If cheesy turn of the century teen flick Coyote Ugly caught you at an impressionable age, it’s likely Australian actor Adam Garcia’s memorable performance in one particular scene had a profound effect on you. Stripping on a bar to the pulsating bass of INXS’s Need You Tonight while a gaggle of salivating women bid on the chance of a date with him, the sight of Garcia’s rippling abs and boyish grin no doubt swept away the last remaining vestige of heterosexuality for any number of gay teens (including this then-15-year-old viewer).

But for Australian audiences the ensuing decade has been largely Garcia-free, early-noughties roles in Bootmen and Riding In Cars With Boys aside. As it happens, Garcia has spent most of his time in London since the early ‘90s, forging a diverse career on stage and screen. He’ll reprise his most recent role, as the lead in Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs on the West End, for a limited Sydney season in the new year.

“It wasn’t really a choice I made to leave Australia and seek a career in England. It just happened that way,” he told the Star Observer.

“I came over with Hot Shoe Shuffle, ended up staying here and London really gave me a career. Had I stayed in Australia, who knows how things would’ve turned out. Doing films has helped my profile over the years I suppose, but to be honest I’m not too worried if people don’t know what I’ve been up to.”

The upcoming Sydney season will be something of a homecoming for the actor, who hasn’t graced an Australian stage since 1993 and, by his own admission, doesn’t get back home nearly enough (“My mother will attest to that”). But at age 37 — remember, dancer years are like dog years — how is his body coping with such an intensely physical show?

“I’m a little creaky, but compared to the 19-to-24-year-olds in the show, I’m just as fit. Which is good, considering I haven’t danced constantly in my career — I’ve done many shows where I just sing and act, with no dancing. This is the first proper dance show I’ve done since Hot Shoe Shuffle, so I suppose my body hasn’t had the chance to get worn out by now.”

Among his impressive theatrical credits — he’s played leads in West End productions of Grease and Saturday Night Fever — Garcia can lay claim to helping flesh out the character of Fiyero, the romantic lead in the blockbuster musical Wicked. He was among a small group of actors who workshopped the musical before its first staging in 2002, later going on to perform it in front of London audiences from 2006-07.

“It was really nice when the opportunity came around to play it in London – they didn’t even make me audition, they just let me take the role. Those initial workshops were pretty amazing though — working with Kristin Chenoweth, (Wicked writer) Stephen Schwartz…it was like ‘oh shit, that’s Stephen Schwartz!”

And in January this year Garcia put all that theatrical expertise to good use by appearing as a judge on UK talent show Got To Dance. But he insisted his judging style was a world away from the panto-villian theatrics of Simon Cowell et al.

“We have a lot of children and young people performing, and there’s no point berating or undermining them,” he said.

“So I think I’m the nicer judge – really, I’m just happy people are dancing. I manage to hide my envy very well.”

No-one wants to see the charming Adam Garcia picking on children.

“Not again; no way,” he laughed.

Judging child dancers, slipping into Fiyero’s tights — if you think that’s the extent of Garcia’s campness, think again: YouTube ‘Adam Garcia Kylie Minogue’ and you’ll find the pair — dressed in matching top hats and tails ­— duetting on a jazzy cabaret version of Better The Devil You Know for the 2001 TV special An Audience With Kylie Minogue. Is that the single gayest thing he’s ever done? There’s a pause.

“Umm … actually … no.

“Funnily enough, it’s also related to Kylie, but I think the gayest thing I’ve ever done was dressing in metallic green hot pants and a singlet top as a backing dancer for Dannii Minogue at GAY in London, just after I’d moved here.

“I’m essentially a Minogue whore, and why not? I’d always had quite a big crush on Dannii, so that was a thrill. And then, to sing with Kylie Minogue … not only was it as camp as tits on a bull, it was overwhelmingly fun.”

And while Garcia himself is sadly heterosexual, a decade on from that infamous bar-room strip, he’s still happy to talk about the effect the scene had on his queer fans.

“I still get asked about it every now and again. People still some recognise me and say, ‘Hey, you’re that guy! That Guy Who Danced

On That Bar!’ It’s a long nickname, but people do seem to remember me rubbing my nipples.”

Do audience members ever try and bid on him during shows?

“Not audibly, but perhaps there’ve been silent auctions. Maybe I’m actually owned by several people now. I’m like a prize racehorse.”

info: Tap Dogs, Capitol Theatre, January 5-February 6. Tickets through Ticketmaster.

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