Sherwood Forest outlaw joins the High Society set

Michael Praed in High Society
Michael Praed in High Society
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Actor Michael Praed doesn’t mind when people still remember him as ‘the hooded man’ from Robin of Sherwood on TV in the 1980s.

The star of a new stage version of the Cole Porter musical High Society, heading to Sheffield next week, said: “I’m very proud of that show that I was a small part in. I’m proud and very pleased. Even now I remember going home and watching that and enjoying it.”

Michael is playing Dexter Gordon in the show, which tells the story of his character’s ex-wife, socialite Tracy Lord.

She is busy planning a lavish summer wedding when Dexter turns up, disrupting everything.

Then society magazine reporter Mike Connor arrives and they start to fall for each other. So which of the three men, including her increasingly bewildered fiancé, will she choose?

Of course there was a much-loved film version of the musical, starring Grace Kelly as Tracy, Bing Crosby as Dexter and Frank Sinatra as Mike.

Michael said: “The trick is if you’re trying to do an impression of Bing Crosby, you’ve got to be Rory Bremner good at it, so I avoid that.

“In the script, although ostensibly it’s the same, there were various compromises made in the movie. Bing Crosby as Dexter is a songwriter. Originally Dexter’s job is a boat-builder, which has tremendous implications.

“The True Love, which is the famous song, is the name of the boat that Dexter built with Tracy’s help. It’s symbolic of their union. You don’t get that at all in the film.”

Michael said he didn’t bring any preconceptions to the role, adding: “I see what Dexter is trying to achieve. He and Tracy used to be married. They broke up because he was a drunk.

“Whilst he’s sorting himself out he discovers a plot against Tracy’s father, who’s been indiscreet with a showgirl. He’s heard through the grapevine that she’s about to get married.

“His role is quite a noble one. He’s still in love with Tracy, whether he does recognise it or not.

“A contributory factor is that she has a fatal flaw. Dexter’s moral goal is to point this out to her so she can recognise it and do something about it. Her life is doomed until she can figure this out.”

Michael added: “It’s a lovely play to do. I am enjoying it,” but he added that he’s careful not to get too pleased with himself as that gets in the way of a good performance.

He said: “It’s a great score and a great privilege to sing. It’s a great challenge to sing these songs, they’re a masterpiece of construction and someone has to sit down and write that.

“Cole Porter wrote so many standards. When you look at his body of work, it’s remarkable. He’s one of the icons.”

Michael sings in some of the show’s favourite songs like True Love and What A Swell Party This Is. He said: “It’s the same process as acting, you just happen to be singing words. Every song is a bit like a little play where you tell a story in three minutes.

“There is something magical, an alchemy in music that speaks to us and no-one can really understand why.”

High Society is at the Lyceum, Sheffield next Tuesday (June 11) to Saturday. Box office: 0114 2496000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk