Interview

Meet our Dolly - aka Millie Clucas

Millie Clucas is getting used to telling people she’s playing the Dolly Parton role in 9 to 5, the Dolly Parton musical.

“When I got cast, I really felt the pressure because it’s such a big role, vocally and emotionally, and I want to do the character justice,” she explains.

Millie Clucas plays the role of Doraleee Rhodes

Millie Clucas plays the role of Doraleee Rhodes

Millie plays Doralee, a buxom secretary whom everyone presumes is having an affair with her horrible boss, but is actually the victim of his sexual harassment.

“She wants to be liked for who she is, not for what she looks like,” says Millie. “I’m quite often cast in roles like this, but I’m not that person in real life. For two hours on stage though, it’s fun to embody that role.”

That includes acting opposite BATS veteran Steve Westwood, who plays the boss, Franklin Hart. “He plays the part so well, the audience will really want him to get what’s coming to him!”

Doralee teams up with colleagues Violet and Judy to sort out the boss in an unconventional way… you’ll have to watch the show to find out how!

Like her fellow leading ladies Nicola Morrin, who plays Violet, and Jade Nicholas and Laura Burrell, who share the role of Judy, Millie is making her BATS debut with this show.

“I guess the theme of the show is, ‘Together, We’re Stronger’,” says Millie, “and the four of us get on really well. We back each other up, and that’s helped us develop the friendship between the three main characters - it’s coming really naturally now.”

Attending the weeknight rehearsals means an 80 mile round trip for Millie, from her home near the South Coast. “But the moment I listened to the full soundtrack of 9 to 5, I thought ‘I have to be in this show!’ The songs are fantastic – of course they are, they’re by Dolly Parton! So you make the time!”

See Millie in 9 to 5 – The Dolly Parton Musical at the Haymarket, from 19 - 23 November. Buy tickets online.

Meet two of our 9 to 5 Leading Ladies

Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were an iconic trio of leading ladies in the 1980 film version of 9 to 5, playing the roles of Doralee, Judy and Violet. Taking on the roles in BATS’ production are Millie Clucas, Jade Nicholas, Laura Burrell and Nicola Morrin.

Yes, you did count correctly – BATS boasts four leading ladies!

The explanation is simple. So many talented women auditioned for director Nick Brannam and musical director Jules Dance, they decided the role of Judy should be shared by Jade and Laura. They’ll each perform at three out of six performances – and tossed a coin to decide which ones!

Jade Nicholas

Jade Nicholas

“The show’s got a lot of heart, a relevant message, and it’s also so funny – it’s a great night out at the theatre!” says Laura.

“The music is beautiful!” says Jade. “Dolly Parton is such a great songwriter. I’ve wanted to be in the show ever since I first heard the song at the end of Act Two – Get Out and Stay Out. It’s for anyone who’s ever been used by someone. It’s an important and empowering song and hopefully people hearing it for the first time will really relate to it.”

9 to 5 sees the character of Judy face the challenge of her first office job. The firm is dominated by nasty, sexist boss Franklin Hart. But Judy bonds with fellow workers Doralee and Violet, and together they prove that love, loyalty and friendship trumps office politics.

“Even though the show is set in the 80s, I know some of those old-fashioned attitudes still exist,” says Laura, “where basically the women are running the office, but the men are like ‘let’s not give them any ideas’. Have we really come that far? In some places, not really.”

Laura Burrell

Laura Burrell

Jade and Laura are both newcomers to BATS, and they have other things in common too. Both trained professionally in musical theatre – Jade even spent a week on Broadway – but both left performing behind as life took a different turn.

“I went travelling round the world,” explains Jade, “and spent some time as a volunteer at an animal sanctuary in Thailand, working with elephants. I was just completely happy. I went on to study animal welfare at the University of Winchester, and now work as a dog trainer.”

But though she no longer wanted to pursue performing as a career, Jade’s talents have recently been showcased in local productions of Anything Goes and Rent, and she is clearly relishing the role of Judy in 9 to 5.

As for Laura, she’s returning to the stage after having her daughter, who’s now one year old. “The main difference I’ve noticed is how my voice has changed in my time off. My husband works in London, so I’m calling in every babysitting favour I can to do the show! But it is absolutely worth it. I love 9 to 5, and I know audiences will too.”

You can see Jade and Laura in 9 to 5 – The Dolly Parton Musical at the Haymarket, from 19 - 23 November. Buy tickets online.

We chat to Liz Ilett - our Director for Oliver!

“I want audiences to laugh, I want audiences to cry, I want them to believe in the story.”

That’s Liz Ilett’s aim in bringing Oliver! to the Haymarket stage for BATS. Directing the show has been a long-held ambition for Liz, who’s been involved with the Society for more than 30 years. So what’s special about this particular show?

“It’s a musical that has soul and a ‘real’ story. It’s not ‘pretty pretty’, it’s quite grim at times. It’s very much an actor’s musical, and we’re trying to delve deep into the characters and bring out the drama of Oliver’s situation.”

Those characters include iconic roles like Fagin (played by David Izzo), who leads a gang of boy pickpockets, the caring Nancy (played by Kirsty Kingham) and the terrifying Bill Sikes (played by Ali Bagshaw).

Several weeks into rehearsals Liz says she’s “very pleased” with how it’s all going.

Liz performing in  Sister Act, May 2015 , as Sister Mary Lazarus

Liz performing in Sister Act, May 2015, as Sister Mary Lazarus

“It’s a really strong line up of principal characters. The boys playing Oliver and the Artful Dodger are superb. We have two teams of children playing the boys and girls in the workhouse and Fagin’s gang, and some have never been on stage before. The youngest is just eight years old. Repetition is really important to help them learn their scenes and songs.”

Memorable moments in the show include Oliver asking for more gruel, the sinister relationship between Nancy and Bill Sikes, and of course uplifting musical numbers like Consider Yourself, Who Will Buy, It’s A Fine Life and Oom-Pa-Pa.

Liz hopes youngsters seeing Oliver! for the first time this May, will be as gripped by it as she was when she first saw the film as a child.

“Oliver! caught my imagination then – and it never let go.”

Oliver! runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

Consider Yourself... the Artful Dodger! Meet Ashton and Ben

With his lopsided hat, cheeky grin and streetwise attitude, the Artful Dodger is a great role for a young performer. He’s top dog of a gang of child criminals in Victorian London, who gets to lead big musical numbers like Consider Yourself and share dramatic scenes with characters like Fagin, Nancy and Bill Sykes.

So it’s no wonder the two boys who share the part in BATS’ production of Oliver! are determined to make the most of it.

Ashton Batchelor

Ashton Batchelor

“Fagin’s gang is like a family”, says 10-year-old Ashton Batchelor, ”and Dodger is in charge all the time, he’s always on the move, so I’ve got to use the whole stage. I’m practising every spare second!”

Ashton attends two dance schools and has appeared in shows like Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and BATS’ production of Singin’ in the Rain last year.

“It just inspires me being on stage. Seeing the audience happy makes me feel good.”

This will be the second occasion 12-year-old Ben Hastings has appeared in a production of Oliver! at the Haymarket. But he didn’t play Dodger last time.

Ben Hastings

Ben Hastings

“No, I was Oliver then!” says Ben. “But now it’s really fun to be a completely different character. It’s a challenge to play Dodger, who’s always being jolly and making the most of his opportunities.”

Ben’s other previous shows include Joseph and Gavroche in Les Miserables with BATS Next Gen and playing the role of Benji in Priscilla Queen of the Desert with BATS last year. He is full of praise for the Society.

“I’m enjoying working with really talented people,” he says of the cast of Oliver! which features 60 local performers, including 30 boys and girls. “It’s going to be a really amazing show!”

Ben and Ashton will each appear in 6 of the 12 performances of Oliver!, which runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

Meet our two Olivers!

It’s one of the most put-upon roles in musical theatre. Within 10 minutes of appearing on stage, poor Oliver Twist has been denied food, chased, beaten and sold to a nasty undertaker. That’s before he even encounters gangmaster Fagin and the evil Bill Sykes.

Ollie Webb (L) and Edward Walton (R) ask for more chips at Oliver’s Chip Shop in Old Basing

Ollie Webb (L) and Edward Walton (R) ask for more chips at Oliver’s Chip Shop in Old Basing

Pretending to suffer those tribulations is a challenge for the two young actors sharing the part of Oliver across 12 performances, Edward Walton and Ollie Webb.

“A lot of the adults are playing some really horrible characters,” says 9-year-old Edward Walton. “But in real life they’re lovely, and I enjoy watching their performances, so I’ve got to remember not to smile when I’m meant to look terrified!”

Edward dressed up as Oliver for World Book Day at school last year, but hadn’t seen the musical before auditioning for the show. He’s enjoying the singing and acting, “but I find dancing the hardest. In the song Consider Yourself there are so many moves to remember!”

Edward’s previous stage experience includes playing Michael Darling in Peter Pan at the Anvil, Benji in BATS’ production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert last year, and various shows with Theatre 4 Kids, which is run by his mum Julia.

For Ollie Webb, who’s 11, the role of Oliver is his stage debut. He didn’t think he stood much chance of getting the part, but was told auditioning was “worth a go”. And now? “I really like telling the story, the journey Oliver goes on and who he meets. I’m learning to be focussed, and doing new stuff I’ve never experienced before.”

Ollie shares scenes with his mum Theresa who plays Widow Corney, the heartless mistress of the workhouse. “It’s fun! I know when she’s being horrible to me it’s only acting!”

With beautiful songs to perform, like Where Is Love and Who Will Buy, both Edward and Ollie are sure to tug at the heartstrings of audiences in this musical family favourite.

Oliver! runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

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