When singer and actress Louise Dearman steps onto the famous stage at Cadogan Hall on Thursday 19 May, she may just have one or two goosebumps as she prepares to celebrate some of the musical world’s greatest stars.
‘Many singers have great voices,’ she says, midway through a sellout tour of Guys and Dolls, in which she’s playing the role of Miss Adelaide, ‘but none give me goosebumps like Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand. They were powerhouses who bared their heart and soul. Every part of them was a performer. They had the X factor, pure and simple.’
Fortunately, the audience at Cadogan Hall will have the opportunity to enjoy Louise’s passion for these two great singers, plus others including Doris Day and Julie Andrews, when she performs some of their signature songs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Stuart Barr – himself no stranger to singing legends, having been the Musical Director to Dame Shirley Bassey since 2009 – in a concert called Symphonic Divas, presented by Cadogan Hall favourite Petroc Trelawny.
Don’t Rain On My Parade, The Way We Were, The Trolley Song… Louise will sing these and many more great songs in a concert that’s sure to generate quite a few goosebumps beyond her own.
‘I’ve chosen these songs, which are real favourites of mine, to celebrate these iconic women,’ says Louise, a star in her own right with a string of musical triumphs to her name. Chief among them, she is the first and only actress ever to have played both witches, Glinda and Elphaba, in the West End production of Wicked; she has recorded three top-selling solo albums, and recently performed at the Proms in a semi-staged production of Kiss Me Kate.
However, one experience above all promises to make Louise’s tribute to her favourite singers particularly special: last year, she starred with Judy Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft in the UK tour of Judy – The Judy Garland Songbook.
‘Like her mother, Lorna never held back,’ says Louise. ‘She was fabulous to work with and gave me real insights into her mother’s personality and music. In fact, she introduced me to songs her mother had sung which, I’m ashamed to say, I’d never heard of. Her knowledge of her mother’s life and career is encyclopaedic, and I’m proud to say she is now a very dear friend.’
Wisely, however, Louise has vowed to make her concert a celebration of the great divas, and not a recreation. ‘Stuart [Barr] told me,’ she recalls, ‘“do it your way – don’t try to recreate the singers of the past. Put yourself on the stage.”’
Louise intends to heed those words. In any case, she has plenty of her own experience and personality to bring to these legendary songs. Like the symphonic divas she so admires, she shares that same streak of determination that saw her singing, aged just thirteen, in the chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the London Palladium. Just six years later, and having graduated from acting school where she won a clutch of awards, she began her professional career playing the role of the Narrator when the production went on tour.
The next few years saw Louise perform in smash-hit musicals including Grease, Evita, Guys and Dolls and Cats, both in London and on tour.
‘It’s been great and I’ve loved every minute,’ she says. ‘But I take nothing for granted. You can be on top one moment, and wondering where your next engagement is coming from the next. You have to be tough and resourceful to succeed in this business, and even that’s no guarantee.’
It could be a line spoken by one of her favourite singers. Louise Dearman may be singing songs made famous by the greats on 19 May, but it’s her heart and her soul you’re going to hear.
Written by John Evans