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Sally Hughes on ... Doris Day's Sentimental Journey

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A Sentimental Journey: The Story of Doris Day opens at Wilton’s Music Hall this week, starring Sally Hughes as Hollywood’s other bubbly blonde. A consummate singer, dancer, comedienne and actress, Doris Day became one of the biggest box-office stars in the world. But behind the screen was a story that rivalled any script Hollywood could dream up. Here, Hughes, reveals why she is delighted to be bringing it to the stage.

I always wanted to be Doris Day. Well, it was typical of girls of my generation, looking up at that glamour-puss of the big screen, the blue-eyed blonde, surrounded by gorgeous guys and leading a technicolour life. With violins in the background.

At a chance meeting with young writer Adam Rolston – in Venice of all places – I told him about my puzzlement that the Doris Day story was yet to be told. Adam did some research and decided the best way to unfold Doris’s life was through the eyes of her son, Terry Melcher. Adam took his script to Alvin Rakoff, one of the nation’s most experienced directors, who at first pooh-poohed the idea. Alvin was bred on kitchen-sink realism. “That platinum hair cemented into place. Ugh,” he said. Until Adam listed the facts.

Doris sang in front of a big band at the age of 15. By 18, she was a single mother. Her first husband, a trombonist, beat her violently and regularly. Her second husband abandoned her. Her third stole all her money. Her fourth husband is not worth mentioning. Husband number five is neither confirmed nor denied. Ås Doris says in the show: “If men were apples, I’d go to the barrel and pick the rotten ones.”

And so Adam and Ålvin – my two AR’s, as I call them – evolved a script. A Sentimental Journey: The story of Doris Day was presented at The Mill at Sonning theatre last spring. Now we transfer to the lovely Wilton’s with the support of so much talent. Actors Glyn Kerslake, Ian McLarnon, Elizabeth Elvin and Mark Halliday are doubling, trebling, sometimes quadrupling, in other roles. Musical director Jo Stewart leads a band of four, choreography is by Joe Pitcher and the set is designed by the legendary Eileen Diss.

Doris Day recorded more than 650 – yes, count them, 650 – hit singles and starred in no less than 39 films! A star of such magnitude really deserves the world-wide respect that she earned.

A Sentimental Journey uses her songs to tell her story. It’s a vehicle – an excuse, if you like – to present 26 of her best known hits. One of the songs is ‘Ain’t We Got Fun’. We hope the audiences will think it is fun. As for me, I am thrilled to at last be Doris Day. 

A Sentimental Journey runs at Wilton's Music Hall from 9 Mar - 4 Apr. See www.wiltons.org.uk for details.


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