MARK Williams is very happy to be able to add a new skill to his considerable CV.

For the star of the Fast Show, known for playing Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter movies, can now add ‘talking to the animals’ to his list of achievements.

Mark will be bringing Doctor Dolittle to life at The Lowry over the festive period in a new musical production which marks the 50th anniversary of the movie starring Rex Harrison.

Based on Hugh Lofting’s children’s story, Mark will be joined on stage more than 30 puppets, as he embarks on an adventure to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail that holds the secret of life.

“This is a big, emotional show,” he said. “It’s very exciting and it’s got a very strong heart to it.”

Mark, 59, admits that at times the emotional side of the show has got to all the cast.

“Oh, we’ve all gone at separate points, every one of us,” he said. “Even now, there’s one bit where I have to sort myself out and pull myself together.

“Yes the show’s about animals but it’s also about people. It’s about people needing to get along with each other. And in that tradition of great musicals, it’s about love and reconciliation and getting on in the midst of difficulties.”

Mark will be joined in Salford over Christmas by two former Coronation Street stars. Brian Capron, Richard Hillman in the top CV soap will play Albert Blossom and Vicky Entwistle, who was Vicky Entwistle for 14 years, will play Polynesia.

“I am very privileged to be part of this cast,” said Mark. “With the whole ensemble, the talent is outrageous.”

As well as having to act with an array of puppets including a talking seal and the legendary pushmepullyou, Mark also gets to sing in the show.

“I have always wanted to be in a musical,” he said. “I have been asked regularly over the past 20 years but I have never been able to do it before now.

“I’ve somehow always managed to get myself involved in long running commitments which have been marvellous. But now I’ve got the chance and embracing it fully.

One thing audiences won’t see, however, is Mark dancing.

“I have to say I don’t do a lot of dancing,” he admitted. “I think early on it was discussed but then they said ‘no don’t give Williams too much to do on that front’.”

So the chances of seeing Mark taking part on Strictly Come Dancing next year seem pretty unlikely.

“Over my dead body,” he laughed. “None of that celebrity thing, that’s not for me thanks.”

As well as promising to be a hugely entertaining family show, Mark believes Doctor Dolittle has a message which is very relevant today.

“The World Wide Fund has said that this is the last generation that’s got the chance to save the animals and they mean it,” he said. “Being part of the show, even though I was an animal lover before, I now respond to them on a more basic level.

“People with animals will pick and choose; they’ll like that one, that one’s cuddly, they’ll eat that one but they don’t like that one. That’s not really the point.

“You have to take it all on board really. It’s no good choosing the fluffy ones. We are all part of the same big family.

“Dolittle is a very interesting bloke. He doesn’t really get on with the world but he gets his chance to completely understand another world. That’s something he grabs with both hands.

“Along the way helped by the animals, especially Polynesia the parrot. She’s his companion and she teaches him a lot about people and about love. She very much acts as his conscience.”

Mark is particularly pleased to be bringing the show to the Lowry over the festive period - it runs for four weeks into the New Year.

“Oh, it will be a great show to come to in the holidays,” he said. “While we have been rehearsing it, loads of times I’ve thought of my kid and my nieces during a particular scene and though ‘oh they’ll love that’.

“I adore children’s responses to a show - it’s just wondrous. They are so very honest. If they don’t like it, that’s it – it’s no good trying to convince them. You can’t tell a child ‘he was marvellous in so and so darling’ or ‘the reviews have been lovely’.

“But I think they will be impressed. It’s such a big show. There is a cast of 25, there are 30-odd puppets and a 10-piece orchestra. It’s not five people in costume, a glitter ball and some backing tracks.

“It’s going to be like a big circus coming to town, which we’ve got of course. But the good news is there aren’t any clowns so coulrophobics (those with a fear of clowns) will be all right!”

Doctor Dolittle the Musical, the Lowry, Salford Quays, Tuesday, December 11 to Saturday, January 5. Details from 0843 208 6005 or