Matt Lucas finds 'refuge' in the world of musicals

Matt Lucas makes tenor Alfie Boe laugh as they rehearse for Les Miserables

Comedy actor Matt Lucas has revealed that musicals became his "refuge" from the world when he lost his hair and suffered health problems as a child.

Lucas says he fell in love with musical theatre after being "blown away" by his first experience of watching Oliver! at the age of six.

"It just felt like a safer world to me than the one I was in because I was six years-old and my hair fell out.

"I'm atopic (allergic hypersensitivity) so I had asthma and eczema.

"For me it was a real refuge, the world of musicals, long before I knew I was gay. Because there is this correlation between being gay and loving musicals, I'm not quite sure why, but maybe that was my coming out."

The insights into Lucas's past come ahead of a BBC Two documentary following him as he becomes a cast member of the Les Miserables 25th anniversary show in London's West End.

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The show's producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh offered Lucas the role after he told him how Les Miserables had been an important milestone in his decision to become a performer.

Appearing in the show was a dream come true for Lucas but he says it was also an emotionally draining experience.

"It was because when you're doing it you think of people who you've watched the show with.

"I first saw the show when I was 13, so there are a number of people in my life who I have seen the show with that aren't around any more and I wish were around.

"When something has been in your life for so long it resonates in many different ways, so it was emotional but it was utterly joyous."

'Not worried'

The documentary is one of four shows Lucas is appearing in over the festive period. They include The One Ronnie with Ronnie Corbett and an accompanying documentary, and the much anticipated follow up to Little Britain, Come Fly With Me.

"Yes apologies for the Matt and David nature of your Christmas," he jokes.

David Walliams and Matt Lucas Walliams and Lucas as check-in girls Melody and Keeley in Come Fly With Me

Come Fly With Me is a mock-documentary set in a real airport and sees Lucas and Walliams take on 50 new characters.

Despite the show following on from the massive success of Little Britain, Lucas says he is not concerned about expectations: "I'm not worried, because I've watched the shows back and I'm really pleased with how they've come out."

He will not be losing sleep about whether they can repeat the success of Little Britain.

"It would not be a good use of our time to sit and think we have to make something as big as Little Britain, because Little Britain was so much of a bigger show that we ever dreamed a show could be.

"We just concentrated on doing the best show we could do and we've come up with something that is different. I'm really proud of the show and excited about it."

Sharp and funny

Like his appearance in Les Miserables, The One Ronnie also came about because of a childhood obsession, this time with The Two Ronnies.

The sketch show is Ronnie Corbett's first festive programme without his partner, the late Ronnie Barker, and Lucas and Walliams came up with the idea and produced the show.

Matt Lucas is joined by Ronnie Corbett in a comedy sketch about Songs of Praise

The duo also star in it with Corbett and other younger comedians including Catherine Tate and Miranda Hart.

"It was a thrill to be a part of that show. He's still sharp and still funny - his humour is traditional but he has a really strong contemporary sensibility," says Lucas.

He adds that he was aware Corbett felt emotional making the show without Ronnie Barker.

"I'm sure it was difficult and a challenge in that way and David and I were very keen to be sensitive to that at all times."

For fans of The Two Ronnies they aimed to "invoke the best of what they did and at the same time be utterly respectful to the fact that you can reference it but you can't recreate it", says Lucas.

So with four programmes over Christmas will he be sitting down to watch any of them?

"No, I'll be watching everyone else, like The Royle Family," he says, "and hopefully other people will enjoy the work we've done."

Les Mis at 25: Matt Lucas Dreams the Dream can be seen on BBC Two on 29 December at 2000 GMT; The One Ronnie will be broadcast on BBC One on 25 December at 1710 GMT; Come Fly With Me will be broadcast on BBC One on 25 December at 2200 GMT.

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