A report by Howard Campbell for South Florida Caribbean News.
The final chapter in the golden age of Jamaican theater closed on April 6 with the death of actress Lois Kelly Miller. She died at her home in St. Andrew parish at age 102.
A veteran of numerous pantomimes and plays, Kelly Miller was a contemporary of Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-Coverley, the legendary actress/folklorist who died in 2006.
Pirate’s Princess and Queenie’s Daughter were two of the pantomimes in which they co-starred.
Actor/playwright David Heron cast Kelly Miller in Ecstasy, his first play, which debuted in 1997. She was the voice of Mrs. Foster, a disgruntled middle-class mother whose son is in a relationship with a girl from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.
“I am familiar with Lois’ long history of wonderful work with the National Pantomime, but regrettably that familiarity was through anecdotes and memories of others who had worked with her. I didn’t attend many pantomimes as a child and by the time my own career began she had stepped back a bit. And I think it’s a crying shame that so little archival material of her work and the work of others in those wonderful shows is not accessible today,” said Heron.
He added that, “Those great pantomimes, Pirate Princess, Queenie’s Daughter, The Witch; all that incredible work that Lois and Miss Lou and Rannie Williams, Leonie Forbes and Charles Hyatt did onstage is nowhere, as far as I know. And so when the great ones leave us, as Lois has now, all we have are the stories.”
Younger Jamaicans discovered Kelly Miller through her small role in Meet Joe Black, the 1998 movie that starred Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.
Lennie Salmon, another well-known Jamaican theater personality, remembers Kelly Miller as someone who “was quick of wit and would always make you laugh and smile.”
According to Salmon, an assistant to Jamaica’s Entertainment and Culture minister, Olivia Grange, “Her generosity of spirit is what stands out to me the most. She always had time to share with the younger generation of theatre practitioners.”
Kelly Miller was part of a formidable cast of actors that appeared in theater productions in the 1950s and 1960s that are now considered classics.