Rotherham theatre legend Dee Bennie-Marshall marks anniversary in style - by directing a musical

Rotherham theatre legend Dee Bennie-Marshall marks anniversary in style - by directing a musical

By Michael Upton | 16/03/2020

Rotherham theatre legend Dee Bennie-Marshall marks anniversary in style - by directing a musical
Dee with some of the cast of the recent Jesus Christ Superstar production

ONE of Rotherham’s long-running theatre fixtures is celebrating four decades in the business this week as her latest show takes to the Civic Theatre stage.

Dee Bennie-Marshall has clocked up 40 years on stage and backstage after signing her first professional deal as a 17-year-old.

And she will be marking her anniversary in fitting style at the helm of the latest RTSA show, Little Shop of Horrors, which opens tomorrow (Tuesday) and runs until Saturday.

Dee’s spell in the business dates back to 1980, when she flew to Europe just before her 18th birthday and signed her first professional contract, which involved touring Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

As well as directing and choreographing over 200 musicals and shows for many different companies, she also teaches drama and dance to school classes.

“I’m still doing my one-woman show but I’m not doing the can-can like I used to,” she laughed.

“Rather than the buzz I used to get from performing, my buzz now is seeing a bloody good show come together on the stage.

“That’s why I love RTSA — it gives young people the chance to do it on a professional set with a professional orchestra. That’s where I get my buzz now.

“I never thought I’d still be here doing it 40 years down the line, never mind still performing, too, but I’ll probably still be doing it when I’m 90!”

Dee said she was proud of the protegés who had thrived both in and out of showbiz, adding: “It’s so lovely for me that they have gone on to success.”

Dee took her first steps on the dance floor  aged three at what was then Minnie Thompson's of Wellgate and danced in the Walt Disney film Escape From the Dark at the tender age of 12.

Having discovered a passion for showbiz, she worked summers at Pontins and alongside Cannon and Ball, and notably became British Aerobics Dance Champion with partner Allan Rickwood, going on to perform at the World Championships in New Orleans in 1993.

“Some of the costumes we used to wear were pretty revealing,” she recalled.

“We went out to the world championships in America and they were even skimpier than what we were wearing — some of those outfits the men wore were amazing, too!”

Devoted to the stage, Dee went on to mastermind dozens of shows for companies across the region, including Rotherham Teachers Operatics Society, Rotherham Teachers Student Academy, which Dee founded, and Wickersley Musical Theatre Group.

Her children, Rob and Kirsty, have both followed in their mum’s footsteps, with Kirsty recently winning the hip hop world championship title, and her partner Rachel is also a regular on the stage and in the crew.

Despite having 40 years under her belt, Dee shows no signs of easing up — her packed diary for this year includes Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Our House at the Civic and Shrek the Musical at the Theatre Royal in Wakefield.
“People say: ‘When are you going to slow down or even stop?’” she said.

“I usually have three or four shows on the go at the same time and they’re all big musicals with lots of lighting and costumes.

“On top of that, I work in a school teaching drama and dance, have my own one-woman show and have a grandson who also takes up a lot of my time.

“But I’m very much one to always keep busy.”

Dee (pictured above with partner Rachel Marshall) revealed she won’t even let the weather hold her back, adding: “I’ve even done a rehearsal in the pouring rain outside when our room was double booked.

“The saying ‘The Show Must Go On is for real!”

And it is the positive feedback that keeps her going: “A lot of people go down to London to the theatre and pay £100 a ticket and then come and see our shows and say they’re just as good, if not better. 

“It’s things like that which make it all worthwhile.”