[slideshow]An Afternoon with Les Dennis by Martyn Pritchard
Amiable Les Dennis yearns to carve out a solid reputation as an excellent character actor. He has already triumphed in a play by J. B. Priestley and now he has his eyes firmly fixed on The Bard of Avon. William Shakespeare is his target and some might think this very different from his far more familiar comedy roles but there is a quiet determination about Les which is extremely impressive.
Explaining his lifelong passion for serious drama, and Shakespeare in particular, Les was adamant: “I would love to do some Shakespeare. I have been fascinated by the Bard ever since I made a school trip to Stratford-upon-Avon many years ago”. Les has thought deeply about the kind of roles he would like to play in developing the serious side of his career. He made a good impression in Priestley’s ‘When we are Married’ at The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds. And now he would relish an opportunity to play, for instance, Malvolio in ‘Twelfth Night’ or The Fool in ‘King Lear’. It’s just a question of finding sufficient time in an ultra-busy schedule. Presently he is treading the boards in a show direct from the West End, ‘Hairyspray’. He has teamed up with his old friend Brian Conley and Laurie Scarth, Tracy, in what the critics have dubbed ‘The ultimate feel-good show’.
‘Hairspray’ tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a big girl, with big hair and an even bigger heart. Tracy sets out to follow her dreams, inspire her mum and win the boy she loves. Les plays the father, the loveable Wilbur.
Les loves the role and endorses Wilbur’s optimistic philosophy. He said: “Wilbur is an upbeat guy. The glass is always half full. You have to think big to be big in this world and Wilbur is a truly lovely character.” Les has coped with some adversity in his life but he is a very happy man these days and as his stint in ‘Hairspray’ winds down pre-Christmas he is focused on the festive season, pantomime, and his family. He is proud dad to a two and half year old daughter, Eleanor, and he is happily married to wife Claire.
Last Christmas he played in a pantomime alongside Henry Winkler, the American actor who is better known, lovingly, as ‘The Fonz’.
“Henry was lovely to play alongside and this year I will co-star at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre alongside the actress Pamela Anderson” said Les. The comedian, a proud Liverpudlian, always enjoys visiting his home city at Christmas time. Liverpool has a special resonance for him in his life; it is where it all began. Humour aside Les is a passionate family man who has now found domestic bliss.
He is complimentary about his co-stars in ‘Hairspray’, which has delighted audiences throughout Britain. There’s a rare chemistry between Les, Brian and Laurie. Add to this a rip-roaring script and the ingredients are in place for a super, fun family night out.
Les Dennis Fact File
Born in Garston, Liverpool, 1953
Attended Stockton Wood and Joseph William’s Primary Schools and then Quarry Bank Highschool.
Les started in entertainment whilst still at school, as a stand-up comedian in working men’s clubs.
In 1974 Les won the New Face’s ITV talent show. Later he joined the team on Russ Abbot’s Mad House and The Russ Abbot Show. Then Les began The Laughter Show, initially with fellow impressionist Dustin Gee.
Les’ impressive theatre work has included the role of Amos Hart in Chicago, Bill Snibson in Me and My Girl, and Mr. Wonderful at the Chester Gateway. Other roles have included: Art, Murderer and Neville’s Island. His big screen debut was in the film ‘Intimate Relations’ with Julie Walters. And he appeared in the comedy feature film ‘Large’.
On the soap opera front Les Dennis has starred in Brookside, Merseybeat and Casualty.
Les appeared as a guest in The Bill and also performed in BBC 1’s The Sound of Musicals.