Mrs Henderson Presents

For the 2016 West End musical, see Mrs Henderson Presents (musical).
Mrs Henderson Presents

Directed by Stephen Frears
Produced by Norma Heyman
Bob Hoskins
Written by Martin Sherman
Starring Judi Dench
Bob Hoskins
Kelly Reilly
Will Young
Christopher Guest
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Edited by Lucia Zucchetti
Distributed by Pathé
The Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • 25 November 2005 (2005-11-25)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $27,876,417

Mrs Henderson Presents is a 2005 British biographical film written by American playwright Martin Sherman and directed by Stephen Frears. It stars Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Kelly Reilly, and Pop Idol winner Will Young in his acting debut.

The film tells the true story of Laura Henderson, an eccentric British socialite who invested her money to create the Windmill Theatre in London during World War II.


The film is based on the true story of the Windmill Theatre in London. Eccentric 70-year-old widow Mrs Laura Henderson purchases it as a post-widowhood hobby and appoints autocratic manager Vivian Van Damm. In 1937, they start a continuous variety revue called "Revudeville", but after other theatres in London copy this innovation, they begin losing money. Mrs Henderson suggests they add female nudity, similar to the Moulin Rouge in Paris, which is unprecedented in the United Kingdom. The Lord Chamberlain (Rowland Baring, 2nd Earl of Cromer) reluctantly allows this under the condition that the nude performers remain immobile, so the performances can be considered art, the equivalent of nude statues in museums.

Because the theatre's auditorium is below street level it is relatively safe during the bombing of London, and performances continue. The performers bravely go on with the show even during frightening bombing raids, and the posed nude girls resume their poses, after ducking, as the whole theatre is shaken and the scene flats all round them sway when a bomb lands close by.

Maureen, one of the cast, becomes involved at Mrs Henderson's instigation with a young soldier, one of the audience regulars. Maureen becomes pregnant, is very upset about how it will affect her life, and hands in her notice. However, before the issue can be resolved, she is killed by a bomb while leaving the theatre.

Other scenes depict life in the theatre during the period. Mrs Henderson and Mr Van Damm frequently clash and squabble, but also show great appreciation for each other.

Eventually, the authorities want the theatre to close because of the danger of crowds gathering in the street outside the theatre. However, Mrs Henderson successfully argues: for soldiers going to die in the war this is their last chance, and for many of the young soldiers their only chance, to see female nudity. She reflects on the death of her son in the First World War, and how he may never have even seen a naked girl outside of a French postcard he'd been carrying when he died in a gas attack.

The film's closing credits explain that, on her death in 1944, Mrs Henderson bequeathed the theatre to Mr Van Damm.



The film received mostly positive reviews. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 67% of the critics gave the film a positive review out of 138 reviews. The Web site Future Movies described the film as "very funny, sweet and charming". Roger Ebert reacted fairly positively to the film, saying "Mrs. Henderson Presents is not great cinema, and neither was the Windmill great theater, but they both put on a good show.[1]"


The film won four minor awards and was nominated for 26, among them four BAFTA Awards including Best Original Screenplay, two Oscars, three Golden Globe Awards, and eight British Independent Film Awards.[2]



In June 2014, it was first revealed by producer John Reid that a musical adaption of the film was in the works,[3] with a workshop taking place the same year.[4] On 16 October 2014, the musical was officially confirmed and it was announced that the show would receive its world premiere in summer 2015, with a view to a West End transfer.[5] The musical is directed by[6] and has a book by Terry Johnson,[7] based on an original screenplay by Martin Sherman,[8] with choreography by Andrew Wright,[9] set design by Tim Shortall,[9] costume design by Paul Wills,[9] lighting by Ben Ormerod[9] and magic consultancy by Scott Penrose.[10] Music by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain (Musical Director on the 2005 film) and lyrics by Don Black.

The show's premiere production began previews at the Theatre Royal in Bath, on 15 August 2015, with its official opening night coming on 26 August, for a limited run until 25 September 2015.[11] Rehearsals began on 7 July 2015.[12] On 6 March 2015, initial casting was announced with the news that Janie Dee would play the role of Laura Henderson with Emma Williams playing Maureen.[13] Further notable casting included Ian Bartholomew as Vivian Van Damm and Mark Hadfield as Arthur.[14] On 7 July 2015, it was revealed that Janie Dee had withdrawn from the production prior to rehearsals due to personal reasons and that Tracie Bennett would replace her in the role of Laura Henderson.[15]

Following completion of the musicals tryout in Bath, it was announced that the show will transfer to the Noel Coward Theatre in London's West End,[16] with an official opening night of 16 February 2016, following previews from 9 February.[17] The majority of the cast reprised their roles with the exceptions of Mark Hadfield, who was replaced in the role of Arthur by former Eastenders actor Jamie Foreman,[18] Graham Hoadly who was replaced (owing to a prior contractual commitment) in the role of Lord Cromer by Robert Hands and Jane Milligan who was replaced in the role of Lady Conway by Liz Ewing.[19]


  1. Ebert, Roger (2013-02-05). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2007. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 9780740792199.
  2. "Awards page for Mrs Henderson Presents". IMDb.
  3. "Mrs Henderson Presents next in line for screen-to-stage treatment?". Whats On Stage. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  4. "Terry Johnson to direct premiere of Mrs Henderson Presents musical". The Stage. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  5. "Stage Version of Mrs. Henderson Presents Will Premiere in Summer 2015". Playbill. 17 October 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  6. "Phwoarsome! Witty gags and very risque girls make for a fun night of frolics at Mrs Henderson Presents". Daily Mail. 27 August 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  7. "Mrs Henderson Presents musical confirms Bath premiere". Whats On Stage. 17 October 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  8. "Mrs. Henderson Presents to transfer to the West End". The Hollywood News. 9 October 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "Mrs Henderson Presents Cast and Creative". Theatre Royal, Bath. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  10. "Mrs Henderson Presents". Theatre Royal, Bath programme. August 2015.
  11. "Mrs. Henderson's Presents, Musical Based on Film, Gets World Premiere Tonight". Playbill. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  12. "Tracie Bennett replaces Janie Dee in Mrs Henderson Presents". Whats On Stage. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  13. "Casting announced for Mrs Henderson Presents musical". Whats On Stage. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  14. "Full Cast Announced for MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS at Theatre Royal Bath". Broadway World. 6 July 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  15. "Tracie Bennett Replaces Janie Dee in World Premiere of Mrs. Henderson's Presents". Playbill. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  16. "Mrs Henderson Presents transfers to the West End". Whats On Stage. 9 October 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  17. "Tracie Bennett To Star in New British Musical Based on "Mrs. Henderson's Presents"". Playbill. 9 October 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  18. "Full Cast Announced for MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS". Broadway World. 7 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  19. "Full casting announced for West End transfer of Mrs Henderson Presents". Whats On Stage. 7 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
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