It’s good to be friends with Millicent Martin. The beloved English actress might not do just one number in a new musical for just anyone, but since the author is British farcemeister Ray Cooney, one of the veteran star’s oldest pals, she happily agreed to appear in the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities’ world premiere of his first musical Twice Upon a Time. “We often get together socially and we always have a good time. So when he first told me about the show and asked me to help him in the workshop, I thought it would be fun,” she says. And right now, I only do things that sound like fun. She’s an eccentric old bird; the one thing I don’t want to play is the old lady in the rocking chair. That’s when I really retire. And Ray is great to work with; even when he gives notes, he treats everyone with humor and kindness. The whole cast adores him.”
In the US, Martin is best known for playing Daphne Moon on the TV series Frasier — “those were the sweetest people in the world,” she notes — and for the Broadway production of Side by Side by Sondheim, which she originated in London alongside her good friends David Kernan and Julia McKenzie.
“I remember when David first contacted Stephen Sondheim about putting the show together. He told him to go ahead, but said he couldn’t think of anything more boring,” she recalls. “But I think our little show really helped put his work into people’s consciousness, because you really got to hear all the lyrics. Plus, our voices blended so well together.”
Martin’s next gig is this summer, when she returns to London to star as Maman in the Open Air production of the classic musical Gigi. “I want to do all the great old ladies of the musical stage, and she’s a particularly feisty one,” says Martin. “Open Air is one of the few places I’ve never worked before, and it will be lovely to play a new venue. I just hope it doesn’t rain. England is a terrific place — and I miss my friends there — but it does have such awful weather.”