Our regular series of coffee-break interviews… 10 Minutes with Louise Dearman
Louise Dearman is perhaps best known for playing roles of both Glinda and Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked – although not at the same time!
Other roles the seasoned West End star has performed include Eva Perón in Evita, Sarah Brown and Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jan in Grease … and many more.
A childhood friend of Kerry Ellis, Louise Dearman has also released a number of albums and appeared in various concerts.
Now, she is planning her biggest solo concert to date at the prestigious Cadogan Hall in London; that is if the theatre industry re-opens in time for 31 May…
We’ve just got to carry on as much as possible and try not to panic,” Louise tells me, putting on a brave face. “It’s very difficult not to, but it is important to try and remain positive.”
She talks about the upcoming concert: “Well, I had been very excited about it so, ignoring all the madness, just for a moment, I still am excited. Whatever happens, it will go ahead whether it’s on 31 May or a slightly later date.” I can tell that Louise is genuinely pumped up. “I’m so looking forward to it,” says the musical theatre star. “I don’t often say yes to solo concerts, the reason being… in a show where I’m asked to come and sing as a soloist, with an orchestra in the pit, I get given my songs, turn up, do my job, enjoy it, and go home. Performing a solo concert is so different as it’s ultimately down to me to come up with the set list, with my MD, so all the pressure is on my shoulders. There’s no break where I can walk off stage and let someone else have a sing. For me it must feel right. I have to feel ready for it.”
Louise will be mixing familiar numbers with some unexpected choices. “As artistes, we have to sing what the fans want to hear, the ones they almost waiting for us to perform; maybe roles that we’ve played in musicals, or big events we’ve been part of. Having said that, I still wanted this concert to be slightly different, so, I’m also throwing lots of songs in that I’ve never sung before; perhaps a little bit unexpected, maybe a song famous for being sung by a male vocalist, for instance. Whether it’s a Judy Garland song or something by Josh Groban, they’ll work and blend really well. I’ve ended up with a huge range of musical styles and, somehow, they’re all being pulled together beautifully by Freddie Tapner, my musical director, and Simon Nathan, my orchestrator.”
“Not playing a role, for a change, enables Louise to connect with her audience. “I don’t really work much out beforehand, although I will give myself certain points to make and things to talk about,” she says, preferring a natural approach. “I like to keep that element of the show spontaneous because everything else is so rehearsed. Anything to do with the orchestra must be so bang on, and I have to be so confident with what I’m doing. So there mustn’t be any surprises for me, music wise. But the moments I chat are the moments I can really relax, because it really is me just being me. In a musical I’m not myself and the audience won’t really know who I am, so I do like the chitchat in between songs. Plus, anyone who has seen me before knows that I do love to talk… as you can probably tell. Ha ha!”
Performing at Cadogan Hall marks a real leap in venue size for Louise. “I think my biggest solo concert in the past was a 400-seater at the Leicester Square Theatre in London,” she remembers. “That was way back when I was in Wicked playing Glinda in about 2010 or 2011. It’s funny, I’ve performed in front of thousands of people as a soloist in someone else’s concert, but normally as a guest. That’s happened in places like the Royal Albert Hall and Wembley. But when it’s just me, solo, this is the biggest so far.”
I ask Louise if her buddy, Kerry Ellis (one of our ex-cover stars) will be there to support her friend. “Aha! I hope she’ll be there!” is the instant reply. “She’s one of my best mates; we’ve known each other since we were about 15 years old. We are very good friends but also great supporters of each other. I’m probably her biggest fan and we always on the phone to each other talking up ideas, discussing what we can do together. So yes, I do hope she’ll be there.”
I wonder if the two leading ladies have ever come up against each other in a rehearsal room? “Listen, it has happened in the past when we’ve both gone for the same role.” Oops! “We often text each other and ask, ‘Are you up for this?’ ‘Yeah!’ But to be honest, if I’m not going to get a role, I want nothing more than for one of my friends to get it. That’s honestly the best feeling; knowing they smashed it and that they are going to be brilliant.” If only all the people panic-buying in supermarkets could adopt the same attitude! “I think when you get a bit older you get a bit more comfortable in your own skin, and with your talent,” Louise adds, philosophically. “It’s just the way it works. We are not going to win every role. I think people are under some kind of delusion where they think the phone just rings offering us lots of roles, but that doesn’t happen. We still have to audition and be right for a role. The reality is I turned forty-one last week so I am still too young for lots of roles but, at the same time, too old for many others. And there aren’t that many roles that are absolutely perfect for anybody, age-wise. So, I’m very grateful to have my concert career.”
Louise remembers the earlier days in her career. “Whenever I’m teaching students, and they might seem stressed because they’re graduating and they want to win their first job, I can remember feeling exactly the same at that age.” It’s funny how a few kind words of encouragement can go such a long way. “All I can say to them is keep doing what you’re doing and pushing forward. Don’t get disheartened. I can remember on so many occasions when I got a phone call telling me it didn’t go my way this time. I would get genuinely upset, crying for days and thinking I was never going to get a role or have a career. The reality is there are millions of people out there all wanting to do the same thing as you. You need to have the right people around you and the right attitude. When it’s right, the right role will come along. I’m a mum now too, and so my daughter is my number-one priority; everything else sits below that.”
So, at forty-one is Louise content singing some of the songs in concert from the odd role that may have eluded her so far? “Even though I can perform any song from any musical in one of my concerts, it’s very different when you actually play a role. I love acting. People will focus on the voice but I love playing a character and delving into that person when you walk out on stage. I’d actually love to do something completely different if possible, like some straight acting, for instance… a play or some comedy on TV. It’s not that I’m done with musical theatre at all – I don’t think I’ll never be done with it – but I kind of crave trying something that will take me out of my comfort zone.”
Louise trained in Epsom at Laine Theatre Arts, and has fond memories of the time spent learning her craft. “That was honestly the best place for me to go; I loved my training,” she enthuses. Readers may remember when Sardines interviewed Betty Laine a few years ago. Louise continues: “The discipline taught there is incredible. You can always tell when a ‘Lainie’ walks in the room because they are always so immaculate and so well prepared. We would treat our teachers with such respect. In fact I still call her ‘Miss Laine’. She would be stood at the door at the beginning of the day and anyone walking in late would get a lot of questions; ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you dressed? Where’s this? Where’s that?’ It makes you understand how it is to be in this industry, how hard you have to work. You can never let your guard down. I loved my time there.”
Louise even links nicely to this issue’s focus. “I went to two summer schools at Laines, two years on the trot, which is where I met Kerry. Each one was about five days. From that I knew that was the college I wanted to go to. I didn’t apply for any others so I would have been really gutted had I not got in. Ruthie Henshall went there, and a couple of my friends from dance school.”
Louise Dearman is currently still scheduled to play at Cadogan Hall on Sunday, 31st May but, like everything, this may be rescheduled.
Please check before buying tickets or attending: cadoganhall.com/whats-on/louise-dearman-2020