Obituary: Jill Martin
Jill Martin’s place in theatre history was secured in 2001 when she became the only actor to appear in all three West End runs of My Fair Lady. Then, she played Mrs Eynsford-Hill in Trevor Nunn’s National Theatre revival to Martine McCutcheon’s Eliza, a role she understudied for Julie Andrews in 1958 and took herself took in 1979.
She had also proved to be a “spirited” and “altogether delightful” (The Stage) Eliza in a 26-month national tour mounted by HM Tennent’s Southern National Company from 1964-66.
Born in Redruth, Cornwall, Martin made her debut in the chorus of Love from Judy at the Golders Green Hippodrome in 1950 and was later spotted by the impresario Binkie Beaumont, who cast her alongside Norman Wisdom in his first straight theatre role in Frank Loesser’s Where’s Charley? at the Palace Theatre in 1958.
Less successful was the Terence Rattigan musical Joie de Vivre, which closed after four performances at the Queen’s Theatre in 1960. At the end of the decade she joined Fiddler on the Roof at Her Majesty’s Theatre to play Hodel, returning to the West End for Tom Brown’s Schooldays (Cambridge Theatre, 1972) and the jukebox musical biography of JB Cochran, Cockie (Vaudeville Theatre, 1973).
In 1978, she was seen in Side by Side by Sondheim at the Garrick Theatre and in Sondheim’s Follies at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1987. Two years previously she had been in the original company of Les Miserables at the Barbican Theatre.
More recent appearances included Joseph Stein and Stephen Schwartz’s The Baker’s Wife (Phoenix Theatre, 1989), Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro (Barbican Theatre,1993), Adam Guettel’s Floyd Collins (Bridewell Theatre, 1999), the Charles Aznavour musical Lautrec (Shaftesbury Theatre, 2000) and, in her fourth collaboration with Trevor Nunn, Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques – The Musical! at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in 2005.
She also understudied the role of Norma Desmond in the final year of Sunset Boulevard’s original West End run at the Adelphi Theatre in 1997.
Jill Martin was born on April 25, 1938 and died on December 24, 2016, aged 78. She is survived by two children from her first marriage to the late production manager Thomas Elliott and by her second husband.