Thoroughly Modern Millie step out of the Jazz Age at Ferneham Hall, Fareham

South Downe Musical Society (SDMS) in rehearsal for Thoroughly Modern Millie, which is at Ferneham Hall, Fareham
South Downe Musical Society (SDMS) in rehearsal for Thoroughly Modern Millie, which is at Ferneham Hall, Fareham

Amazingly for such a stalwart of the local am-dram scene, this will be Helen Stoddart’s first show of the year.

Helen is taking the title role in South Downe Musical Society’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, and it also marks her first part on stage in a while. She has been directing the last few shows she’s been involved in.

‘I’m really lucky,’ Helen laughs. ‘I’ve managed to con people into thinking I can do both, I don’t know how! It’s time to step back onto the stage myself which is such a pleasure - especially with a show like Thoroughly Modern Millie, which is all about the fun and reminding myself what it’s like on the other side of the stage, which is great.’

Based on the 1967 Oscar-winning film starring Julie Andrews, it takes the audience back to the height of the 1920s Jazz Age in New York. It’s a time when 'moderns' including a flapper named Millie Dillmount were bobbing her hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce and re-writing the rules of love.

Helen admits she’s missed performing. ‘I’ve been living overseas with work for most of this year, so this is my first show this year, which is bonkers, when I think about how many shows I’m normally involved in! It’s a delight to be back.

‘You don’t realise how much you miss performing until you don’t do it for a while, and it’s lovely to have that creative output outside of work to be able to just forget everything for the evening and to concentrate on something else.’

And playing Millie is something of dream part for the performer.

‘It’s one of the those shows you grow up with. I think a lot of us were put in front of the film when we were younger – anything with Julie Andrews in is going to be a big hit in my heart, so it’s something I was totally familiar with. When I realised I was able to do the show, I was thinking: “This is perfect - big dance show, loads of tap, loads of big scenes, exactly my kind of thing”, so to then go on and be cast as Millie is just an absolute dream.

‘It’s such a great part, so much fun, and it captures that ’20s, “I can do anything” feel. There’s that real shift in society and changes in perception of women, and what could be achieved. What I adore about Millie is her absolute confidence - “I haven’t got anything, so I’ve got nothing to lose, let’s try it” - that absolute exuberance of youth.

‘It’s a real upbeat, feelgood opportunity, it has its darkness there, so it’s got light and shade, it’s got a bit of everything.’

It’s also a part to test the leads’ dancing chops.

‘It’s been a while since I’ve done this much dance, so I’ve been throwing myself into it. It is a test of the performers, it’s not only a big dance show, it’s also a big sing, so it’s getting yourself back into that mindset.

‘We’re so lucky to work with the people we do with South Downes, there are some fantastic people behind scenes, and the rest of the performers on stage – we get some real dedicated performances out of people.

THOROUGHLY MODERN  MILLIE

Ferneham Hall, Fareham

Until Saturday 

fernehamhall.co.uk