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Obituary: David McAlister

Weill and Lenya at the New End Theatre, London, in 1999. Photo: Tristram Kenton McAlister with Judith Paris in Ken Russell's Weill and Lenya at the New End Theatre, London, in 1999. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Although he was an actor of vast experience, David McAlister was best known for playing the philanthropist Daddy Warbucks in the American musical Annie – first in 2006 and then on tours of the show across Britain between 2009 and 2011. In addition, he played the part when Annie was staged in Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand.

The wide range of his talent can be judged by his appearances in opera (Zeffirelli’s production of Pagliacci at Covent Garden); television comedy (Harry Enfield and Chums); classic television (Brideshead Revisited); and the much-loved BBC radio soap The Archers.

McAlister was also a highly respected figure in the world of voice-overs and opened his own studio, Crystal Clear Voiceovers. His voice can be heard in commercials running in America, Germany, the Netherlands and Dubai, as well as on many websites. Judi Dench chose his studio to record her voice-overs for Vodafone.

He enjoyed an early start in the theatre. While he was still only 12, he played Friedrich von Trapp in the firstWest End production of The Sound of Music at the Palace Theatre and then went on to appear in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country with Michael Redgrave and Ingrid Bergman at the Cambridge Theatre.

In other musicals, he was seen in tours of Stephen Sondheim’s Company and starred in the Ivor Novello role in King’s Rhapsody. He also played Kurt Weill in Ken Russell’s Weill and Lenya and Noel Coward in Sheridan Morley’s Noel and Gertie.

McAlister with Judith Paris in Ken Russell's Weill and Lenya at the New End Theatre, London, in 1999. Photo: Tristram Kenton
McAlister with Judith Paris in Ken Russell’s Weill and Lenya at the New End Theatre, London, in 1999. Photo: Tristram Kenton 

In 2008 he took the role of the ‘half-a-millionaire’, Horace Vandergelder, being courted by the scheming Dolly Levi, played by Anita Dobson, in a revival of Hello, Dolly!

On television, McAlister spent six years in the Channel Four soap Hollyoaks, cast as Dennis Richardson, a less than salubrious character, who was jailed for seven years for raping his daughter. More recently, he was seen in the BBC1 medical drama Holby City.

He became interested in creating characters for voice-overs during two years with the BBC Radio drama company in London. There were two remarkable occasions – at the age of 34, McAlister played a 14-year-old boy in an adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s Bequest to the Nation, and at the same age he performed a scene making love to Beryl Reid, when she was 76. Much laughter ensued.

David McAlister was married with a son and a daughter. He was born in Worthing on April 2, 1951, and died of cancer on June 26, aged 64.

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