He holds a Guinness World Record as the longest-serving actor in an Australian TV series. And if Ray Meagher’s legion of fans have their way, he’ll continue to preside over Summer Bay as Alf Stewart for years to come.
Certainly for the actor, playing Alf is as much a joy as when he first stepped into the role 30 years ago.
“We’ve got such a terrific team here,” he says. “It’s a privilege to have a job for 30 years and really enjoy it for that time."
Ray also jumped at the chance to reprise another iconic role – that of outback mechanic Bob in the 10th anniversary celebration tour of homegrown musical, Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
The actor will join the hit stage production for its Brisbane season.
“I always think Bob is like Alf on Valium! He’s more of a laid-back character than Alf,” Ray says, comparing the two. Ray, who was born on a cattle property in outback Queensland, played Bob in the original 2007 Sydney production of Priscilla, as well as in the London West End and New Zealand.
“I definitely knew a few blokes growing up that were like Bob,” he says. “For a character like that, you grab lots of people you remember as a young bloke. But I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever do a big musical like Priscilla, because singing and dancing are not my forte, but I just love it! It’s fantastic entertainment. When people come to see it, they leave the theatre feeling good.”
So, does the 74-year-old kick up his heels for a dance number or two?
“Using the word dance is a stretch,” he chuckles. “But I do have a couple of verses of a song solo, which are the most petrifying minutes of the show for me!”
Indeed, Ray admits, despite being an experienced actor, the adrenaline never fails to kick in when he’s live on stage.
“I still have nerves; if I didn’t I’d be a bit worried,” he says. “You don’t get a ‘take two’ in theatre.”
And Ray hints Alf will continue to be kept on his toes in the coming months.
“Sometimes there’s a bit of trouble in there to be sorted out,” he says. “Other times there are family dramas.”
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