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Thoroughly Modern Millie - Russell Grant stars

Russell Grant

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

RUSSELL Grant will star as the mysterious and sinister Mrs Meers in the UK fringe premiere of the six-time Tony Award-winning tap dancing musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, which runs at Theatro Technis from October 1 to October 29, 2014.

Based on the 1967 film of the same name, starring Julie Andrews, Thoroughly Modern Millie has music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics by Dick Scanlan, and a book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan.

Set in the Roaring Twenties flapper era, Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the story of a small-town girl, Millie Dillmount, who comes to New York City to marry for money instead of love – a thoroughly modern aim in 1922, when women were just entering the workforce.

Millie soon begins to take delight in the flapper lifestyle, but problems arise when she checks into a hotel owned by Mrs Meers, the leader of a white slavery ring in China.

On its Broadway premiere in 2002, Thoroughly Modern Millie won six Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards, including Best Musical at both award ceremonies.

Before Russell Grant found international fame as the Astrologer Royal, he had a very successful career in theatre, TV and film. And it all started with a role in BBC TV’s Wednesday Play in which he played a Welsh boy intent on arson. He then went on to appear in On The Buses, Please Sir!, The Fenn Street Gang and all the Doctor series starring both Barry Evans and Robin Nedwell.

For over 10 years he appeared in classics such as BBC TV’s Canterbury Tales, which starred Joss Ackland and Barbara Jefford, and he was in the first ever colour TV production of the BBC’s Gazette.

His stage credits include tours of Ivor Novello’s King’s Rhapsody and Rodger and Hammerstein’s The King and I; and playing Slogger Williams with Chris Guard, Simon Le Bon and Keith Chegwin – at the time all unknowns – in the West End production of the musical Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

Other West End and national tour productions included Camille (Arts Theatre), Hans Andersen (London Palladium) and Iolanthe and he was one of the stars in the revival of Lupino Lane’s Me And My Gal at the Forum Theatre in Billingham before it transferred to the West End. He has also appeared many times in pantomime.

More recently, he played a snake in a charity gala performance of the Biblical-inspired musical Children of Eden (Prince of Wales Theatre) and, following his popularity on BBC TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, he appeared with Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone in Midnight Tango (Phoenix Theatre).

Speaking about his forthcoming role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Grant said:

“Once in a while a role comes along that you have secretly coveted. I started performing in theatre around 50 years ago and this is one of those roles – Mrs Meers! Amongst other recent offers on both stage and screen it was this role I had to get my hands on. Beatrice Lillie made the role so fabulous in the film and from the moment I saw her it was on my wish list of roles I always wanted to perform but was never likely to be offered – until now!”

Thoroughly Modern Millie is being presented by Entourage Productions, which was founded in 2014 by CJ de Mooi and Drew Baker to bring exciting and engaging theatre to stages in London and beyond. Their most recent production was the acclaimed musical Zanna Don’t! at the Landor Theatre.

Thoroughly Modern Millie has set design by Ben M Rogers, costume design by Andrew Cox and musical direction by Benjamin Holder. Further casting for yet to be announced.

Tickets: £15, £10 concessions (plus booking fee with discounts available). To book visit www.ticketsource.co.uk/.

Times: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm; Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.