Spotlight falls on Millie O’Connell…
A BEACON SPECIAL INTERVIEW
After graduating from the world- renowned Laine Theatre Arts College in Epsom, Millie, from Shanklin, not only won a place in the ensemble of ‘42nd Street’ in a top Paris theatre, but was also given the role of understudy to leading lady Peggy Sawyer, played by Monique Young. And just three days before the curtain came down on the three-month production, Monique fell ill, so Millie seized her chance to wow the packed audience at the Theatre du Chatelet with a stunning performance as Peggy. Millie, who has only just turned 20, attended the Gillian Cartwright School of Dance in Shanklin from the age of three to 16, and also became a member of the Spotlight IOW stage school. She then won a full three-year scholarship at the Laine Dance College, funded by owner Betty Laine.
Her three years of hard work singing, dancing and acting paid off just before she graduated last summer when the former Newchurch Primary and Christ the King School pupil was chosen to be part of the cast in ‘42nd Street’. She said: “I wanted be on stage ever since I can remember, and I used to go to dance school instead of doing my school homework. I performed in quite a lot of shows at Christ the King, and I was always a bit loud and outrageous. My first appearance at school was as Brigitta Von Trapp in ‘The Sound of Music’ when I was 12. “When I went to Laine’s I loved it, and there was never any negatives. I used to push myself forward and do it for me because I wanted to succeed. I left Laine’s last July, but even before then I knew I was going to Paris. “We travelled to France in October, and although I was in the ensemble I never thought I would step into the Peggy role. But when Monique fell ill, I was given the call at 2.30pm to say I was going to be on stage as Peggy that night. “I knew the routine well, because I had watched Monique’s every move as Peggy many times. So I rehearsed until 6.0pm, then went to hair and make-up, and the curtain went up at 8.0pm. In those final two hours I was so emotional, and tears were running down my face before I went on.
“I had dreamed of getting this chance to show I could do the part, and as soon as I went on stage I was calm throughout the whole show. I had such fun and enjoyed every second, and when the curtain went down there were just tears of happiness. It was a dream being leading lady in a Stephen Mear show.” After a short break back on the Island, Millie has now headed to London’s West End to join a new cast, brought in from Broadway, for another production of ‘42nd Street’, which opens at the Royal Theatre, Drury Lane, in April, and will run for a year. She said: “I am in the ensemble again, but won’t know if I am first cover again until maybe the day before the show starts. ‘42nd Street’ is my ideal show because one minute I am tap-dancing, and then the next I’m a leggy chorus girl. It’s exhausting, but I love it.” Millie has also appeared as part of a dance group on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ as well as performing in ‘The Entire Universe’ that was aired on BBC 2 on Boxing Day. After a short break back on the Island, Millie has now travelled to London’s West End to join the rest of the ‘42nd Street’ cast, who will be performing the show at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, beginning in April.
BY PETER WHITE