Stage Doorkeeper Jill Hudson was the first person I met walking into the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1986. For the next 31 years she was the first person most people saw.
Jilly was a smart lady with a big heart and an even larger presence; she ruled the Stage Door with a friendly smile, a quick mind, a calm demeanour – and considerable authority.
The news that Jill has died on January 6th after living with cancer for some time, just a few days after her birthday (on New Year’s Day), is a sad moment for myself and all those thousands of show-people who came across her, and recognised her as a happy part of Drury Lane’s glittering history.
She started at Drury Lane like me, in 1986, on the original five-year run of 42nd STREET, an incredibly happy show which had a real family atmosphere thanks to the warm-hearted management of General Manager Bill Cronshaw. Jill left in late 2017 due to illness, interestingly during the revival of 42nd STREET (which ran at the theatre for nearly two years until January 2019). She did say to me in 2017 that she wanted to retire on the last night of the show, but sadly that wasn’t to be.
For 31 years a favourite with the large casts which filled the Lane, the stage door was really Jilly’s home, with assorted cards and gifts from previous celebrity (and non-celebrity) friends, soft toys and of course Chelsea FC memorabilia. Visitors buzzed in and out constantly, always welcomed and the kettle was always on for a brew and a chat whenever time permitted.
Jilly knew how to be firm whilst being pleasant, qualities which many a visitor appreciated, and in terms of working relationships you knew just where you were with Jill- and it worked both ways. She was the best.
She will not be forgotten by those many people who met her, laughed with her and enjoyed her warm and happy Tannoy messages- especially keeping people up to date on sports event back in the days before mobile phones. Indeed, Twitter and Instagram have lit up with tributes since the news of her passing emerged – proof, if any were needed, that Jill was more loved than even she may have even known!
My thoughts and heartfelt wishes go out to her family and loved ones.
Thanks for all the happy memories, Jilly. Drury Lane will never be quite the same again.