Dame Judi accused Wayne Sleep of ‘kicking her’ after she snapped Achilles

Dame Judi Dench accused Wayne Sleep of kicking her moments after she snapped her Achilles tendon ­during rehearsals for Cats – ending her dreams of starring in the musical.

The actress was 47 when disaster struck a week before the ground-breaking West End show was due to open in 1981.

Dame Judi had begged for the role but her misfortune was to make a star of her replacement Elaine Paige, who had a top 10 hit with the song Memory.

Sleep, 71, recalled: “We were doing a simple gliding step and I was standing behind her and she suddenly went, ‘Ah!’ and froze and said, ‘Did you kick me?’

“I said, ‘No’, but I realised what it was. I knew it was serious because you could hear the ricochet. I didn’t say anything.”

The original cast of the Andrew Lloyd Webber show chat today on BBC Radio 4’s The Reunion: Cats – The Musical.

Director Sir Trevor Nunn recalled how Dame Judi, 84, pestered him for a part, telling him, ‘Oh, oh, oh, I’d love to be a cat’.”

He revealed: “When told it was going to be a big dance show she replied, ‘No, surely there can be a sort of old sleepy ginger cat, I’d love to do that’, and it was her impulse that landed the roles.”

But describing the rehearsal when she suffered the injury Sir Trevor, 79, said: “It was very shocking and very upsetting.

“The scream Judi let out made it ­absolutely clear it was more than a conventional stumble. I heard somebody whisper, ‘Oh my God, the Achilles.’”

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