IF you know Andrew Lancel’s face, it’s probably from one of two beloved TV shows. “Down south it’s The Bill and up north it’s Coronation Street,” smiles the actor, who played DI Neil Manson in ITV’s long-running cop drama and scheming businessman Frank Farmer, ‘TV’s most hated man’, in Corrie.

“Those two roles changed my life, but The Bill I was in for seven years. It was a massive part of my life,” adds Andrew.

Andrew’s current role is Captain von Trapp, the widowed father of seven children in occupied wartime Austria who falls for novice nun Maria in The Sound of Music.

It’s one of those musicals that means so much to so many people. What does it mean to you?

“For me, it’s all about hope and love. I don’t think you can hide from the fact that it’s a bit of a crazy world at the minute. With The Sound of Music, for a couple of hours you can sit in a theatre and see people who’ve lost everything get something back. It has a real presence of danger in it and it’s not a million miles away from what’s happening in certain countries now, but it is also escapism, and we all need a bit of that, don’t we?

“I think the reason why it is possibly the greatest musical of all time and certainly one of the most popular is that it’s just full of hope and love and fun.”

Playing Maria is Emilie Fleming, who was a finalist in BBC1’s talent show Over the Rainbow. What does she bring to the role?

“Maria is probably the biggest female musical theatre role. Whoever plays it really has to own it. All the Marias I’ve worked with in this production have been exceptional. Emilie is every bit as special, funny and quirky.”

Captain von Trapp is also a huge role. How do you balance following Christopher Plummer’s performance in the film with your own interpretation?

“I was determined to find the sense of humour and loving human being that must be in him. This is a man who has lost everything. He’s lost his wife. He’s losing his country to the Nazis. But there’s a big clue to finding him in the fact that there are seven children. If you’re a grumpy guy, you give up after one or two, don’t you? They kept on having children and loved each other so much, then the lights went off in his life, I think. He’s trying to keep things together for his children and for his country and he just can’t, so he puts his wall up. Then this sunbeam comes into his house and breaks those walls down.

It’s a lovely journey to play. It’s hard and it’s a big sing. It’s a responsibility, but a good responsibility.”

How do you take to touring?

“I love touring. It keeps you fresh. The Bradford Alhambra is just an honour to play. I remember seeing Nigel Hawthorne there. Whenever I’m there, I’m thinking about the people I’ve seen there.

“Touring gives people all over the country a chance to see West End productions. It can be expensive to go to the theatre, so you’ve got to give people something that’s real value for money, which I think we absolutely do with The Sound of Music.”

What were the shows that had an impact on the young Andrew Lancel?

“The show that opened my eyes to musical theatre was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. We had the original album and played it until it broke. Even now, you give me a chord, a line, a note from that show and I could tell you what the next line is. My mum also had the single version of If I Were a Rich Man by Topol. Fiddler on the Roof is still my favourite musical. So they were the two that made me go ‘What are musicals?’ If a musical came on telly I’d watch it. In those days, there were only three channels and The Sound of Music would be on every Christmas Day - so The Sound of Music meant Christmas to me.”

l The Sound of Music is at the Alhambra from Tuesday to Saturday. Call (01274) 432000.

Emma Clayton