Thoroughly Modern Millie director talks about City of Plymouth Theatre Company's new show
THOROUGHLY Modern Millie matches Katy O'Brien's approach to getting young people interested in performing.
Not for the city theatre stalwart the old idea that if you don't catch 'em young, they've had it.
Her own thoroughly modern take on performing arts is typified by the path she allowed her sons Will and Harry to take.
Will plays Jimmy, the male lead, in the City of Plymouth Theatre Company's youth section production.
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And Harry has another of the principal roles, as Mr Graydon in the show, which Katy directs.
"They weren't interested at all as children. But now Harry, who's at Plymouth University, is loving it and Will is really into it. He's doing performing arts at A Level.
"I can't bear pushy parents. I think you should just leave children to it. A lot of children come into it as they get older."
Katy was "into it" herself as a child. The stage is a fixture in the family: her mother, Angela Collins, is chairman of the theatre company and a veteran performer and director whose many credits include overseeing the Music of the Night spectaculars.
Katy wasn't pushed, either, and went on to enjoy a professional theatre career before marriage and children. She regularly performs in the main company – most recently in the title role in Sweet Charity last autumn – and runs the youth section, which also includes her third son, Finlay, as a member.
She is no stranger to the title role in the show that she is currently directing.
"I played Millie about five or six years ago," she says.
"That makes directing a lot easier. You know the show well and so you know what you want and how it needs to come together."
Thoroughly Modern Millie started as a 1967 film starring Julie Andrews and the stage version opened on Broadway in 2002. The romp begins in 1920s New York when our naive heroine arrives with the thoroughly modern intention of marrying for love, not money and gets involved in a series of crazy adventures.
"When I saw there was a junior version with the songs and the story still there but only one hour 15 minutes, I thought it was the ideal show," adds Katy.
"There's so much in it, tap, comedy, some lovely songs, and it so suits the company, because we've got some brilliant dancers but who can't do comedy, some who are great at comedy but can't dance, and some great singers – it gives them all a chance to shine."
Katy agrees that the show is not packed with instantly recognisable tunes, "although most people will know 'Ev-er-y-thing to-day is tho-rough-ly mod-ern'. I think the music is just lovely.
"With many shows you sit there thinking 'the songs are wonderful' but when you come out you can't remember any of them. With this you really do come out humming them."
The other thing Katy hopes to get humming is the ticket sales.
"With the younger age group in the youth section it's easy because there are mums and aunties and grandparents to sell the tickets but teenagers are terrible – they are too cool to push tickets!"
Thoroughly Modern Millie, starring Sophie Lee as the girl looking for love, is at the Devonport Playhouse on February 8 and 9.