Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 19 Jan. '42) English actor, singer. Father was an RAF officer who died before he was born; a choirboy and a child soprano, he sang in Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde. Many films from '50 incl. Hello, Dolly! '69. He came to wider fame in long-running hit UK sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, but his strong voice and sheer energy made him a hit on stage: musicals began with Billy '74, based on Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse, with music by film composer John Barry (b 3 Nov. '33, York), lyrics by Don Black. Barnum was an import (music by Cy Coleman) opening in London '81; Crawford also played it in a TV film '86, then scored his biggest hit in Lloyd Webber's Phantom Of The Opera '86 (two million albums, five awards, an OBE from the Queen). He took Phantom to the USA, where talk-show hosts thought his career had taken a nose-dive because they hadn't heard of him since Dolly. Then he starred in a Las Vegas extravaganza EFX (short for special effects): with not much story and negligible music he played Merlin, Barnum, Houdini and H.G. Wells, constantly changing clothes and backed by a cast of 70, 500 tons of onstage scenery, 250 tons of overhead scenery, 300 speakers, 85,000 watts, 135 miles of wire and cable, each performance using 13,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen. He dodged flying saucers, animatronic dragons, waterfalls, earthquakes etc twelve times a week for a sold-out house of 3400 each time. Divorced with two grown daughters, he lived for the curtain and was often injured doing his own stunts; as the clumsy loser Frank Spencer in Some Mothers he had written his own stunts from his love of classic comedy, while "Phantom came from deep inside...I felt I was giving life to a soul.' EFX was said to be the most expensive show ever mounted, the MGM Grand, the world's biggest hotel, might get its money back by the year 2000, but meanwhile replaced Crawford with David Cassidy Sept. '96.