WHAT’S the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em?

Is it the quirky theme tune, brilliantly composed by Ronnie Hazlehurst and featuring a piccolo spelling out the title in Morse Code?

Maybe it’s the extraordinary stunts, which saw the hapless but hilarious Frank Spencer dangling above a cliff edge, roller skating on the back of a bus or being catapulted through a church roof?

But most likely it’s Michael Crawford’s memorable portrayal of the loveable Frank, with his eager-to please, heart-in-the-right-place attitude who never seems to get it quite right and his “Oooh Betty” catchphrase.

Crawford is so inextricably linked with the role in the TV series which ran for three series in the 1970s that it seems almost impossible to think of anyone else in the role.

Step forward Joe Pasquale.

The stand-up comedian and actor has taken on the role in the Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em stage show, which comes to Darlington Hippodrome for a five day run from Tuesday, July 3.

The Frank Spencer character is so iconic and beloved that Pasquale admits to being a little daunted at first.

Which is why, having been disappointed by other “terrible” stage versions of TV comedies, Pasquale and writer/director Guy Unsworth resolved to do things the right way.

“When me and the director first had this idea three years ago, we said that if we were going to do it we were going to do it properly,” he tells me.

“I loved the show, as most people do, so we were determined it had to be done right. It’s such an iconic show and role, we felt it deserved a little more”

It took two years of developing the script and holding workshops to come up with the finished product, to make sure the show – still set in the 1970s –would be fresh and funny, as well as staying true to the original.

Pasquale was conscious of the potential for his performance to be compared with Michael Crawford’s, which is why he was clear from the outset that he would not be imitating him – considering that would be “an insult” to the man who he describes as “a genius”.

“This is just as precious to me as it is to Michael Crawford and I’m very protective of it,” he says.

Perhaps a measure of how well Pasquale has managed to make the role his own is the fact that in his contract, he is identified as the only person allowed to play Frank in the show – something of which he says he is very proud.

The reaction from audiences has also been encouraging. Many of the younger members have no frame of reference anyway, but even those who remember the original accept the ‘new Frank’ within five minutes, he says.

It has received a series of rave reviews, many national newspapers giving it a five star rating, with praise for the script, Pasquale’s performance and the ‘laugh-out-loud’ farce.

And Pasquale points out that Raymond Allen, writer of the TV series, has been to see the show a dozen or more times “because he loves it.”

Pasquale, who accepts that his own persona is “not a million miles away” from Frank Spencer does all his own stunts in the show, something which he describes as “part of the job, part of the deal”.

He is joined on stage by a strong cast, including Sarah Earnshaw as his wife, Betty, and Susie Blake as Frank’s mother-in-law.

So how does Pasquale explain the longevity of the show and the character and why, more than 40 years on, it still draws huge belly laughs from audiences?

“It’s just funny and that’s it,” he says.

“Funny is funny. Unfortunately, in these sad times you watch the news and it can be a bad world – when they come to the show, people know what they’re going to see and they know I’m going to make them laugh.”

  • Some Mothers Do ‘Av ‘Em, Darlington Hippodrome, Tuesday, July 3 - Saturday, July 7. Contact the box office 01325-405405 or www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk for tickets