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Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008
Norton wears 'tights' for musical

You may be used to seeing Graham Norton picking stars to grace a stage in London's West End but now it's his turn to tread the boards. The TV presenter is set to play drag artist Zaza in musical La Cage aux Folles. He explains the delicacies of dressing as a woman, including the benefits of 'man tights'.

Graham Norton
Graham says he wanted to be in musicals when he was younger

Is it the first time you've dressed as a woman?

It's the first time I've been this glamorous in a dress. As a child I was dressing up, that was rather preposterous.

This is the first time I've done this with all the padding. There's a team of people back there to do it.

Do you have to shave or wax your legs?

Well, thanks for asking! You don't have to shave your legs. I did ring up and ask, 'What do I need to get rid of'.

You need to shave armpits and chest, and sadly in my case, back. But legs, thanks to the wonder of thick tights, there's a manufacturer of tights for men! There's a market for these tights, even in these credit crunch times. There's a factory in this country producing tights for men!

Why has it taken so long to appear on a West End stage? We've seen you choose a Maria and a Joseph and a Nancy or two.

I thought my life had taken a different direction. I trained as an actor and this was a world that I wanted to get into back then and couldn't, and sort of veered into comedy.

There is a real connection between those shows and me doing this because by that stage I thought that the world of musical theatre was just a foreign land, that it was just impossible to be into that.
Graham Norton
Graham says his love for musicals has been reawakened

And working so closely with all those talented singers and Andrew [Lloyd Webber] and Cameron [Mackintosh] and all those people and going to see lots of things, it just made it seem more possible.

And through meeting David Grimrod, who casts an awful lot of West End shows and works on the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows on the BBC. He was asking me, 'Would you ever be interested?'

The good thing is, the theatre public can rest assured I have no ambitions for music theatre apart from this!

How many costume changes do you have?

I still don't know how many changes I have. But I know that basically you're either on stage or you're out the back being hauled about by people putting you in another dress or another wig.

You're used to doing stand-up comedy. How do you think you'll find it sticking to a script?

I think in the scenes I'll be fine but there are actually large chunks of the show where I'm talking to the audience and talking to people on the tables and apparently you mustn't change it. So that will be difficult.

So for those seats people can pay extra and be part of the show?

Which seems cruel to pay extra!

Are you a musical lover?

Do you know, it's come to me fairly late. Obviously when I was a kid I went to see this show.

The great thing about living in London is there are so many shows not to go and see! And that's precisely what I did for about 20 years. I would read reviews and think, 'That sounds marvellous'. And then they'd close and I'd think, 'Thank God. That's another one off my list'.

And then because of working with Andrew at the BBC, I did start going to see all these shows and it reawakened something in me because I was just really lazy. There's something about going to see a musical. It's so magical.

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