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Brief Encounter With … Barry Howard

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Barry Howard is probably best known for playing Barry Stewart-Hargreaves in the hit BBC comedy Hi-De-Hi! but he has also starred in musicals such as Cabaret and Salad Days, as well as the plays of Ray Cooney. Later this month he returns to the role of Jacob Marley in the hit musical Scrooge, a role he has played many times previously.

How did you start out as a performer?

In children’s theatre. I played ‘King Paul’ in Rumplestiltskin for 6 months from the Argyle Theatre in Birkenhead. I had always done amateur theatre since my schooldays, and my 2-year stint in the R.A.F. as a National Serviceman in their drama group cemented my desire to become ‘pro’.

Do you mind being associated with Hi-De-Hi after all these years?
I’m absolutely thrilled to be remembered a part I played thirty years ago. I feel proud to be associated with the series and my grateful thanks go to David Croft and Jimmy Perry, the creators.

What was the last show you saw on stage and enjoyed?
I saw Hayfever, The Grapes of Wrath and Separate Tables, all at Chichester earlier this year.

You have worked with many different actors as as the title character in Scrooge. What does Tommy Steele bring to the role?
Enthusiasm, energy, humour, 100% in each and every performance. I’m privileged to work with such professionalism and dedication. Tommy has been a star for a long time. He deserves such acclamation.

Do you have a favourite song in the show and why?
The medley in the finale. It’s going home time!

What do you like about performing in a big musical production like Scrooge?
Usually, big shows like Scrooge bring in the business, or ‘Bums On Seats’ as we call it. It’s so rewarding playing to full houses and I’m fortunate to have played to such, in many productions over the years, such as Salad Days and Oliver, through to Anything Goes and several tours of Scrooge.

The special effects in the show are quite state of the art. But has anything ever gone wrong which has made you laugh?
My door slam whilst appearing with Anthony Newley, brought the snow down two hours too soon. Tony looked up and said “You’ve brought some terrible weather with you!”. Also, in the days when I flew, I once flew off backwards as my wire became twisted. I felt my character lost a little in credibility!

What have you got lined up next after the tour?
Hi-De-Hi! Would you believe? A major tour is planned for 2010 and I’ll be staggering around as Barry Stuart-Hargreaves once again. I’m delighted at the prospect.

Barry Humphries was speaking to Glenn Meads

Scrooge runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 9 -14 November. 


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