Imelda Staunton To Receive Damehood!

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After over 40 years in the business, award-winning on and off-stage actress Imelda Staunton has received a damehood in this year’s honours list.

The 68-year-old actress has been given the honour for her services to drama and charity. Imelda says she is “really thrilled” to have been made a Dame and paid tribute to others in her field who have been recognised.

“I feel genuinely humbled to be recognised on the same level as the amazing actresses, all the great Dames, who have led the way for so many of us,” she said in a public statement.

“It is their talent, dedication, wit and energy that have paved the way for us all and have set the standards to which we all aspire.”

Other actresses who have received the same honour over the years include Dame Julie Andrews, the late Dame Angela Lansbury and Dame Judi Dench.

The King’s Birthday Honours 2024 list includes:

  • Strictly Come Dancing professional Amy Dowden
  • pop icon Simon Le Bon
  • Post Office campaigner Alan Bates
  • artist Tracey Emin

Imelda Staunton’s damehood and part in The Crown will inspire her latest role in Hello, Dolly!

With a rare talent that enables her to move seamlessly from serious dramatic parts to comedy and larger-than-life musical theatre roles, Imelda Staunton is one of our most versatile actresses.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in how she’s making the transition from playing the late Queen Elizabeth II in the final two series of Netflix’s The Crown – a role which she has said was particularly challenging to play, especially after Her Majesty’s passing in September 2022 – to treading the boards of the London Palladium in the guise of Dolly Levi in the musical Hello, Dolly! which opens this summer.

Whereas our beloved late Queen was a stoic, logical pragmatist who played her cards very close to her chest, fictional match-making widow Dolly is uber-bubbly, blousy, garrulous and gossipy.

In every respect, they are light years apart and yet Imelda tells us that, in some ways, she has taken inspiration from playing Queen Elizabeth in order to take on Dolly.

“The late Queen made a commitment to us and always did what she said she would do,” Imelda says. “She always showed up and never let us down.

“I hope it will be the same with me and Hello, Dolly!. We’ll be doing eight shows a week for 10 weeks, which is a serious commitment.

“Of course, Her Majesty’s ‘run’ was the longest of all. The principle is the same, though. You turn up when you’re meant to – no matter what. We all have bad days but you just get on with it. That’s your job. Your responsibility.”

Imelda Staunton played the Queen in Netflix’s The Crown 2016-2023.

Imelda seems to be thriving on the responsibility of playing Dolly, who was last played in the West End by Danny La Rue in the early 1980s. She’s certainly loving rehearsals.

“I feel incredibly lucky to be doing it! It’s so lovely to be in a place of joy, and that’s what this show is.

“The Crown was something else altogether. It was very challenging, serious and also quite sad. Dolly is utterly joyous – and that’s a very nice place to be. Especially at the moment when we all need a bit of an uplift.”

Performing Hello, Dolly! at the Palladium also has extra-special resonance for Imelda.

“As a child, I loved watching Sunday Night at London Palladium. So to be in the same theatre and on the same stage as all the extraordinary performers who appeared on the show – and other stars, of course – is pretty special,” she explains.

“But I can’t fill my head with that too much or I won’t be able to set foot on stage! It’s an iconic show being performed at an iconic venue, so there should be some special chemistry afoot as a result.”

It was announced in 2020 that Imelda Staunton would be joining the Hello, Dolly! cast.

This production of Hello, Dolly! was originally planned to open four years ago but, of course, we all know why it didn’t happen!

“We were just about to start rehearsing in the dreaded 2020 and then Covid happened. When restrictions eased, I couldn’t do it because of The Crown, so it’s gone on and on and on.

“It’s got to be good because people have been waiting such a long time. Also, you cannot do Hello, Dolly! under par! We’re giving it everything.

“It’s like anything else in life – the more you put into something, the more you’ll get out. It’s a great show. In addition to the fabulous tunes, it’s such a feel-good show – funny and sweet but not too sugary.

“There’s slapstick, there’s farce….It’s got substance, too, though. Dolly is a widow but she hasn’t given up on life.

“Life has to be lived. We’ve all had to realise that over the last four years.”

Originally written as a musical for the stage, Hello, Dolly! reached the celestial heights of super-stardom when Barbara Streisand played the lead role in the 1969 movie version. How does Imelda feel about following in her legendary footsteps?

“Barbra Streisand is Barbra Streisand,” she says simply. “She was too young to play Dolly Levi when she did, but she’s Barbra Streisand! I will be taking the role in a different direction but staying true to what’s at the centre.

“I’m looking forward to introducing the show to younger people who don’t know much about it. In fact, someone asked me if I was playing Dolly Parton.

“I was flattered!”

Book tickets for Hello, Dolly! over on the theatre website

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