West End star Violetta celebrates 90th birthday in Southwater

Photo - Jeremy Grayson
Photo - Jeremy Grayson

Actors and show business personalities will be visiting the secluded Southwater home of the West End musical actress Violetta Farjeon to celebrate her 90th birthday this weekend.

Violetta was the star of the original London productions of Sandy Wilson’s musicals, The Boy Friend and Divorce Me Darling, in which she played the saucy French maid, Hortense.

The French star, whose family came from a village in the Pyrenees, was born in London but has lived most of her life in France, until moving to Southwater in 1987.

She is the widow of Players Theatre director Gervase Farjeon, and the daughter-in-law of Herbert Farjeon, who wrote the celebrated 1927 song hit, ‘I’ve Danced with a Man, Who’s Danced with a Girl, Who’s Danced with the Prince of Wales’.

In all her West End stage appearances, she has used only her first name, Violetta.

The roguish and bubbling actress stopped the show nightly in The Boy Friend – which ran for five years and 2,084 performances at Wyndham’s Theatre, London, from 1954 to 1959 – with her hit song, ‘It’s Nicer in Nice’.

Later she did the same when Divorce Me Darling opened at the Globe (now the Gielgud) Theatre, London, in 1965, with the song, ‘Paradise Hotel’.

The composer of both hit shows, Sandy Wilson, recalls Violetta’s dance routine for ‘It’s Nicer in Nice’ becoming “so vigorous that at many performances her vital assets often popped out of her costume and were on full display to the astonished audience!”

Among the many theatrical chums attending Violetta’s 90th birthday party will be the Southwick musical star Sheila Mathews, the first popular singer to appear at the inauguration of ITV in 1955, and the leading lady of West End musicals like Charlie Girl, Applause, and Me and My Girl.