A Shakespearean actor…

If you read anything about Len Cariou it invariably says he is best known for A Little Night Music (on stage and subsequently on film) and Sweeney Todd, and there's no denying that his roles in both these saw him nominated for a Tony, an award which he won for Todd.

Cariou is happy enough about the repeated association even if it is a bit limited: "I think they're two of the best musicals ever written and I was very lucky to be part of both of them, though everybody forgets the classical career that I had. Before I ever got to Broadway I had a ten or fifteen year career in the classics. I haven’t done it in quite a while but nevertheless I did it."

He shrugs off a brief New York run in Henry V and The House of Atreus transfers directed by Tony Guthrie with, "that was centuries ago," but it would be unjust not to mention his work at the Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis) which included As You Like It, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Taming of the Shrew and King Lear.

Cariou laughs at the mention of him being described as Broadway Royalty. "Well, it's to be taken with a grain of salt," he says. "I think because of Sweeney Todd and Night Music and that connection with Sondheim, a genius of his craft. I think that's what people say because you're up there with the greats.

"When you win awards it really all begins and I think at the cabaret end of it, the New York audiences are there because of that history so, yes, to be taken with a grain of salt, but it's a nice thing to hear."

Before leaving London for a visit to Dance a Little Closer co–star Liz Robertson and then a trip to Italy with friends, Len Cariou hopes to have a look at some cabaret spaces as he would like to bring his show over here. This would be returning to his performance roots as he started out doing a night–club act in his native Canada but it wouldn't be his first appearance on the London stage.

Back in 1988 he and American director Joe Layton were involved in the ill–fated musical Ziegfeld. The show was a tribute to Florenz Ziegfeld with book by Ned Sherrin and Alistair Beaton and a score by Michael Reed, with songs from the likes of Berlin, Coward and Gershwin with additional lyrics by Sherrin and Beaton. Costing the then gargantuan figure of $5.5 million, after a poor opening in the Spring producer Harold Fielding made significant changes to, it is said, everything except the costumes and had a second unsuccessful first night in the August.

In his book Broadway Babies Say Goodnight, Mark Steyn says of it: "Ziegfeld was Fielding's show… within weeks of its shakey opening [he replaced] the director/choreographer, the librettists and the star, Len Cariou—Broadway's leading man, star of Applause, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd but dismissed by Fielding with the appalling slur, 'He's really a Shakespearean actor'."

Cariou describes the show simply as "a lost cause".