By TONY BAUGHMAN Staff writerPaul Paddick studied acting alongside Hugh Jackman, trained in opera and commanded the stage in "Macbeth" and "Don Quixote."But the world knows "Paddy" for his frilly shirt, eye patch and tickley weaponry.For the past 14 years, classically-trained Paddick has portrayed Captain Feathersword on the wildly popular Australian kids' show, "The Wiggles." The friendly pirate and the four colorfully-clad Wiggles - Anthony, Murray, Jeff and Sam - scurry into the USC Aiken Convocation on Monday for two performances of the "Race to the Rainbow" tour."I've always been a clown," Paddick said in a telephone interview from one of the Wiggles' tour stops last week. "Even when I was doing amateur theater before I did my training, I much preferred to be the comic second than the actual lead because it was much more fun and a lot less pressure. You got to get all the laughs and subtly steal part of the show."A classical voice major in his native Australia, Paddick performed in more than 15 major productions - including a two-year tour of "West Side Story" and the Victorian State Opera's "Don Quixote" - before he was asked to fill in for friend Anthony Field (the Blue Wiggle), who had to undergo a hernia operation."Initially I was only going to do it for the five weeks," Paddick said.When the "West Side Story" tour ended in 1995, he was asked to join The Wiggles full-time. "I started off, I was doing Wags (the Dog), Captain Feathersword and Dorothy (the Dinosaur) for the first couple of months," Paddick recalled.Over time, the good Captain Feathersword evolved from a minor character to such a dynamic role that he is now sometimes called "the Fifth Wiggle." One reason for the wacky pirate's appeal, especially among parents who accompany their kids to the Wiggles shows, is his tendency to slip into larger-than-life celebrity impersonations."So much of the show just evolves organically on stage. That was one thing one day where Anthony said, 'Let's see what the Captain's magic buttons do. Ah, it makes him sing like Elvis,'" Paddick said. "It started off that stereotypically and that easily. It was a quick Elvis impersonation and it went down really well. So the next day it was Elvis and Mick Jagger and then we'd go from the sublime to the ridiculous."As the bit became more outrageous, he said, "it was as much about watching me struggle to do this as it was actually achieving it." Paddick has since added uncanny and hilarious tributes to Cher, Eminem and Metallica's James Hetfield to his comedic treasure chest.Though toddlers make up his core fan base, Paddick knows he won't wield his feathery saber forever - and he has no regrets about spending his acting years as an outrageous buccaneer."I've got a lot of friends that I went through drama school with and a lot of people I know in the industry, and I've been incredibly lucky as much that I've been an employed actor for 14 years unlike most of my friends," he said. "I might have missed all the hot leading guy roles, but as actor you can go straight into playing a dad and it's fine. There are all these roles in Shakespeare for someone older. There's always roles in plays."The payoff - in addition to, of course, the Wiggles' reign as one of the world's highest-grossing touring acts - rests in the faces Paddy Paddick sees every night on the other side of his eye patch:"It doesn't matter what you feel like that day of the show. As soon as you see the kids, they're such a good foil to feed back from. You see them smiling, you see them laughing, you see them dancing, you see them enjoying the show - and it's brilliant. As an actor, I could never have gotten that feeling from anything else."
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