Flowers For Mrs Harris musical celebrates British working-class, says director

Olivier-award winning actress Jenna Russell will play Mrs Harris in the new musical coming to Riverside Studios.

Hannah Roberts
Thursday 14 September 2023 09:00 BST
Hal Fowler and Jenna Russell rehearsing for Flowers For Mrs Harris (Pamela Raith/PA)
Hal Fowler and Jenna Russell rehearsing for Flowers For Mrs Harris (Pamela Raith/PA)

Director of the new musical Flowers For Mrs Harris has said that the production “celebrates” British working-class stories.

Adapted from the novel by Paul Gallico, the musical centres around Mrs Harris and her desire to buy a dress priced out of her budget.

Discussing the musical, which will arrive at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios this autumn, director Bronagh Lagan, said: “It’s a working-class story and there isn’t many musicals about British working-class stories and this really celebrates that.

“She has this want to buy a dress and that sounds very simple and it sounds that it’s materialistic but it was never really about her wanting to buy a dress.

“It was about the feeling that she had when she connected with art.”

A film adaptation of Gallico’s book called Mrs Harris Goes To Paris, starring Lesley Manville as Ada Harris, was released last year.

For the musical, Olivier-award winning actress Jenna Russell, who has TV credits in Gentleman Jack and Call The Midwife, will play protagonist Mrs Harris.

The actress said that the story had almost brought tears to the eyes of her partner when she was practising her lines.

“I was running lines in the kitchen with my other half the other day,” she said.

“We were just doing the lines and about three times he filled up (with tears) just going ‘I’m so sorry, God it’s so moving.’ And I went ‘I know and you’ve not even heard the music yet.'”

Russell’s character spends her day-to-day life cleaning houses, when one day, whilst working for a wealthy client in Belgravia, she happens upon a Dior dress that takes her breath away.

This incentivises Mrs Harris to set off on a journey and whilst the plot centres around a dress, cast members have said that the story is about much more than just a piece of material.

Nathan Campbell, who plays Bob and Andre in the musical, said: “The essence of the show is way more than Mrs Harris going to Paris and buying a dress.

“It’s about that want and need, and when you have that determination to succeed and seeing a woman who had been through lots of things in life decide that she’s going to do something for herself.”

Flowers For Mrs Harris will play at Riverside Studios from September 30 to November 26 2023 and tickets are already on sale.

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