Thoroughly Modern Millie’s leading lady Amanda Holden (pictured) returns to the musical at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre tonight, 17 March 2004, after more than a month’s absence.

Holden had a week’s leave from 15 February 2004 but, on returning from holiday, was hospitalised for a kidney infection, generating myriad newspaper headlines about the allegedly perilous state of her health (See News, 25 Feb 2004). Her stage absence was prolonged this month due to contractual obligations to film two segments of the new BBC television series Cutting It.

Back at the Shaftesbury from tonight, Holden retakes the title role, which has been performed by her understudy Donna Steele, and is joined in the cast by Anita Dobson, who replaced Maureen Lipman as Mrs Meers earlier this month (See News, 10 Feb 2004). The company also currently features Craig Urbani, Sheila Ferguson, Mark McGee and Helen Baker.

Holden made her West End debut in Thoroughly Modern Millie, a Tony Award-winning Broadway hit based on the 1967 film starring Julie Andrews. The nostalgic musical comedy is set in 1920s New York where recent arrival-from-Kansas Millie Dillmount is determined to bob her hair, dance to jazz, get a job and marry her boss - all in the modern fashion.

The London production opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 21 October 2003 (previews from 11 October). It reunited the original Broadway creative team, including director Michael Mayer and designer David Gallow. The musical has new songs by Dick Scanlan (lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music), with a book by Scanlan and Richard Morris. It’s currently booking up to 15 January 2005.

- by Terri Paddock