by people who bemoan the fact that the West End is full of musicals — like that is somehow a bad thing. The musical is an art form on Broadway that is cherished and revered for what it is and it is nonsensical to compare the two genres."

Michael was last in Devon in 2010 when he played in the stage production of The Sound of Music.

And this time he takes on the role of Dexter Haven, the part played by Bing Crosby in the hit 1956 film.

The story tells of wealthy socialite Tracy Lord, who is in the midst of planning a lavish summer wedding when her ex-husband Dexter turns up to disrupt the proceedings in an attempt to win her back.

A further twist arrives in the form of the charming reporter Mike Connor who falls instantly for Tracy, and she for him. As the day of the wedding draws closer, the audience is left guessing which groom the bride will choose.

High Society fizzes with a host of beautiful Cole Porter ballads including True Love, You're Sensational and the unforgettable Well, Did You Evah! The original film starred Frank Sinatra as Mike Connor and Grace Kelly as Tracy Lord, her last film role before she became Princess Grace of Monaco.

The stage production also includes Sophie Bould (The Sound of Music) as Tracy Lord and Daniel Boys (Any Dream Will Do) as Mike Connor.

Lots of people will know the hit movie of High Society, but Michael says it was in fact originally written as a stage play.

"Our production has taken a lot from the original text," he added. "One of the original scriptwriters is still alive so our director went to him for clarifications which have really strengthened our production.

"This musical also has a fantastic score. There are so many composers but few iconic ones. Cole Porter is an icon. Not only did he write this beautiful score but he also wrote the lyrics. It's no accident that these songs have lasted and that there is still a currency to them."

High Society is at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, from February 19 to 23. Details: 01752 230447 or visitwww.theatreroyal.com

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