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Ian McKellen wants to play in a musical: “I’m available but incompetent” | Theater

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He’s played a wizard, a villain and the great Shakespearian protagonists – twice with Hamlet, 50 years apart – but Sir Ian McKellen declared himself ready for another challenge in his ninth decade: a musical.

Speaking to Mishal Husain on Radio 4’s Today program on Tuesday, the actor said he never had a list of roles he wanted to play but was still working on different types of production theatrical. “There are a few left – one would be the musical,” he explained. But can he sing, asked Husain. “In the bath, in the shower, in private,” he replied. “I sang occasionally – I did a pantomime at the Old Vic a few years ago.” In that 2004 production of Aladdin, he played Widow Twankey and sang “in a way,” he added. A full-fledged musical would be something else. “I can hold a tune but I’m not a good singer,” he said. “I am available but incompetent.

The star, who turns 83 this year, is no stranger to on-screen musicals – he played Cogsworth, the butler who turns into an enchanted clock, in Disney’s 2017 Beauty and the Beast and he played Gus the theater cat in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2019 stage film Cats.

McKellen is set to play a detective for the first time – and for one show only – in a fundraising production at the Park Theater in north London. He is one of the surprise guest stars to play the role of an investigator in a parody murder mystery. Part of the fun of Whodunnit (Unrehearsed) 2 – the return of a format first used at the park in 2019 – is that the actor playing detective every night hasn’t read the script beforehand and receives his lines through an earphone.

Early in his career, McKellen appeared in two plays by Agatha Christie at the Belgrade Theater in Coventry – but as a victim and butler rather than a detective. The actor said it was a playful but worrying prospect to be cast as the detective without any rehearsals and without having seen the script. “I think I don’t have much left to prove in my career,” he added. “Why not just do the things I love to do?”

The Park Theater has assembled an all-star lineup for the show, with spot appearances as upcoming detective from Dame Emma Thompson, Gillian Anderson, Clarke Peters and Suranne Jones. McKellen had her own casting suggestion: Sue Gray, the veteran civil servant leading the Downing Street party inquiry. “I wonder if Sue Gray will be free when the show opens. She could be a really good problem solver,” he said with a chuckle.

Ian McKellen wants to play in a musical: “I’m available but incompetent” | Theater

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