Actor Ben Lewis is playing a macho man of the Wild West in the musical Annie Get Your Gun – and he admits it doesn’t come naturally to him.
Ben stars in the Crucible’s Christmas musical as Frank Butler, who is a sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, a spectacle that really existed and toured to places like Sheffield in 1892.
When Frank comes up against rival sharpshooter Annie Oakley, the sparks inevitably fly, especially as the couple begin to fall in love.
Ben described Frank. “He’s a man’s man and very much of the era.
“People don’t tend to revere people like Frank any more. He’s everything Annie isn’t, sexist and very egotistical.
“He’s very talented and not shying away from it and it’s what we see as arrogant.”
Ben said he doesn’t have much in common with his character. “It’s fun to play in that world which I completely disagree with. That’s the best part of doing what we do, you get to be that person for a while.
“It’s taken me a while to get into it. The director Paul’s been a great support and help in that.”
“In the context of a musical we’re trying to make the characters as grounded as possible. They were real people and very famous, important figures who had an amazing history.
“They were together for 50 years. Annie died and Frank starved himself and died three weeks later.”
Ben and Anna Jane, who plays Annie Oakley, are already friends as they worked together on the show Forbidden Broadway in London.
“I’m absolutely loving the chance to perform with Anna Jane again. I think she’s awesome,” he said.
“I couldn’t believe she hadn’t done the show before. She is this character in so many ways.”
Ben has enjoyed getting to know the show’s musical score, which includes several hits such as There’s No Business Like Show Business, Anything You Can Do and I Got The Sun In The Morning And The Moon At Night.
“The music in the show is ridiculous. I’m not an Annie Get Your Gun connoisseur but I knew a lot of the songs and it’s an awesome score.
“It’s going to sound absolutely beautiful.”
Ben is pleased that Frank’s role was written for a baritone like him, rather than a tenor, as is often the case these days.
“I spend most of my time making my voice go high in other shows.”
He added: “We all know Howard Keel, who played this role, from his films. His voice is like syrup. I’m not attempting that. This is my take on it.”
Annie Get Your Gun starts tomorrow and runs to January 21. Box office: at the theatre, call 0114 249 6000 or go online at Sheffield Theatres