Actor Milk-ing dad role on Sheffield stage

James Coombes  in Dirty Dancing
James Coombes in Dirty Dancing
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A suave man of mystery scaled a crane and swerved through city sky scrapers – all because the lady loves Milk Tray.

And now former Milk Tray man James Coombes has a special delivery for the people of Sheffield.

Actor James, who played the famous Cadbury’s heart-throb in a 1987 television commercial, is currently starring in a stage version of Dirty Dancing at Sheffield city centre’s Lyceum theatre.

Unlike the daring Milk Tray man, who delivers a box of chocolates to his lover before vanishing into the night, James has shown up on stage every matinee and evening as Dr Jake Houseman.

James, who lives in London, does some dancing in the show, but it is nothing compared to his action-packed, James Bond-esque role as the Milk Tray man.

He said: “It was great. It was only a commercial, but I went all around the world just doing commercials for a couple of years which was wonderful. It opened a lot of doors for me.”

However, he feels comfortable in his current role as Dr Houseman, father of Dirty Dancing’s leading lady, Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman.

The 57-year-old said: “I feel quite right for this part. It’s the first part I’ve played where I feel ‘old’.

“When you’re younger, you play the more romantic, love interest parts, but as you get older those diminish.

“I’ve never really looked old enough to play older parts, but I feel my age at the moment and I like that.”

In the show, Dr Houseman has taken his family on vacation and it is there where Baby and dance instructor Johnny Castle come together in what will be one of the most challenging and triumphant summers of their lives.

James, a dad-of-three, including a 21-year-old daughter, said he could relate his character to his own role as a dad.

He said: “You don’t take your own life onto the stage but you can feel those first, strange feelings when your daughter gets her first boyfriend.

“It’s hard to explain as a father – it’s almost jealousy.

“It’s quite powerful but it passes because you just want your daughter to be happy and have fun.”

n Dirty Dancing is at the Lyceum until Saturday. For tickets, call 0114 249 6000.