Legally Blonde star Les Dennis loves Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 08:34 07 March 2012
No stranger to Norfolk, Les Dennis is back on the Theatre Royal stage. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH finds out why he loves this part of the world.
Returning to Norfolk always feels like something of a homecoming for comedian, television presenter and actor Les Dennis.
Over the course of his career the all-round entertainer has spent significant time here for both business and pleasure – and now he is looking forward to returning with smash hit musical Legally Blonde.
“I have been coming up to north Norfolk for about 20 years now,” he says. “I had a holiday cottage there and loved going to Burnham Market.
“I had my 50th birthday in Norfolk and still enjoy visiting as much as possible – I was there this Christmas, in fact.
“What I love about Norfolk is that it is so different to anywhere else in the country because people don’t really pass through it. They are there because they want to be there.
“I also love the light, and the landscape. You look around you and there are no undulating hills – it is so beautiful.”
Les, who is probably best known for hosting ITV game show Family Fortunes for 15 years, also has memories of stepping out into the spotlight in county theatres.
“I used to do the summer seasons in Yarmouth,” he recalls. “Through the 1980s I was there with Russ Abbot and the Black Abbots, and with Roy Walker.”
Les is back in Norfolk to star in Legally Blonde The Musical, after all-singing, all-dancing show not too dissimilar to his latest appearance at the Theatre Royal in Eurovision spoof Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision.
“I play Professor Callaghan, the role previously taken by Matthew Kelly,” explains Les. “My most recent part was as cuddly Mr Smee in Peter Pan so it is strange to go into playing a cold-hearted American – but it is fun. I have been rehearsing with the cast and really enjoying it.
“Legally Blonde is a great show – it is uplifting and has some wonderful songs, as well as a fantastic story.
“I have a big song, which is nice. It is great to have something like that to go straight into.”
Les broke into the world of show business when he won ITV talent show New Faces back in 1974. He became part of the team on light entertainment shows Russ Abbot’s Madhouse and The Russ Abbot Show before forming a comedy partnership with fellow impressionist Dustin Gee, which in turn led to a series of their own, The Laughter Show.
Following Dustin’s death in 1986, Les carried on The Laughter Show as a solo performer and went on to become host of Family Fortunes from 1987 to 2002.
Since then he has appeared in a range of drama and comedy television shows, as well as theatre and musical productions.
“I do love doing the musicals. It is something I never expected to come into,” he says. “I have done Me and My Girl, Chicago and Hairspray, and they have all been a joy. There are so many I would love to do – Guys and Dolls would be wonderful and Oliver! I would love to play Fagin.”
■ Legally Blonde the Musical, Norwich Theatre Royal, until March 10, £35-£6.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk