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Vicki Michelle Biography 1950-

One of the UK’s best loved and most popular actresses, was born in London and educated locally before attending the Aida Foster Theatre School. She quickly won a variety of roles in film, television and on stage but it was her portrayal of the seductive French waitress Yvette Carte-Blanche in the BAFTA nominated and award winning hit BBC sitcom Allo Allo, written by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd that gained her worldwide recognition. Vicki played Yvette for all nine series which attracted over a massive eighteen million viewers on a weekly basis throughout its ten year run and was ultimately sold to more than eighty countries including; the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, all over Europe (most recently Germany) and Scandinavia. Such was and is the shows popularity that it is still regularly repeated across the globe today. A stage version was also written taking Vicki on national and international tours to Australia and New Zealand, universally smashing box office records not least with sell out seasons in London’s West End at the London Palladium, Prince of Wales and Dominion theatres.

Renowned for her versatility, Vicki began her extensive acting career playing leading straight roles in television programmes such as Softly Softly Task Force, Minder, The Professionals and Play for Today but her wonderful gift for comedy timing quickly brought her to the roles with which she has become synonymous over the years. In addition to working on sitcoms such as; Allo Allo, Are You Being Served, Come Back Mrs Noah, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, Don’t Rock the Boat and Fancy Wanders, she has also appeared in regular featured roles on; Noel’s Houseparty The Dawson Watch, The Two Ronnies, Gayle’s World, The Kenny Everett Show and The Goodies as well as working with comedy legends; Ken Dodd, Dick Emery, Danny La Rue, Little and Large, Cannon and Ball and Lenny Henry to name but a few. She has also guested on countless TV chat and game shows including; The Generation Game, Blankety Blank, Through the Keyhole, The Weakest Link, This Morning, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, The Unforgettable Danny La Rue, Britain’s Best Sitcom, Comedy Connections, a Hotel Babylon Special for Children in Need and the documentary Pantoland.

In recent months, Vicki returned to her dramatic roots in the hard hitting and somewhat controversial television film, All in the Game in which she played the role of Emma, wife of troubled Premiership football club manager Frankie, portrayed by the incomparable Ray Winstone. The film followed the rise and fall of the corrupt coach as he ducked and dived in an attempt to avoid exposure. Danny Dyer, Roy Marsden, Idris Elba, Nicola Stephenson and Vicki’s real life sister Ann Michelle also starred.

Vicki’s soap debut came in the popular Yorkshire based series Emmerdale where her interpretation as the flamboyant Patricia Foster, mother of Jonny Foster, caused quite an impact on the sleepy Dales village when her initial arrival saw her cast a judgmental eye over her son’s gay lover. She has returned to the programme on several occasions since.

Her latest television appearances have seen Vicki voice her points of view on Loose Women, rummage through her drawers in the name of charity on Cash in the Celebrity Attic and cook up a storm on Celebrity Masterchef. Vicki lists the latter as one of her two scariest TV appearances despite excelling under Head Chef Gary O’Sullivan at London’s fashionable Criterion Restaurant during a busy lunchtime service. The other? Being suspended some twenty feet or more from a crane on the end of a rubber bungee and catapulted at a moving target while sporting a giant boxing glove covered in paint, on The National Lottery’s Big Ticket! An experience she was later to describe as ‘exciting’. All in a day’s work as they say!

Significantly less risky but equally heart fluttering was the actresses’ recent return to her role as Yvette in the one off special The Return of Allo Allo. Filmed to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the show, the episode saw several of the original cast regroup before a live audience to portray their characters for one last time. Tickets for the show were sold out in just two hours with demand far exceeding supply with audience response providing an emotional reunion for the actors. The episode set after the war, depicted Rene writing his memoirs and combined new sketches with archive footage, interviews with actors and a documentary style commentary. Attracting almost five million viewers, the programme was subsequently nominated for two Royal Television Society Awards ultimately scooping the top honour of Best Network Entertainment Programme. It was a delighted Vicki along with Jeremy Lloyd and Arthur Bostrom who received the award at the presentation ceremony.

A wide span of theatre work has taken Vicki from drama to musicals, comedy to pantomime. Her professional stage debut came at the Cambridge Arts Theatre playing opposite Dudley Moore in Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam. Following a UK tour, the production transferred to the then named Globe Theatre in London’s West End and it is for her stage performances that Vicki has become so highly renowned in recent years. Opening 2011 with her latest UK tour, she has just returned from starring as Sarah Daniels, a former variety performer involved in a complex love triangle, in the bittersweet and poignant comedy/drama That’s Love by Ron Aldridge and in which she played opposite Leslie Grantham. Other performances of special note include the hugely successful 25th Anniversary Calibre Production stage tour of Allo Allo in which Vicki again reprised her role as Yvette. Here she led the highly talented cast as the only original performer from the show with Jeffrey Holland adorning the mantle of café owner and unlikely war hero Rene Artois and Judy Buxton as Michelle of the Resistance. Initially taking to the road for a three month run, sell out performances around the UK ensured a six month extension taking the actors to a further eighteen venues.

In Joan Shirley’s The Tart and the Vicar’s Wife, Vicki starred as Glenda Parry, the split role of tart and vicar’s wife. This was a demanding role requiring her to act through the entire spectrum of emotions covering some highly sensitive, profound and provocative issues in the process. It was a challenge to which she rose with great aplomb and for which she received much praise from the critics. Equally demanding and rewarding were Vicki’s performances as Maxine in Richard Harris’ Stepping Out, introducing high energy tap dancing to her repertoire. The comedy Business Affairs by Jeremy Lloyd and John Chapman gave Vicki the opportunity to create the character of Hilda Bigley, a strong northern lass with a full blooded Yorkshire accent, while the role of Jacqueline, the wronged but not so innocent wife in Marc Camoletti’s Don’t Dress for Dinner, is one the has portrayed on numerous occasions and is a characterization she has made her own, proving the perfect vehicle for her to display her instinctive comedy timing and commanding stage presence. Other leading roles include; Vera in Dr in the House, Sally in Bedside Manners, Renee in Women of a Certain Age, Mina in Dracula, Ruth in Aybourn’s Round and Round the Garden and Table Manners, the dual roles of Dawn and Donna in Eric Chappell’s Double Vision, Gillian in Simon Mawdsley’s Audacity and last but by no means least, a variety of roles in the classic farces of Ray Cooney including such as; Pamela Willey in Out of Order, Betty in Funny Money and Linda Harper in wife Begins at Forty co written with Arne Sultan and Earl Barret.

Vicki’s introduction into musicals has proved particularly momentous for her with her first performances in the genre coming as the evil Bathsheba in the British musical adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It was a role she truly relished allowing her to display a side to her performing skills hitherto largely unleashed. Next followed what has undoubtedly proved to be one of the finest portrayals of her career, that of the wonderfully tyrannical and incorrigible Miss Hannigan in Annie. Her dynamic performances not only gained her rave reviews from the critics but rapturous responses and standing ovations from audiences. It is a role to which she has returned with similar results on a number of occasions since. Her next musical venture proved no less successful touring in the 50th Anniversary MTP production of the evergreen Salad Days in which she played the two hugely diverse roles of upper class snob Lady Raeburn and the alluring nightclub singer Asphynxia.  Taking on the leading role in any musical can be daunting in itself but to step into the breech with just seven days to the opening is exactly what Vicki was asked to do for One Off’s production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Here she won over many a new fan as the high principled ‘tart with a heart’ and whorehouse owner Mona Stangley. Producer Jonathan Parker heralded her performance as nothing short of a triumph. More recently the final months of 2010 were spent with master farceur Ray Cooney, performing as Vi Collins, the affectionate pub landlady in the writers new musical collaboration with cockney rock legends, Chas and Dave, Stop Dreamin’. A brilliantly conceived feel good production, the show is destined for London’s West End in the near future.

Always looking to extend her repertoire, a totally new opportunity presented it self when Vicki was asked to perform with English Sinfonia. Not only did she appear with them at the prestigious Cressing Temple Festival but also narrated Edith Sitwell poetry to William Walton Façade at the orchestra’s home venue, The Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage bringing a sparkling new dimension to the work long to be remembered.

Vicki is a seasoned pantomime performer believing it to be one of our country’s greatest traditions. Her many roles include; The Wicked Red Queen in Snow White, Lady Cruella (Wicked Stepmother) in Cinderella, Fairy Virtue in Mother Goose, Fairy Petal in Jack and the Beanstalk, Principal Boy and Genoe of the Ring in Aladdin, The Lilac Fairy, and Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, The Enchantress in Robin Hood and Mrs Darling and Harrietta (Hooks sister, created especially for her)) in Peter Pan. Vicki’s most recent pantomime role as the evil Carabosse in Paul Holman’s production of Sleeping Beauty at Newark’s Palace Theatre where she broke box office records.

Film credits include; The Greek Tycoon, Alfie Darling, The Sentinel, The Likely Lads, George and Mildred, The Priest of Love, Sweet William, On The Crest of Wave, The Last Days of Pompeii and Brahms and Liszt.

Commercials have also featured greatly throughout Vicki’s career having endorsed just about everything from kitty litter to sewing machines and best bitter to electrical goods. However, there are two ads for which she is particularly well remembered. The Sally O’Brien Harp Lager commercial with the slogan ‘The way she might look at you’ put Vicki firmly on the map particularly in Ireland but also sparked some controversy when it was discovered that she wasn’t actually Irish. None the more for that, Vicki is still asked for interviews on the subject while the name of Sally O’Brien has become legendary on the Emerald Isle, often adopted as the name of a pub. Back on mainland England, Vicki also appeared in an ad for Sekonda watches alongside the great Ronnie Barker. This commercial famously saw her create the character of Gwyneth, a young welsh girl standing on a cliff top awaiting an assignation with her admirer played by Ronnie B. Needless to say it was an ad with hilarious consequences.

Ever in demand, Vicki is currently filming the role of Deborah Whitton, a charismatic highly respected and successful casting director with a penchant for sharing the odd tipple and who makes a significant impact on all those around her. Shooting takes place over the next few weeks and Vicki is delighted that her daughter Louise Michelle will also be appearing in the production which is being directed by award winning director Graham Cantwell. The film is due for completion at the end of the year.

Future plans include pantomime at the Harlequin Theatre, Redhill and return to the role of Carabosse in Paul Holman’s production of Sleeping Beauty, December 2011.

Away from performing, Vicki’s working life is no less hectic incorporating a number of additional roles. In the early 1990’s she founded Trading Faces, a company that specializes in helping businesses by providing celebrities for personal appearances, after dinner speaking, product launches and all aspects of corporate hospitality. With her finger firmly on the pulse, the company continues to thrive and enjoy success under the expert management of its highly experienced Co Directors Ann and Suzie Michelle.

In addition, Vicki continues to make numerous guest and personal appearances the length and breadth of the UK. She is an accomplished presenter, most recently co presenting for Totally Theatre on the Ideal World TV Channel and is frequently sought after today as a speaker at corporate functions in addition to regularly hosting charity events around the country.

Vicki is a committed and active charity worker who continues to represent numerous charities on a regular basis and has done so over many years. She is President of The Lady Taverners – Essex Branch, an active member of the prestigious Grand Order of Lady Ratlings, a Patron of Essex Women’s Advisory Group (a charity helping the women and girls of the county to broaden their self belief by encouraging their work in commerce, sport and the arts) and a member of the Executive Committee for The Entertainment Arts  Benevolent Fund.

In addition she is Patron to no less than seven organisations involving charity and theatre work, Haven House Hospice in Woodford for whom she is at the forefront in helping to raise much needed funds; The Dream Factory and Hopes and Dreams which are two charities dedicated to granting the wishes and dreams of children with life threatening or terminal illness and disadvantages;  Blackfish Academy in Kent and Talent Time based in London, providing young people with the opportunity to learn acting and theatre skills and for the last ten years she has served as Patron of the newly renamed Friends of the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage where she may frequently be found supporting theatre club events and helping to promote the behind the scenes work of the theatre such as with charity involvement and community projects.

Vicki is also a regular supporter of The Heritage Foundation based in Buckinghamshire and has recently been honoured by the charity with the presentation of one of their prestigious Gold Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Charity together with Services to The Arts and a Tribute Luncheon at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London in recognition of her commitment to them and her life in show business.

Four years ago, the actress completed work on a strategy DVD to help teenagers with Asperger Syndrome and their carers. The DVD is the result of her long standing involvement in supporting and working with young people living with communication disorders and has been endorsed by the world renowned expert in Asperger Syndrome and Autism, Professor Tony Attwood.

Vicki is deeply honoured and delighted to have been awarded an MBE for Services to Charity by Her Majesty The Queen in the Birthday Honours List of 2010 in recognition of her past and ongoing work.

A tireless worker, scarce days off are spent with her husband, Director of Photography Graham Fowler, daughter, actress Louise Michelle, extended  family and friends, pursuing her many and varied hobbies and interests which include; swimming, yoga, keep fit, gardening, theatre, cinema, dance, classical music and ballet. Down to earth, level headed, ever the optimist with a wicked sense of humour (in fact a true Sagittarian) Vicki’s firm philosophy on life is, that if you can’t say something nice about someone, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Now acclaimed by many as an ‘Icon’ much to Vicki’s own amusement, a combination of a vivacious personality, captivating looks and of course pure talent have won her countless fans along with the reputation of bringing a little sunshine into the lives of all those she meets.

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