Louise Dearman is about to make history by being the first actress in the world to have played the roles of both Glinda and Elphaba in Wicked. Lucy Thackray caught up with her about her solo work and getting her green on.
Congratulations on going back into Wicked, as Elphaba this time (Louise played Glinda in the show from 2010-2011). That must be exciting.
I know, it’s insane. I’m so excited, I still can’t quite believe it – the first time I think it really sank in was when I recently had my costume fitting. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have it in the back of my mind while I was playing Glinda that I’d love to play that role one day. They’re complete opposites character wise, vocally as well it’s completely different, so to be able go back and show the big belty side of my voice and portray a completely different character is very exciting and very challenging for me. I’m much more excited than I am nervous, which is good!
Was it ever mentioned when you auditioned the first time that you could play either part?
No, I think maybe because I love comedy and something about my personality, I guess people assume I’m more of a Glinda – that’s what the casting director saw me as and that’s what I went up for. But during my time in the show, I did lots of gigs and concerts and recordings during the days, and the creative team of Wicked soon noticed, I think, that what I would sing there was more suited to Elphaba’s voice. So I got the phone call a few months ago saying would you like to come in, and it was kind of out of the blue. But there was no way I was going to say no! And to be making history and be the first actress in the world to have played both roles is just an absolute dream and an honour.
Were you always slightly envious watching the big ‘broomstick moment’ at the end of Act 1?
I would just stand there with my jaw on the floor – Rachel Tucker was my Elphaba in the show and it just fascinated me that she could do that every night. I loved playing Glinda, from beginning to end, but of course there were moments when I thought, ‘I’d just love to blast that out, just for one night’ – and now I’ll be doing it eight shows a week, for a year. So I get my time to be green.
Are you worried you’ll start speaking or singing Glinda’s lines mid-show?!
[Laughs] I’m hoping that I’m not going to do that! The time to be careful is when I’m a bit tired, I guess. In the auditions it wasn’t weird – I thought it might be, but when you’re in a different mindset and looking through the eyes of a different character, you’re focused on that. The weirdest moment, I think, will be sitting on the bed in the girls’ bedroom watching Gina [Beck] prancing around singing Popular. But I can sit back and enjoy watching the other role now. I knew Gina before so it’s lovely that she’s staying on and there’ll be a familiar face there.
You released an album of covers this year, called Here Comes the Sun. How did that come about?
Well, I recorded my first album about six years ago but it was all musical theatre. During my time in Wicked, my management and I decided it was time to record a new album, and I said I would love to do an album of contemporary music – by no means was I trying to be a popstar but I just wanted a slightly more commercial sound, still with a theatrical edge to it. So after lots and lots of Spotify playlists, we finally came up with the final 10, which is basically a mix of songs from artists I’ve admired over the years. There’s Alanis Morissette, there’s This House by Alison Moyet – I had the pleasure of meeting her at Manchester Pride on Monday and she said she’s heard the track and absolutely loved it, which was amazing. There’s Little Bird by Annie Lennox, and I believe she’s heard the track as well, One Day I’ll Fly Away by Randy Crawford and obviously Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles. I wanted to find songs I could put my stamp on without destroying the original!
What’s the feel of the album?
It’s a big, big sound – exactly how I imagined it, to be honest. I wanted it to be theatrical and emotive and sound big, and it really does. There are lots of ups and downs – some very peaceful, beautiful tracks like Time After Time and some huge big numbers, and Kissing You has a gospel choir. There are songs that on paper don’t look like they’d blend very well, but with the way Ben Robins has produced them, they kind of fit perfectly and tie in.
Do you have a favourite track to perform?
I’ve performed Squander (by Skunk Anansie) a lot, supporting Lee Mead and Ramin Karimloo on tour and lots of other gigs, and it’s gone down really well. Many people hadn’t heard it and it’s one of their favourites, it’s such a powerful song and it works really well live. I just sang Time After Time at the candlelight vigil at Manchester Pride, and it’s such a beautiful, simple version of the song. It depends what kind of mood I’m in, really.
It was a lot of fun – I’ve worked with Christian Durham, who directed the show, and Dean Austin, the musical director, before in Guys and Dolls and Debbie Does Dallas, so I knew that they were a lovely team. When Christian explained the concept to me, I was laughing out loud. They’ve always had young people playing the roles but we got to put in a bit of adult humour – it goes straight over the children’s heads, but the adults in the audience get it. We had such a good time and there was lots of improvisation and silliness. I really hope it will carry on, it’s a great piece for the entire family. The music’s fantastic and very funny.
You’ve also done some commercial singing for adverts – do you find that fun or is it just a useful thing to do between projects?
I really enjoy it, but it is something to put food on the table, if you like. But with Confused.com [Louise voices the star of the ads, Cara] I really look forward to going into the studio, it’s a lovely team to work for. I also do Heart and Capital FM jingles and it’s the same – I pop in there for a maybe half an hour every month or so, we have a good laugh and we get the recordings down. I think what’s maybe appealing is that I can change my voice quite a lot. In college I did opera class which strengthened the soprano part of my voice, I love pop and contemporary music and of course I love musical theatre. I enjoy blending into different characters and changing up my voice.
How did you get started singing and acting?
I went to Laine Theatre Arts when I was 16 – though my teachers tried to get me to go to college instead – and I’ve danced since I was three years old. When I was 12, I was in the children’s choir in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, with Philip Schofield starring, and I think that was the moment when I knew I wanted to do it as a career. After three years at Laines, I graduated on the Friday and went off on tour with Joseph, playing the Narrator this time, on the Monday. It’s been an incredible journey and a nice slow, steady climb to get to this big role in the West End. I’ve done a lot of touring, ensemble roles, swings and I like that – I would have hated to have had everything handed to me and then thought, what’s next?
Any other projects in the pipeline at the moment?
There’s always something going on in the back of my mind. I’m already starting to think about another album, writing some original songs, and I’ve been working on comedy as well for the last year with my friend Gareth Mason. We have a production team on board looking to film a pilot for us, which is fantastic, we just need to do lots more writing. I’m also launching my own events entertainment company in the next month, which I’ve wanted to do for a while. But I open in Wicked on 29th October, and I’m in rehearsals on the 1st October.
What are the best and worst things about being a leading lady?
The best thing is going on stage in front of a live audience and the reaction to the show you’ve done. Especially with Wicked, actually, where people who maybe wouldn’t go to the theatre are saying ‘that show really made me laugh’ or ‘that show really made me cry’ – it’s a beautiful story. Also, not that many people can say they absolutely love their job, but it really doesn’t feel like work. The downside is that you have to sacrifice a lot – I can’t stay up late or go out partying. You have to be very disciplined and focus entirely on the production you’re in. But it’s a small price to pay to be in a show like Wicked.
Top image: Louise Dearman (last.fm)
Bottom image: Louise as Glinda and Rachel Tucker as Elphaba in Wicked.