It’s three weeks now since footballer Junior Harding was forced to miss a match -- because he was singing on stage in a musical.
But the rave reviews the Linby Colliery Welfare midfielder has received are still music to his ears.
Harding came up with one of the most unusual “sorry boss, I can’t make it on Saturday” excuses local football has heard.
For he had to tell Linby manager Dave Marlow that the lead role in Nottingham Operatic Society’s version of ‘Oklahoma!’ at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham took priority over a trip to Pinxton in the Central Midlands League.
The Dispatch relayed the story of Harding’s portrayal of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams (played by Lauren Gill) a couple of weeks ago. But since then, praise for Harding’s performance in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical has been overwhelming.
Reviews of the show have all included acclaim for the property landlord, most notably this one from renowned actor and writer Phil Lowe, who wrote:
“The song, ‘Oh What A Beautiful Morning’, was sung with great warmth and assurance by a handsome new member of the society, Junior Harding.
“Harding makes Curly instantly likeable and, like most of the characters in the show, someone we care about. The show was a wonderful, nostalgic night out.”
‘Oklahoma!’, which marked the 120th anniversary of the society, was a big departure from the football career of the 27-year-old, who was a member of the Hucknall Town squad that reached the FA Trophy final at Villa Park in 2005.
It was the first appearance on stage for Harding, who lives on Hucknall Road in Newstead. He hadn’t even auditioned for any shows before this one, although he’d always shown an interest in the theatre.
However, he confesses that he enjoyed himself so much that he described it as “the best experience of my life”.
Now he’s looking forward to more starring roles, including maybe one in the society’s next major show, ‘The Full Monty’, which is to be performed in 2014. Who knows? An appearance on ‘The X Factor’ might even be beckoning!