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Tiki Barber balancing CBS Sports Radio gig with Broadway turn in 'Kinky Boots'

Former Giants running back Tiki Barber is appearing

Former Giants running back Tiki Barber is appearing in the Broadway musical "Kinky Boots" from Jan. 18 through March 3.

Eighteen years ago Monday, Tiki Barber played in the Super Bowl. But he will spend this Super Bowl Sunday the way he spends most evenings these days: appearing on Broadway in “Kinky Boots,” a show that once won a Tony for Best Musical.

That would be enough to make this an only-in-New York turn of events in his life, but there’s more:

It is complicated by the fact that the Giants’ career rushing leader spends his weekday afternoons as a talk-show host on CBS Sports Radio, a job that generally involves watching the Super Bowl.

So it goes for Barber, who since arriving in New York as the Giants’ second-round draft pick in 1997 has taken full advantage of the area’s experience-expanding possibilities.

That includes acting. In 1999, he appeared in a play called “Seeing Double,” and in 2005 in one called “Women of Manhattan,” both while he still was playing football.

“I got the acting bug a little bit, then I got busy with life and football and kids and it kind of just fell away,” he said. “But I’ve always loved Broadway.”

Now he is on it, in a big way. Barber is appearing from Jan. 18 through March 3 as “Don” in place of Daniel Stewart Sherman, who originated the role and will return for the show’s final weeks before it closes in April.

Barber said director Jerry Mitchell was intrigued by the idea of an athlete in the role, which requires a gruff, macho type. His agent, Mark Lepselter, spoke to Mitchell and by late December, Barber was preparing for his Broadway debut.

“A lot of people can’t see me out of the box,” Barber said. “But since I started my professional [playing] career, I have always been deeper than that.”

Now he is in the very deep end. But he said preparing to perform is similar to preparing to play football, from the physical demands to the intricate planning.

“It kind of fits exactly my personality and my work ethic, and I’m enjoying it,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”

Barber’s role is pivotal to the plot, but it requires less singing and dancing than most. Less, but some. He said his karaoke experience came in handy for the former, and his athletic background helped with the latter.

“It starts to come together in your mind, and then you just have to do it,” he said.

The most difficult part of the job, as for many Americans who play British characters, is the accent. Barber’s tends to come and go, by design.

“It’s hard, but they’ve been kind to me,” Barber said. “DB [Bonds, the associate director] told me, ‘We’re loose with our accents anyway. If you feel it, go for it, but if not, don’t worry about it.'"

Barber focuses on getting one or two words right andt does not sweat reciting entire sentences like a proper Brit. “Unless you’ve lived it, to try and replicate it, it’s impossible,” he said.

Barber’s castmates, many of whom have been working to reach Broadway since early childhood, might be forgiven for resenting a novice. But he has seen none of that.

“Not at all, because of how I came in and worked,” he said. “I’ve never been entitled. I want them to be able to depend on me . . . They’ve embraced me with open arms.”

It does not hurt that the football fans in the cast and crew were inclined to embrace him most of all. He said talking and watching sports, including for the Super Bowl, with them helps him keep up with that world while he is busy straddling both.

His logistics are trickiest on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the show begins at 7 p.m. rather than at 8. He does his 3 to 6 p.m. show with Brandon Tierney, leaves the studio at 345 Hudson Street in Soho, walks to the nearby subway stop, gets off at 42nd Street and walks to the theater, near the corner of 45th Street and Eighth Avenue.

“I’m usually in my dressing room by 6:22 or 6:23,” he said.

The next morning he catches up on the previous night’s sports events to prepare for the radio show. He credited his wife, Traci, for helping make it possible. Their daughters are 5 and 2. “She’s handling a lot that I’m away for,” he said.

Traci was to attend the show Friday with Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and his wife, Amber, among the various friends who have come to see him.

“It’s cool,” Barber said. “How many opportunities do you get to do something like this?”

It usually is terrible form to encourage a football player to “break a leg.” But if you see him now, feel free.

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