At the time of the interview Louise Dearman was soon to be returning to Wicked appearing as Elphaba, at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Having previously portrayed Glinda, she will become the first actress to have played both lead roles in the musical.
“… to be given one of the leading roles in Wicked was just phenomenal, and the show is incredible, it’s breathtaking.”
As well as a musical theatre actor, Louise is also a recording artist. She released her first solo album entitled You And I in 2005, which featured 12 tracks from well known musicals, and earlier this year she released her second album Here Comes The Sun. She has also appeared in no less than 9 television productions and can also be heard on several radio commercials.
Louise recently took time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions about herself, her career and her forthcoming role in Wicked.
You are a very successful star of musical theatre and recording artist, but where did it all begin?
It all began a long, long time ago. At the age of three I started dancing lessons, ballet, modern and tap dancing, and very quickly got bored of the ballet, so I gave that up. Yes, so it’s always been in my blood, I’ve danced since I was three years old. When I was 12 I auditioned with my local school, to be in a choir that was going to London to audition for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Palladium.
We didn’t get through the first time, but we got through the second, and it was such an incredible experience. I think from that moment onwards, and I still remember it so, so clearly, being on stage with some unbelievable performers, I knew that I really wanted to do this as my career. Since then it’s just been my entire life.
Was there anyone in particular who inspired you to head for a career in performing arts?
Linzi Hateley and Sonia Swaby. They were both huge inspirations to me. I just thought they were so wonderful, I still do. Ruthie Henshall as well, I was a huge fan of hers.
You trained at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom. What were the highlights of your time there?
Well, my entire time at Laine Theatre Arts was wonderful. It’s a fantastic college that teaches all disciplines well and I only have very, very fond memories. I made some incredible friends. Our entire year was just brilliant, great people, very talented people. And a wonderful teacher of mine called Nigel Brooks, always encouraged me to go along to the opera class, which at the time, I wasn’t too keen on doing, because I wasn’t very confident with my soprano voice, but he encouraged me to, and I’m so, so glad that I did. It’s just been so helpful. With the role of Glinda for example, had I not had that training I’m not sure I’d have been able to do it.
After graduating you joined the touring cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as The Narrator. How did it feel to be on tour and to have such an important role straight after graduating?
It was amazing as I know lots of friends who didn’t leave college with jobs, so I was very, very lucky. I graduated on the Friday and then started rehearsals for Joseph on the Monday.
And considering I’d been in Joseph as a child, going back into one of my favourite shows, playing the Narrator, was brilliant. It was the perfect show for me to get going in the world of show business.
You have toured with Grease as Jan, Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, Eva Peron in Evita, and Lucy Harris in Jekyll and Hyde. What are your favourite recollections from these tours?
Touring was tough, you know. I have to admit I’m not the best at touring, because I’m such a home bird. I love my home comforts and don’t particularly like living out of a suitcase, but to play these amazing roles, sometimes that is what you have to do.
And it’s great fun, especially when you’re younger and at the earlier stages of your career. It was fantastic to be on tour, seeing these amazing cities and it feels very fresh, with each and every new venue. You try to keep your stamina up, keep well and be happy and strong which is more difficult when you’re on tour, but they’re all incredible shows. I’ve been very, very lucky; I’ve loved each and every one of them.
For any young actor joining a touring production, what advice would you give them?
I would say, “Have a wonderful time and embrace it, really enjoy living a showbiz life on the road but remember that you have a show to do.” Sometimes people get wrapped up in the partying, social side of touring and it can eventually affect their performance, maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy touring as much, because I had the kind of roles that I really couldn’t go out partying and still do a good show. It was straight back to my digs every night. So maybe I should have partied harder!
Having previously released a solo album with songs from musicals, this year you released ‘Here Comes the Sun’, a mixture of popular songs. How important is it to you to be seen as a recording artist outside of the world of theatre?
It’s very important because as much as I adore musical theatre, I also love so many different styles of contemporary music that it seemed only natural and right for me to record an album of the style of music that I would listen to at home. I look at artists like Barbara Streisand, and Annie Lennox, who I love, and I want to achieve all they have achieved, that’s what I’m striving for.
How did you choose the songs for the album 1Here Comes The Sun’?
Oh, it was really difficult. Trying to choose only 10 songs out of hundreds you love is a nightmare! Me, my manager and my agent rifled through so many albums on Spotify. We made dozens of play lists to see what worked, and it changed constantly each month.
But, finally, to try and break the huge list down, I listened to all the artists that I’ve loved over the years, went through their back catalogue of music, to see what little gems they had and we made the final choices that way. It was a mixture of everybody’s ideas and opinions. It has evolved nicely.
You were a very popular Glinda in Wicked. Can you describe your time playing that role?
I had such a good time, absolutely amazing, and I was thrilled when I was offered the role. It was the biggest thing I’d ever been up for, the biggest role I’d ever been offered in the West End. We were talking about touring earlier and how my career has been a slow, steady climb to reach the West End. I’ve played smaller roles, ensemble, swing etc and worked my way up the ladder. To finally be in a show like Wicked, and to be given the role of Glinda was just phenomenal, the show is incredible, it’s breathtaking. Glinda is such a fun, bubbly character and of course I got to use that soprano side of my voice, so it was something new for me and a great challenge.
The big news recently is that you are returning to Wicked as Elphaba, the first time an actress has played both leading roles. What is so special about Wicked that made you want to return?
Everything!!! Anybody can enjoy the show, and I mean anybody. There is something in Wicked for everyone. The music is stunning. The story is beautiful and has a very strong message. It looks phenomenal as well; the costumes and set are glorious so visually it’s a feast for the eyes! I also have a great relationship with all of the production team there. I have wonderful memories. And, yeah, it’s a very special show to me. So to be returning as Elphaba is quite something.
Which aspect of portraying Elphaba are you looking forward to the most?
Oh, every aspect is going to be very exciting. Of course, I can’t wait to be painted green but to tell the story of Wicked through Elphaba’s eyes is going to wonderful, she is such a beautiful, strong person who stands up for what is right – oh and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I cannot wait to belt out her incredible songs!!
Which songs are you particularly looking forward to singing as Elphaba and will you miss any from Glinda’s repertoire?
‘Defying Gravity’ is the one that everyone will be looking out for, but I think I’m also going to have a lot of fun singing ‘No Good Deed’ as well, that was always a real cracker for me. I loved listening to Rachel Tucker singing ‘No Good Deed’, but they’re all fantastic in their own way. I can’t wait to get up on that stage!
Which characteristics in Glinda and Elphaba can you personally identify with?
I guess I’m quite like Glinda in the way that I like getting dressed up and putting on pretty clothes and shoes and bags, and all that kind of thing. But personality-wise, I guess I’m more like Elphaba, as far as standing up for what I believe in and not judging somebody by what another person has said, or judging a book by its cover, very much so. So I guess there are traits in both those characters that I can relate to.
What is it like backstage at Wicked? Who are the ‘jokers’?
It’s just crazy. The team changes all of the time, with some cast changes each year. We all have our moments, trust me. As you get tired it gets funnier and funnier backstage. It just comes together and everyone loves being a part of the show. Everyone as far as I know, is always very, very proud to be associated with Wicked, so everyone’s very happy backstage. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it is like one big happy family, it’s great.
Before the show, how long will it take to be painted green?
Initially, it will probably take about 3 hours haha, no I think it usually takes about 30 minutes. I always like to get into theatre nice and early, so I can prepare and take my time, I enjoy being early rather than being in a rush. I usually arrive a good hour and a half before the show. I’ll probably start getting painted then. They have a wonderful make-up team there as well that will do all that for me.
How important to you is making your dressing room your own?
It’s very important to come into work and have a place that’s peaceful and tranquil. And I love having my little iPod docked to play my favourite music. To create a nice peaceful atmosphere is vital because before you go on stage you don’t want to feel harassed or stressed out, or have a room that’s untidy. I’m a complete tidy freak, I have to say; everything has its place. Yeah, it has to be. It’s good to have a nice space to get ready in.
You are a very busy lady. How do you make sure that you have enough time for your boyfriend and your two dogs, Alan and Geoffrey?
I am very busy but, you know, I do always find time. I’m one of those people that says you must, that’s the most important thing, to find time for friends, family, partner, even if it’s just a couple of hours in the day where you can sit down and just take a breather. And of course, I get up every morning and walk my two boys, my two dogs, get them exercised. And the lovely thing about being in musical theatre is that you have all day to do whatever you want to do and you can relax, and get ready for the show in the evening. But, yeah, I will always find time; I think it’s incredibly important.
You have to date appeared in at least 9 television productions and I have heard you mention that at some point in your career you would like to be a presenter on television. Which type of show would you like to present?
A while ago I wanted to be a presenter, but I kind of went down a bit of a different route, because I felt like it would be very difficult to become a TV presenter and still have a music/theatre career. At the moment there are so many presenters that the public love, that to break into that field is incredibly difficult.
But I definitely enjoy hosting. I hosted the Oliviers live event in Covent Garden this year and I really enjoyed that. So, I guess hosting instead of TV presenting would be the more natural way to go, because of course it’s still a live audience.
You were a judge on the SearchforaTwitterStar competition. How important is creating opportunities for new talent to you?
Very important, because as a young performer, new to the business, it hard to find a way to break through. Things have changed a lot over the years; there is now You Tube, Twitter and Facebook which are such wonderful promotional tools. SearchforaTwitterStar was an incredible idea, because it was making use of this wonderful social network to give people who maybe haven’t trained and so don’t have the contacts , the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of friends and family, and, of course, people within the industry – the casting directors, producers, musical directors, it was wonderful. And I know that Felipe, especially, who was the male winner, has gone on to do some concerts and bits and pieces through winning the show.
What message would you like to say to your many supporters?
Just to say I can’t thank them enough really. Some people have followed me over many years, but when Wicked started it was a whole new level. The support even since I’ve finished the show has always been incredible. It really does mean a lot, because it is so lovely to look out and see familiar faces, and to receive lovely messages of support on Twitter. And since the news about Elphaba, it’s been absolutely wonderful, and they all seem very pleased for me, so hopefully I will do them all proud. I’ll do my very best.
Interviewed by Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter at @LondonTheatre1
Updated October 2014