Speaking to Gay Times, the Strictly Come Dancing judge confirmed that he wouldn’t try to adjust the leading female character into a drag interpretation.
“I approach it as an actor playing it as a woman – and seriously as a woman,” Craig tells of his take on stage baddie Miss Agatha Hannigan – the ageing mistress of the orphanage sweet Annie lives in.
“I don’t bring out and references or anything like that to me actually being a man. I play her as if I’m the real thing and I try and play her like a little bit sexy and sassier than most Hannigan’s. They’re normally battle-axes. I do try and vamp her up a bit to make her a little bit sexy as it’s generally played not like that. I’ll have a lot of fun!”
Craig adding hopes that this casting could open audience members eyes to the world of finding new light in more traditional roles.
“I think it’s something to celebrate,” he begins of gender-bending in title and signature stage characters. “It also opens the floodgates for women to play men and that’s happening in the West End anyway. It’s great that you can cross genders in that way.
“The beauty of being an actor nowadays is that those particular roles aren’t off limits. It’s wonderful for the American’s who would normally be against this type of casting to go with it and see that times have changed. Men can play women seriously and women can play men.”
Alongside the challenges of playing a female on stage, the openly gay dance sensation is hopeful his performance will broaden what fans of Strictly Come Dancing know of his talents – including that of his ability to act, dance and even sing. Legs and all…
“They’ve seen me sitting, obviously, on a Saturday night on Strictly Come Dancing and very rarely get to see my legs,” he laughs. “It’s taking me back to what I used to do 20 years ago which is performing in musicals. It’s wonderful to play such a delicious role like Miss Hannigan.”
And of his signature and brutal arrival onto stage? Craig knows it’ll be a real highlight for many watching – much like it’s been for his predecessor.
“People will be shocked. They generally are when I burst through the double-doors,” he mumbles through great laughter. “I attract attention because I’m quite tall but I’m the same height of Miranda (Hart – who played the role before him).
“It’s the striking thing isn’t it? I love it because it’s so reaction and with great intend for the character. It’s a modern look at a very, very old show, and goes to prove that oldies can sometimes be like the best.
“I get to sing a bit and dance a bit in Easy Street and get to act – using all three of my skills. A lot of people don’t know I sing, either. I think that will be quite shocking for most people, really. In a good way, in a good way I must add. I’m not tone death.”
Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. However, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, but that’s not before a few rather heated interactions with the wicked mistress.
“Oh yes, we always love that,” Craig cackles with laughter at the prospect of scaring little children nightly. “They say don’t work with children and animals and they’re all in this. It’s funny!”
And the name of the musical? That could be about to change…
“Hannigan! We will call it Hannigan and I can get the last bow then.”
Well. We’re down for that!
Due to Strictly Come Dancing commitments, Craig will not play the role on Saturday.
More information on Annie can be found here.