Narrator vocalizes Potter world

— The malevolent warlock He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named lives inside of Jim Dale.

So does the jittery house-elf Dobby, the gentle half-giant Hagrid, the sputtering poltergeist Peeves, Hermione the prim pupil and, of course, Harry Potter, the famous boy wizard with the lightning-bolt scar on his forehead.

Dale, 67, is the lone narrator behind the audiobook versions of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" novels, having created scores of voices during the hundreds of hours spent recording the five books.

In the latest installment, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," Dale breathed life into 134 different characters, creatures and critters delivering a nearly 26-hour one-man show about the clandestine wizarding world.

Do all these voices in his head ever become unbearable?

"No, I switch them off, and luckily I'm more powerful than they are," he said, chuckling in his signature soft, cheerful tone. "I put them away in a closet in the back of my mind until the next day, then allow them out one at a time."

Dale bends, tucks and ties his proper British diction into new personalities the way a birthday clown twists balloons into animal shapes. Sometimes Dale fears he's added the last new voice to his repertoire.

"Then you turn the page and: God, there's another one!" he said in an interview with The Associated Press from his recording studio in New York.

Dale's audiobook version of the latest novel is the fastest-selling ever, moving 135,000 copies since it was released Saturday, more than most audiobook titles sell all year. U.S. publisher Scholastic Inc. estimates 5 million copies of the hardcover book sold the first day alone.

Before his involvement with "Harry Potter," Dale was best-known for his Tony-winning title role in the 1979 Broadway musical "Barnum" and for his role as the villain Dr. Terminus in the 1977 film "Pete's Dragon."

Reading "Harry Potter" has brought a whole new measure of fame to the actor.

Many grown-ups have told him that they fell for Rowling's novels after overhearing his performances. "When a child listens to an audiobook in a car there has to be somebody driving it," he said. "So whether Dad likes it or not he's going to listen to 'Harry Potter."'

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