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Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Norton debut's definitely no drag

By Chi Chi Izundu
Newsbeat entertainment reporter

Graham Norton as Albin
Graham Norton plays Albin in West End musical La Cage aux Folles

Graham Norton was in tears on Tuesday night as he received a standing ovation for his part in the London premiere of West End musical La Cage aux Folles.

It sees the TV presenter and comedian dressed up as a woman and wearing high heels, sequined dresses and bright, red lipstick.

La Cage aux Folles is about the relationship of a nightclub owner and his transvestite star.

Graham Norton plays the lead, Albin, with the stage name of Zsa Zsa.

The comic presenter's first appearance on stage got huge cheers. He sang, he danced and gave the audience plenty of laughs.

"Tonight I was nervous, because I was feeling a bit crook," he said.

"I'm just glad I got through it. I have so much stuff shoved down me, I'm telling you everyone here is a doctor.

"You know because they're all in the world of musicals, so the minute they hear about a sore throat, they're like, 'OK. What you need to do is this'.

"So I've had a lot of things, and clearly none of them have worked."

The show was fast paced and funny. Graham even managed to make a couple of references to the other programmes he presents, such this year's Eurovision Song Contest and Comic Relief.

The other hilarious character was the butler, with his French accent and quick wit, always in pursuit of making his debut on stage.

'Wig action'

Graham Norton spends about 90% of the show dressed as a woman.

Different shades of lipsticks and a doggy handbag make appearances, as well as big wigs and even nipple tassels at one point.

if you're not on stage you're outside being hauled apart, you know. I never come on twice in the same outfit or wig
Graham Norton on his costume changes
He told Newsbeat the constant changes are just as much hard work as being on stage.

"There's a lot of wig action. I don't know, about eight or nine wigs," he said.

"And that's the other thing. It's not just the singing and the acting and the dancing.

"It's all the costume changes. Because if you're not on stage you're outside being hauled apart, you know. I never come on twice in the same outfit or wig."

So what about doing his routines in a pair of high heels?

"What's weird is you can walk in heels. I think anyone can walk in heels," he said.

"The difficulty is walking in heels as a woman. Because you got to think as a gay man who's kind of camp, you know, pop a frock on and he'll be fine.

"But even though gay men are called feminine, you're not really, you're just differently male."

Cancan splits

Graham Norton said he saw the show in the mid 80s and that he always wanted to play the part of Albin if he could.

But he didn't realise there were things to love and hate about the role.

Graham Norton as Albin
Graham Norton with all-male chorus group, the Cagelles
"I hate that corset. The corsets are built into the rest of the dresses," he said.

"That's the only time I have to wear a corset. Thank God."

And the chorus, the all-male group who make up the 'Cagelles', were stunning.

Always dressed in drag, they even managed to do a couple of cancan splits and somersaults on a stage that wasn't huge.

Graham told Newsbeat he never has to do too much warming up and is always astounded at how flexible the boys are.

He said: "They are incredibly fit. And you kind of think because they've got those gym bodies, you think they wouldn't be able to do the things they can do.

"Like that jumping into the can-can splits. How mad is that? Because you've got to think, 'We'll need more Cagelles tomorrow. Clearly they're broken'. But no, back they come."

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