Eagle eyed locals will have noticed some new residents in East Devon over the past few weeks. The area around Sidmouth has been inundated with A-list celebrities, who have been shooting a brand new movie, entitled Melody the Musical.
Axminster railway station taken over by stars last week and the bustling village of Beer ground to a halt when the visitors were, quite literally dancing in streets.
The film will feature Hollywood icon Joan Collins along with a whole host of other famous names including Elizabeth Hurley and Michael Ball. The cast also boasts a Broadway superstar called Millicent Martin, who took some time off from filming to give us the low down and said, “I think it’s going to be a really good film, so I’m happy to be included.”
Millicent Martin is a Tony nominated actress who has appeared in numerous hit shows on Broadway. UK audiences perhaps best know her as the resident singer in the weekly satire show That was the Week That Was, but she is known throughout the world as the officious and shrewd Gertrude Moon in the hit American sitcom Frasier.
Millicent is playing Betty a singer and dancer who along with her best friend Bessie (Joan Collins) formed part of an entertainment troop in Wartime London. Although the pair have met on many occasions, this is the first time Millicent has worked with ‘Dame Joan’- as she refers to her- and tells me about the film: “Basically it’s about two women who were music hall ladies; they sang and danced as a couple. During the war they separated and I had to go back to my home because my husband had been injured in the war. Due to the chaos in London we lose each other. Many years later, I’m in hospital for a check up and I start to talk to my granddaughter about the old days.”
The story takes audiences on a journey, which starts in London during World War II. It was a time when forces from all over the world were in the city and the old time music hall was the main source of entertainment. The tale is brought right up to the modern day and Millicent tells me, “It’s lovely because you will get the modern musical style and also the old music hall, with the lovely theatres which were in London during war time.”
A plea went out last month from the Mad Dog production company who were looking for 500 extras from the local area to help with the filming. They were initially particularly interested in finding women over 65 who were able to sing to be in the background.
But it wasn’t just the more mature talent from the locale they eventually used however and local stage regular Josie Cable, 23, will see her name on the credits as she spent two days shooting in Beer. Josie was chosen from hundreds of hopefuls and taken to Fore Street in Beer to take part in a scene with Helen Baxendale. Popular boutique, Cinderella’s was used as a location and Josie said, “My role was as an extra, or background filler, so I did various things like going in and out of the shop and talking to people on the street.”
Josie spent the lunchtime with Helen Baxendale-star of Cold Feet and Friends-and the small group of actors who had been chosen from around the area.
Josie told me, “She [Helen Baxendale] was very down to earth and just came in to have lunch with us and was just part of the team.”
Filming is continuing in Ealing and the release date is yet to be confirmed.