West End leading lady Louise Dearman joins Judy Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft and TV star Ray Quinn in The Songbook of Judy Garland, celebrating the life and songs of the Hollywood legend the show is just about to embark on a UK tour. TPR Scotland’s Fraser MacDonaldmanaged to grab ten minutes with the star in between rehearsals.
FM: Louise, can you give us a little bit of information about the show and what you will be doing?
LD: Well the show started as a concept production to simply celebrate the music that Judy Garland made famous and that is still very much alive today. It has in fact become so much more than that. I’m doing a lot of dancing, which I didn’t think would happen – it’s been a while since I have done any dancing – but it’s fantastic. It brings back that good old MGM style, all singing, all dancing routine. I dance with Ray Quinn a lot, which is fantastic, and in terms of songs, it’s just one hit after the other. They are fantastic to perform and the cast are excellent, obviously fronted by Lorna Luft who is just excellent. It is very, very special watching her perform, actually. You kind of feel that little bit closer to Judy Garland, which is special. It’s a concert performance, as in we are just doing the songs that Judy Garland made famous, but it is definitely a full-scale production.
FM: Do you think, for Judy’s fans, that it is better to have a concert performance than a dramatisation of her life in that nothing is lost in plot and the music can speak for itself?
LD: I think so because it completely focuses on the music. There is no one impersonating Judy, it is literally just about music. Lorna will be chatting throughout the concert, in the moments that she sings, just telling some stories and as Ray said earlier, a lot of people focus on the tragic side of Judy Garland and the terrible things that happened to her. For me, all the movies are wonderful to watch, but I really prefer her live concerts and radio show – watching her be ‘her’, if that makes sense. You get a real sense of what good fun she was and how wonderful it would have been to perform with her, to watch her live. But I think Judy’s fans will love it because it celebrates her music and it is not focusing on the tragedy. What I also hope is that lots of my fans from Wicked, who are mainly young girls, will be introduced into this world when they come and see the show.
FM: There are a lot of big names involved in putting this show together – does that make for good company backstage?
LD: We have a brilliant cast as far as talent goes; everyone is wonderful but they are also great, lovely people to work with. We laugh a lot. There is a lot to get done because like I said, is not just a case of standing on stage and singing, it’s a full performance, a choreographed production. In among all of that, we are definitely laughing (probably a bit too much!). There’s a great team – it’s not often that you don’t get a class of egos somewhere, but everyone is just cracking on and working together.
FM: Now, you mentioned Wicked and everybody knows that Wicked fans are pretty hard-core! So do you find for a show like this, which is quite different to Wicked, that the fans you have still enjoy it?
LD: It’s amazing really, they love it – and they’ve told me themselves they love it because they hear me singing lots of different stuff. I mean, there’s only so many times they can hear me singing “Defying Gravity” – that would leave them bored stiff! But lots of them who have been to see me in concert know I’ve been singing all sorts – Gershwin, Cole Porter – and they love hearing all that old music because it’s not out there quite as much as the modern musical theatre, so I really do think they are going to love this. Wicked may have brought them into the world of musical theatre, but that certainly doesn’t mean that is the only thing they can enjoy. There are lots of contemporary musicals out there but we see a lot of the older ones coming back and becoming more and more popular. You only have to look at Guys and Dolls, Top Hat, you know… so this kind of blends in with that. I think it is important that there’s variety.
FM: And I suppose it’s a bit of a tip of your hat to Judy, who obviously starred in The Wizard of Oz and with Wicked you’ve really taken that full circle and back to Judy.
LD: Exactly, and that’s why “Over the Rainbow” is so special to me in the show. It really is my favourite moment, and we don’t actually sing that, we leave it to Judy, as it should be.
FM: So, in terms of your solo career, we’ve seen a few albums with a good mix of songs. What does the future hold?
LD: I’ve recorded my fourth studio album actually, with a 30 piece orchestra and it’s all original material. I have a book coming out in June that I wrote with Mark Evans who of course was in Wicked and the Book of Mormon in the US. I am doing a concert with Kerry Ellis at the Prince Edward Theatre on 27 September which will be big, iconic duets that we’ve grown up listening to throughout the years. Kerry and I have known each other for 20 years, so I think it’s about time we did something together. I’m also touring with John Wilson Orchestra in November with Gershwin and Hollywood, so I have a pretty packed schedule! But I’d be complaining if it wasn’t that way.
Catch Louise in The Songbook of Judy Garland which starts its tour at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 8th May.