His Father Took A Gamble and Opened Chiswick's First Bookies

But what made millionaire Mel Smith decide to make his musical debut in Hairspray?

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From Bookie to Turnblad - Chiswick's Mel Smith in Hairspray


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Comedian, actor, film director, writer and producer, Chiswick’s Mel Smith has undoubtedly made his mark on the world of entertainment.

Born and bred above his family’s local greengrocer’s store which they later transformed into Chiswick’s first betting shop when the government legalised High Street betting, Smith was educated at William Hogarth Primary and then Latymer Upper School before going onto New College, Oxford.

Perhaps best known for his comedy sketch series with Griff Rhys Jones, the enormously wealthy founder of Production Company TalkBack no longer needs to work. So why has he chosen to make his musical debut, aged 55, playing a failed joke-store proprietor in a West End stage production of Hairspray?

What could possibly have attracted Mel Smith, whose many acting credits include Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night and Winston Churchill in Allegiance, to playing Wilber Turnblad?

In an interview with The Telegraph, Smith explains "I said no to begin with because I didn't think it was a big enough part. It's like that Jewish thing about food, isn't it? 'The food is terrible and such small portions.' But then a friend of mine who was in Hairspray on Broadway said to me, 'You've got a great number in it, it gets an automatic encore.'"

So that explains that, for the millionaire son of Chiswick’s first bookie, it’s all about the numbers and the chance to double his output!

November 15, 2007