PUT yourself in Ryan O'Donnell's shoes for a moment. You've been chosen to play Ray Davies, one of the most influential songwriters and musicians of his generation in a musical based on the rise of his band the Kinks.

You are going through rehearsals – and the great man is sat in front of you.

"Ray was in watching one of our last rehearsals," said Ryan, who brings Sunny Afternoon to Manchester this week following massive success in London's West End.

"I had to deliver lines and songs probably about five feet away from him. It's not necessarily intimidating but I was like 'am I even getting close to the mark of how this felt at the time?'

"The thing is, you never really know what he's thinking as he doesn't like to give away too much.

"Ray was very hands on when the show was being created but now it's in its first skin, if you like, he tries to let it breathe. He did come back with some fairly good feedback the other day and said we were doing the songs justice and Ryan was leading it pretty well, so I'll take that."

Those expecting Sunny Afternoon to be the latest in a string of juke box musicals can think again. The show is packed with great Kinks songs but also captures the spirit of four lads from Muswell Hill who changed the face of pop music and the internal struggles that increasing fame brought.

"It's an excellent story and it's not just tune after tune - some of the scenes are really meaty," said Ryan, who has been playing Ray in the West End version several nights a week.

"I've been doing this show for 18 months and each time I do it, it still feels fresh," he said. "You find new stuff in the music and the text every day."

Ryan, who has previously starred in a theatre tour of Quadrophenia, said: "This play is probably the biggest challenge of my life.

"When I played Jimmy in Quadrophenia that was probably the dream role I could have hoped for as a kid as I was a massive fan of The Who and an even bigger fan of the Quadrophenia album. But it was nowhere near as challenging as playing Ray Davies in this show.

"It's so dynamic and detailed and you don't get a chance to breathe. Ray's on stage the full time besides the drum solo so it really take a lot of concentration to balance everything out.

"After doing this big screamy, heavy number, the next moment is a tender scene with his wife. It's great I love it."

One thing Ryan is determined not to do is an impression of Ray Davies.

"I feel as though I would be selling the audience short by giving them an impression rather than a performance," he said. "I try to think inside's Ray's head rather than think how would I do this. But I'm not doing an impression but trying to get inside his skin a bit more."

As well as performing with the show in the West End, Ryan has also spent the last four years as a member of rock group Jethro Tull working with another legendary front man Ian Anderson.

"Ian has been really supportive of my career and he always said 'if anything comes along that might benefit your career then take it as long as you can give me a couple of month's notice', which I did with this."

Rock star, theatre performer, Ryan is happy that's it's difficult to pin one label on him.

"I just want to keep on working and each time I do a job I like it to be a challenge and to be different," he said.

"Now I can't wait to bring Sunny Afternoon to Manchester."

Sunny Afternoon, Manchester Opera House, Friday, August 19 to Saturday, August 27. Details from 0844 871 3018.