Drawing to the close of an eventful 2013, Louise Dearman performed two solo shows at the St James Studio to celebrate “The Perfect Year” that she’s had, and also partially about the year she’s about to embark on. With a mix of the old and the new, Louise wow’d, entertained and thoroughly impressed.
Opening the show with something different, Louise sang a mash-up of Rihanna’s Diamonds and Diamonds Are Forever full of class while looking absolutely gorgeous, cheekily changing one of the lyrics to “Tucker is beautiful,” to compliment Rachel Tucker who was in the audience, before swiftly moving into her album arrangement of Defying Gravity as she’d been told to try and not chat in between these songs! After a short amount of welcome banter with Louise saying how pleased she was to be doing her own shows in such a lovely venue she also gave a preliminary warning about the waffling she was prone to and how it may occur in the show… A lot!
As well as this she mentioned about wondering whether the second night of her gigs was easier or not considering she had “the stagiest table in the back of the room”, with Wicked alumni Rachel Tucker, Mark Evans, Ben Stott, Zoe Rainey and Julie Legrand sat together to be watching Louise’s concert.
After this she performed What I Did For Love, with incredible strength, it’s definitely one of my favourites from the album. It seems as though when in song Louise can keep her serious manner together, but once she’s out of it she goes straight back to her usual humorous self. After What I Did For Love she spoke of the recent Movies and Musicals concert she partook in in Swansea and recounted how a fan of Welsh X-Factor star Rhydian Roberts claimed Louise had been outshone, she of course recalled this with humour and an attempt at a Welsh accent (which was, to be fair, a very good attempt)!
Reverting back to a serious stance, she then sang a stunning rendition of Over The Rainbow, keeping it closer to the Eva Cassidy version which she said was her favourite. Then Louise asked who in the audience knew of or had seen Jest End to which a small handful of people responded so she briefly explained the concept of Jest End and how she’d got in contact with creator Garry Lake to re-write a Christmas song for her – therefore a new version of Santa Baby was born. Now my perception of Louise has been that she’s a very polite, quite prim and proper woman, so hearing her sing this song was absolutely hilarious. It’s probably the crudest you could make Santa Baby without it being filth, but it was full of innuendo and cheek, and was so funny to see sweet Lou performing this.
More chat followed this with Louise discussing her love for contemporary music as well as musical theatre obviously, mentioning idols from her childhood such as Barbra Streisand and Celion Dion (as well as doing a fantastic impression of Celine), before performing Damien Rice’s Cannonball which has been a favourite song of mine for years so hearing Louise sing this was a real treat. Also having never actually heard a female rendition of this song made it even more special, what a voice to hear sing it!
She then spoke of another inspiration to her in her childhood and how in particular when she got the role of Elphaba and was painted green she felt like she finally understood this inspiration – that inspiration being Kermit the Frog?! It all made sense once she explained how her partner Andrew Eastel had practically begged (by the sounds of it!) for her to sing One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas from The Muppets Christmas Carol as it’s one of his favourite Christmas films. Having received a re-arrangement of it, Louise sang a version of it much rockier in a sense and detached it from the original squeaky rendition, however in her natural humour she ended it with a Kermit voice!
After being a muppet, Louise performed the classic I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables, with as much grace and power as she did when performing it in the Apollo Victoria at Movies and Musicals two weeks previous. The smaller venue only increased the power of her singing this song. She then invited friend and fellow performer Ian Stroughair to join her on stage, coining a new word ‘pinished’ in her introduction of him which caused a great laugh in the audience. Ian has been starring as Angel in the UK Tour of RENT recently while also occasionally doing his own brilliant drag shows as Velma Celli, and together him and Louise performed a mash-up of Without You and I’ll Cover You from RENT, which really was stunning.
Act one ended with the gorgeous title track of the album, The Perfect Year.
Greeted with applause Louise returned to the stage for act two and opened it with It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas, joking afterwards “You all stayed then?!” which was followed by some more classic chatter mainly about Barbra Streisand and how she appears in a recent issue of Theatre & Performance magazine literally alongside Barbra Streisand, and definitely took a moment or two to joke on the idea that when the pages close she’s air-kissing Miss Streisand. This linked to the song she next performed which was People from Funny Girl, singing it in a way I’m sure Barbra would be proud of!
The next Christmas song to feature in the set list was O Holy Night, it seems like this year is the one to hear powerhouse voices perform this song as I recently had the pleasure of seeing Eden Espinosa sing it out, it’s now impossible for me to say who sung it better because they were both just immense. Joking that the next number was one to “stop her belting,” Louise then performed Blackbird which she said she fell in love with having attended a concert of Paul McCartney, accompanied only acoustically by guitar. As much as the belting is brilliant, this song was so stripped back and ultimately, beautiful. She followed this with the ever astonishing Astonishing from the album.
‘Tis the season for ridiculous audience participation and Louise definitely had that covered in the next part of her show with the craziness that ensued in The 12 Days of Christmas. First Louise split the audience into two so one half would sing the odd numbers of the song, and the other half the even numbers. Then however she selected “the stagiest table in the room” to sing the line “5 Gold rings!” and demonstrated how she wanted them to sing it. Not softly and sweet, rather (this is all I can think of as a perfect description) as the beltiest and stagiest singing of a line! The song started off slow but grew in speed and deteriorated until the only distinguishable line was the crazy brilliant “5 Gold rings!”. It was a hilarious addition to the show and certainly memorable.
Next performed were two much more solemn songs from the album, A New Life and Send In The Clowns, both simply exceptional. In her thanks after this she coined another word in ‘thankly’ saying again “why are you laughing?! You’ll all be using it soon!”.
Drawing to the close of her show, Louise performed a Christmas medley of All I Want For Christmas Is You, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and White Christmas. She then finished the show with what would’ve been an encore if it wouldn’t have taken her ten minutes to get off stage and back on it with the gorgeous dress she’d donned, and she sang one of her absolute favourites, Home.
This show was easily my personal favourite of all the times I’ve seen Louise performing, as she just seemed so relaxed and comfortable in this intimate venue, claiming herself it felt like she were simply singing in her living room. Her performances themselves were impeccable as always and there was an incredibly friendly, warm (quite literally actually!) atmosphere to the evening, making for a very enjoyable show.