Martin Milnes is a singer, actor, director and writer whose one man show The Falsetto has played to acclaim across the UK. His soprano range extends to beyond top D sharp, enabling him to sing operatic arias and musical theatre favourites usually sung by female sopranos at pitch in their original keys. The Falsetto is a unique blend of soprano favourites as well as comical patter songs and other serious numbers performed in his tenor voice, all linked with a comedy script written by Martin. His current repertoire includes diverse soprano, tenor and baritone works by, amongst others, Puccini (‘O Mio Babbino Caro’), Rossini (‘Largo Al Factotum’), Gilbert and Sullivan (‘Poor Wand’ring One’), Sondheim (‘You Could Drive A Person Crazy’), Bernstein (‘Glitter and Be Gay’), Coward (‘I’ll Follow My Secret Heart’, ‘Mrs Worthington’), Novello (‘Glamorous Night’), Schwartz (‘Defying Gravity’), Menken (‘Somewhere That’s Green’) and Newley (‘What Kind Of Fool Am I?’).
The Falsetto premiered in London in 2009 under the mentorship of New York cabaret star Steve Ross. The show then becoming the support act for Alistair McGowan in a charity gala in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and received five star reviews at the Edinburgh Festival. Festival Guide ‘Three Weeks’ Magazine wrote “This show deserves a cult following. You’ll probably never see anyone like Martin Milnes again.”
Since then The Falsetto has been seen in various formats for The Noel Coward Society, ClassicFest Opera Festival (Harrogate), The Players Theatre Music Hall Society, Theatre MAD Trust and various private functions. In 2014 Martin made a guest appearance for Talent Unlimited’s The Piano Brothers, singing an excerpt of his signature falsetto song, “Poor Wand’ring One” from The Pirates of Penzance.
Most recently Martin has appeared at The Pheasantry in Chelsea with his new Falsetto solo show entitled I Could Have Sung All Night, and also in the two man show Songs We Always Wanted To Sing – But Were Never Allowed To alongside broadcaster and author Russell Grant.
A specialist spin-off show, The Falsetto Sings Gilbert and Sullivan, sold out for three seasons at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton. This production featured soprano, tenor and patter solos, duets and quartets all linked by dialogue sprinkled with Gilbertian quotes. In 2013 Martin received The Evening Argus ‘Angel’ Award for the production at The Brighton Festival: “A show that defies description. Not theatre, cabaret, opera, comedy or drama, but a unique distillation by a unique artist” (Evening Argus).
Martin also made a falsetto appearance in Simon Butteriss’ Sky Arts TV series Gilbert and Sullivan: A Motley Pair.
In theatre Martin sang the soprano role of ‘Oscar’ in Un Ballo in Maschera for Opera Up Close: “Martin Milnes … is an electrifying presence even before he’s started to sing, but when he does one can hardly believe that a male actor could sing so high and loud with such apparent ease. The epitome of high octane camp, Milnes plays irresistibly …” (The Independent)
He made his debut in baroque opera with Ensemble Serse in the London Handel Festival, singing the role of ‘Araspe’ in Jommelli’s La Didone. Andrew Haydon remarked in Opera Magazine that “Martin Milnes’ divisions were brightly, stunningly exact.”
As a theatre director, Martin staged the first professional revival of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, The Grand Duke, at the Finborough Theatre in 2012. It starred Richard Suart, Stefan Bednarczyk, Charlotte Page and Bruce Graham, with musical direction by John Owen Edwards. Director and writer Mike Leigh wrote “Martin Milnes’ hilarious production of The Grand Duke is like a breath of fresh air. It totally destroys the myth, once and for all, that Gilbert and Sullivan’s last opera is a damp squib not worth reviving.”
After seeing The Grand Duke, Gyles Brandreth asked Martin to direct a revival of his play with music (co-authored with Julian Slade) Now We Are Sixty, about the life and works of AA Milne. The show played at The Kings Head Theatre starring Andrew C Wadsworth, Charlotte Page and Russell Grant. Martin has also directed a sitcom pilot starring Paul Nicholas, Fenella Fielding and Rosemary Ashe.
As a performer, his Gilbert and Sullivan credits include ‘Frederic’ in The Pirates of Penzance (Grim’s Dyke Opera Company); ‘Sir Joseph Porter’ in HMS Pinafore (Silk Opera); ‘Yum-Yum’ in The All Male Mikado (Union Theatre), ‘Sir Bailey Barre’ in Utopia Limited (Buxton Opera House), and ‘The Intriguing Waiter’ in Opera Della Luna’s Much Sound and Little Sense – a centenary celebration of WS Gilbert’s poems and lyrics.
Other roles includes ‘Moose’ in Crazy For You (Kilworth House Theatre, Leicestershire); ‘Vespone’ in La Serva Padrona (West Green House Opera); ‘John’ in Gay’s The Word (Jermyn Street Theatre); ‘The Waiter’ in La Boheme (Longborough Festival Opera) and ‘St Brioche’ in The Merry Widow (Buxton Opera House).
For several years Martin has led the singing in the Commemorative Service on Battle of Britain Memorial Day for the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, in the presence of HRH Prince Michael of Kent and Battle of Britain veterans. His recordings of ‘A Flower Tells A Story’ and ‘For The Fallen’, sung with Janet Tootal, are available to buy on CD in aid of The Wing, an interactive learning centre being built on the Battle of Britain Memorial Site in Capel-Le-Ferne near Folkestone.