Tuesday, 28 September 2021

From Moulin Rouge to musicals

WHEN library assistant Sue Brown hits the stage in Henley, it’s bound to bring back some old memories.

WHEN library assistant Sue Brown hits the stage in Henley, it’s bound to bring back some old memories.

The 58-year-old Watlington resident now stacks bookshelves for Oxford Brookes University, but throughout her 20s she toured the world as a professional cabaret dancer.

On March 22 and 23, Mrs Brown is appearing in Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s show HAODS In Concert.

Along with more than 20 other members, she’ll be performing highlights from a range of classic and modern musicals.

The programme includes numbers from the likes of Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and The Boy Friend as well as Spamalot and Avenue Q.

HAODS hopes to raise at least £1,500 from the night, which will be held at The Studio next door to the Kenton Theatre. Proceeds will go towards refurbishing The Studio’s kitchen.

Mrs Brown, who lives in Chestnut Place, joined HAODS for its 2009 production of Fiddler On The Roof. She subsequently appeared in 2010’s Raffles of Singapore and last year’s version of Guys And Dolls. She was a member of the chorus in all three, a role she’s reprising at this month’s show.

Mrs Brown also played Stella in 2011’s Follies and Frances in Jack The Ripper last spring.

Less than a year after graduating from London’s Arts Educational School in 1976, Mrs Brown won a six-month contract at the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Paris.

Her stint at the burlesque haunt, which was immortalised in Baz Luhrmann’s film of the same name in 2001, marked the start of a decade-long performing career.As well as appearing at the long-defunct L’Hirondelle in London’s West End, her job took her to such far-flung destinations as Dubai, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

She also danced with renowned TV choreographer Dougie Squires’ Second Generation troupe in Salou, on the eastern coast of Spain.

She said: “Working in Paris was a wonderful experience, although I have to say it wasn’t anything like the film Moulin Rouge.

“I got the job after I saw it advertised in The Stage. I attended an audition in London and I was lucky enough to be chosen.

“You had to be able to do the can-can and there were lots of other modern dance routines with fans, glamourous costumes and big, tall headdresses.The show was fantastically colourful, but backstage everything was wonderfully organised. We even had to clock in and clock out.”

In 1986, she settled down in the UK and took up a new career in computer sales. She moved to Watlington from London in 1993. But more than a decade later, she felt the urge to return to the spotlight. She said: “I thought HAODS would be difficult to get into, but they were very welcoming. It was a lovely atmosphere and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

“The Kenton Theatre is an amazing venue and I felt like I’d come home from the moment I took part in my first rehearsal there.

“There’s a very diverse mix of people in the society, yet everyone is so easy to get on with you’re not really aware of all their different backgrounds.

“Not all of the members have professional experience, but they’re all extremely talented.

“I’m only in the chorus for about 12 numbers in this show, but it’s just great to be a part of it.”

Tickets are on sale at Henley Pet Shop in Bell Street. Alternatively, call 07514 054384 or visit www.henleyoperatic.co.uk

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