Jamie Allen

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interview with jim dale 

(cnn) -- jim dale might be a respected stage actor who won a tony award in 1980 for the title role in the broadway musical "barnum," but to thousands of fans of j.k. rowling's "harry potter," he's the voice of the title character heard on the audio version of the book series.

in fact, on the listening library's just-released "harry potter and the goblet of fire," dale portrays 127 voices in all, the most voices ever recorded by one person for an audio book.

like everything associated with the book, dale is making headlines. he says he's been doing about four interviews a day since the release of the book.

the voice of harry

now, he's being asked questions like, "do you think you'll be remembered for your stage work, or as the voice of harry potter?"

"whether i want to or not, i think i will be remembered for 'harry potter,'" says dale. "but why not? how lovely to be remembered as the voice of harry potter.

"and to be perfectly honest, when you listen to the tapes, when you get to harry, it's just a younger-sounding voice that you're hearing. i haven't tried to make him different from the voice i have. so it's nice to think my younger voice of myself is the voice that kids are hearing as harry potter."

dale was born in rothwell, northamptonshire, england. but performing arts beckoned. dale has been an actor, comedian, director, a disc jockey for the bbc, song writer and a recording artist who worked with legendary beatles producer george martin.

and now this: he says he got the "harry potter" gig by chance -- someone with listening library had once seen him in the off-broadway play, "travels with my aunt." 

listening library officials thought dale's wide-ranging performance experience, and the fact that he's british (something rowling requested for the audio "harry"), would be a good match for the book. so they called his agent.

"never having heard of 'harry potter,' i said i'd like to read it," dale recalled. "having read it, i was immersed completely in the 'harry potter' world. i recognized that this was something exceptionally clever and very good and very well written, with a prospect of six more books to follow. so of course, this really whetted my appetite and i immediately said, 'yes.'"

job has perks

dale has recorded books one through six in the seven-part series. 

he was one of the first people on the planet to read "harry potter and the goblet of fire." he recorded it over a 10-day period at the end of may, over a month before "potter" fans lined up at midnight bookstore parties for a first peek.

"i was the first person in america to have the script and i think only the third person to know what the story was," said dale. "rowling wrote it, her publisher read it, and i was the next one."

"i really wanted to go on the balcony and shout, 'look what i've got!' and to tell every kid in new york. i guess that was the young jim in me wanting to come out."

the publishers, however, forced dale to sign an agreement to keep it a secret.

dale's hard work paid off in a way that most might take for granted.

"i was very pleased that my producer tim ditlow, instead of putting 'narrated by jim dale' or 'spoken by jim dale' on the boxes, actually put 'performed by jim dale,' " he says.
by jamie allen
cnn.com senior writer

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