In part two of two interviews with the Motown the Musical leading cast, we chat to Lucy St Louis; Dianna Ross in the show.
The story behind Motown the Musical follows music mogul Berry Gordy, played by Cedric Neal with whom we have also spoken to, as he sets up the now legendary Motown Records. In its time signing the likes of Diana Ross, played by Lucy St Louis, and her Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder, Motown Records celebrates a look back through 25 years of influential history on stage at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre.
The vibrant cast deliver many of the label’s favourite tracks, including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Dancing in the Street and I Want You Back, as well as three purpose written new songs.
Lucy St Louis, who plays the label’s legendary signee and Gordy’s partner Diana Ross, delves inside the shows heart and spirit.
How are you?
Everything’s great. The show is amazing to do every night. I still get the same buzz as when I first did it, even over a year and a half later. Life is wonderful. Who else can say they are playing Diana Ross in a West End show? It’s pretty awesome.
How do you think the show has developed in that time?
When you start a show you have your own idea of the part. In my rehearsal process I had Berry Gordy very much involved in the process. So for me, growing in the role was something I did very much because of him. That was so amazing to have.
People get so engrained in those characters. The vibrancy and energy never gets dull. Everyone just gives it 110% every night. You can see that in the audience’s response.
I’ve seen two companies play these parts over the year and a half, and everyone brings their own energy. They have their own focus. I think that’s brilliant. You’re never getting the same, but always getting the vibrancy and focus. You can bounce off that.
How has your role changed within that?
I try and keep the truth every night. I have these angel cards, which have these positive words on them. You face them flat down and randomly pick one, and it will give you a word like “joy”, “strength” or “focus”. I use that to keep the eight shows a week fresh and real. It’s about having a different approach and energy inside.
It’s all about listening and reacting, which is what’s so great with this company. Cedric and I bounce off each other, which is so important when you’re playing these real-life people. Everyone gets a performance where it feels like it’s the first time we’ve ever done it, even though we are doing eight shows a week.
Has it changed the way you think about Diana Ross?
Definitely. The amount of research I had to do for my part was the most I’ve ever done in my career so far. This is about the history, the time and era, but also playing a real-life iconic person. Everyone has their own interpretation of who she is, and I have to deliver all of those things to the audience.
I go through a massive age jump throughout the show, from 17 to my late 30s. I have to know all the background, and where I am in that moment. There was a lot of reading, and watching videos. Having Berry Gordy in the auditions and rehearsals was the most incredible thing ever. It was key to telling the story, because he was actually there at that time. He’s a book of knowledge. He will tell you everything. He’s so honest.
Is that intimidating in any way?
Yeah it was actually. He loved Diana Ross. They had such a special relationship. I had to try and go in there and relive those memories for him. That’s pretty terrifying. But he’s so wonderful and caring. He’s such a great teacher. His energy is amazing. You never feel too nervous. You just relax into it. He creates that energy in the room where you are allowed to make mistakes. He’s our dad figure in the company.
What lessons do you think you’ve learned from being in the show?
Dedication of playing these types of roles. You have to know everything. It’s all about making mistakes and picking yourself up. Everyone has your back on that stage. It’s remembering those times, and the love and joy, and the energy that everyone brings to the table. I want to carry that on through my career.
What’s your favourite moment in the show?
There are quite a few moments that I love. One of my favourite ones is the duet between Cedric and I. It’s a very special moment for both of us. When we were auditioning, it was the first time we met each other. It was in front of a huge panel of all the American creative, and we had to sing a duet. At the end there’s a kiss, and the panel were asking whether we knew each other because of the chemistry. We hadn’t even met.
The love in the room in that moment is amazing to relive every night. That’s so special to be able to do that, especially a year and half in. To have that connection with someone is amazing.
I also love the end of the show. My character in the show doesn’t interact with the ensemble. My show is very much around Berry Gordy and the Supremes. I love the end because we get to all see each other. What we get back from the audience is absolutely electric. We do the soul train, and everyone just has a great time.
What’s the best thing about working with Cedric?
There are so many things. It’s the truth and honesty. It’s the love and the passion. He dedicates so much to the company. When you can find that in your fellow lead, if you have that you can lead a company and everyone follows suit. Everyone follows with positivity and energy. It’s something he carries through onto the stage. The energy we get off each other is something I’ve never felt opposite another person before.
Motown the Musical continues at the Shaftesbury Theatre, currently booking to 5 January 2019. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.