YOU might think having three shows on the go at the same time – two of which are coming to Southampton this year – would keep Arlene Phillips busy.
But producing Midnight Tango, which opens at The Mayflower on Tuesday and directing and choreographing Starlight Express, which is at the theatre in November, along with The Wizard of Oz, are just part of her busy schedule.
As well as appearing on television she has found time to pen a series of children’s stories, a book about her favourite musicals and go into dress designing.
Luckily, she loves what she does.
“I’m passionate about my work,”
“It doesn’t feel like work so I’m very fortunate.”
Co-producing Midnight Tango with Adam Spiegel is the first time Arlene has taken on a producer role and she’s relished the challenge.
“It’s extremely exciting and a very different role to that on Starlight Express,” she says.
“When Adam Spiegel came to me and asked if I would like to co-produce a show with (Strictly Come Dancing stars) Vincent and Flavia I said ‘absolutely!’.
“We had to come up with the director, designers and a story. Obviously it was going to be Argentine Tango because that’s their speciality.
“We knew we wanted this to be a dance show with a difference – one that told a story. Essentially it’s a musical without words.
“In a way it was hard for me to step back from being the director because as the director you are in control, but as producer you can sort of interfere with every department!” she laughs.
If Arlene’s love of clothes is anything to go by, one of those departments will have been wardrobe.
She has been working with company Marisota to design a number of clothing collections and is loving it.
“I’ve always worn a lot of vintage clothes and ones I’ve had made for me and from my own designs,” she says.
“If I get something new, it becomes my favourite outfit until I’ve worked it to death but I do love bringing out my vintage clothes. I’ve got a wonderful red dress from the 1950s that I bring out again and again – I love it. I love my new collection with Marisota I’ve got a very simple black dress and I can’t wait for that to go into production, because I want to wear it!”
Arlene might be busy but she says she switches off to spend time with her family.
“I stop being the working Arlene and become the home girl. I think it’s really important. My girls are grown up now, so it’s less pressure than when they were young, but I still want to make time for them. I enjoy their company and the company of my partner. I always take the summer off – it’s from when my girls were at school and I still do it.”
Arlene takes on new challenges all the time and has a pet project she would like to get her teeth into.
“I’m lucky to work with the dancers I work with,” she says.
“I find it such a joy working with such extraordinary dancers and one day I want to get a group of my favourite dancers together from all different styles and create something.
That would be my dream, I think.”
n Midnight Tango runs at The Mayflower, Southampton, from Tuesday to June 16.