An interview with musical star Louise Dearman

Suzanne Frost

On 30 August the Cadogan Hall will celebrate all leading ladies with a one night concert called There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame – 100 Years of Women in Musical Theatre. The super group of amazing musical stars Louise Dearman, Ria Jones, Alexia Khadime and Rachel Tucker come together to perform songs from some of the most famous female roles over the past century, from classics like Rogers and Hammerstein to modern smash hits by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Schwartz. London Calling talked to Louise Dearman of ‘Wicked’ fame, about backstage giggles, dream roles and friendships in show business.

London Calling: ‘Dame’ is such an adorable world, it brings all these associations of a Golden Age of musicals. What makes a Dame for you?
Louise Dearman: I think a lot of people in this day and age maybe feel offended by words like ‘dame’ or ‘lady’. They’d rather say incredibly strong powerful, intelligent, talented women, but a dame I think is all of those things. She is a woman who is not afraid to get her hands dirty, who works hard, who is an equal human being. The whole idea for this concert is to celebrate women, to celebrate what we offer the world. 100 years of women in musical theatre is a wonderful thing! And the concert is definitely going to be a huge celebration of that, performing some of those old classic musicals right up to very contemporary ones, and showing that us four women up there, we can deliver a performance covering all the bases. It’s very exciting.
LC: When you put four Dames together, people always assume that women are competitive or don’t work well together. What is it really like?
LD: It’s the opposite of that, in my experience. I know there are often stories in theatre of women being divas or pushing people down the stairs to get a part. I have to say, I have never experienced that. I made some of my best friends in the world in shows and I absolutely relish the opportunity to share the stage with other women who have played such magnificent roles, and really paved the way for young people to want to be in this industry. I am so excited that I get to perform with Rachel Tucker again, who is such a good friend of mine, we performed in Wicked together, so it will be great to be back on stage with her. And I’ve never performed with Ria Jones before. After watching her career and all the wonderful things that she has done, I can’t wait to watch her perform and be on stage with her. Backstage is such a lot of fun, we really have a good giggle whenever I’ve performed with other women. And we really egg each other on in the wings. I’m always standing in the wings watching other performers, it’s like a masterclass. Like I get my own private show.
Alexia Khadime, Louise dearman, Rachel Tucker and Ria Jones

LC: The concert is celebrating iconic female roles through the ages. Do you have a favourite one that you love to revisit or maybe also a role that you are looking forward to playing still?
LD: I’m at an age where I don’t really go for the young female lead anymore, but I am still not old enough to go up for, for example, Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard), a role I would absolutely love to get my hands on one day. Although I am still incredibly busy and very fortunate in that way, I do have to bide my time for those big meaty roles. And I’d also love to explore other avenues, I’d love to do a play, maybe some television… there are many things I’d like to do.
LC: You have played both Elphaba and Glinda in Wicked, apparently you are the only person who has done that!
LD: People have understudied both but I have been cast as both and I believe I am still the only person.
Louise Dearman as both Glinda and Elphaba. Photo: Matt Crockett

LC: I know they are both very challenging parts in their own way but what is challenging about playing both?
LD: For Glinda, I loved singing soprano and I don’t get to very often, being normally associated with being a big belter. So I loved exploring that side of my voice and training it up again. And also the comedy element of Glinda, I love playing comedy roles, it’s my absolute favourite thing ever! But playing either of those roles eight times a week is really hard.  People do underestimate it. For me personally, Elphaba was much more challenging because it is such an intense role, there’s a lot of passion and angst and all those enormous songs with notes that go into the rafters. Being able to deliver that was very difficult. But with a role like that you are just so aware of what an opportunity it is and I don’t think I would have ever considered it, would the creative team not have come to me and said look, we know you can do this! I wouldn’t have done this myself, so I am very grateful.
LC: There is so much talk about women in theatre, women in film and the representation of women. What kind of roles do you hope will be created for women in the future?
LD: I think we need to continue in the way we are going, I do believe there are many wonderful roles for women and I think we do need to focus on that rather than on what there isn’t. We have so many wonderful actresses out there who are doing an incredible job and I think the main thing people focus on is the financial situation, the fact that it seems women are not paid the same as men. We are all equal, there is only one race, the human race, and we all deserve to be treated in exactly the same way across the board. So that infuriates me. But as far as the opportunities and the roles, I do believe that we have many wonderful roles out there for women and that’s exciting. We just need to continue along that way. Because that’s life, that is what is happening in the world! Women are intelligent powerful brilliant humans who manage to have children and continue to work and do all of those things, so it absolutely has to be celebrated.
There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame – 100 Years of Women in Musical Theatre will be at Cadogan Hall on Thursday 30 August. Tickets: from £28

Your inbox deserves a little culture! Get our monthly newsletter