Imagine waking up one Monday morning and knowing that you’ve a week ahead that includes playing music legend Diana Ross, meeting a founding member of one of the most influential musical labels – no, movements – of all time, and then performing to millions of homes live on primetime television, just to top it off.
Lucy St. Louis, who portrays Diana Ross in smash-hit feel-good musical Motown The Musical, doesn’t have to imagine. Her week comprised meeting and sharing a stage with Duke Fakir, the last remaining original member of the iconic Motown group The Four Tops, to a standing ovation (pictured above), before boogying with him in a special curtain call finale, and then later in the week going on to perform live on ITV1’s The X Factor with the rest of the cast.
Having previously performed on London’s musical scene, Lucy was no stranger to the West End stage before her iconic role, but as she tells us below, a quite unique sensation continues to surround the show for her, particularly in terms of the Motown legacy as a whole, and in terms of how it feels to play one of the legends behind it.
It’s certainly been an exciting week for Motown The Musical! How would you sum up the feeling surrounding the show over the last seven days?
Lucy: Audiences are buzzing, and there’s such excitement around the show! The visit of Duke Fakir, the original member of The Four Tops, was an absolute highlight of the week - the audience didn’t know that he was watching, and then when he came out backstage at the end, when we were taking our curtain call, the audience were absolutely incredible! That was so special.
Motown the Musical recently gave a brilliant live performance on The X Factor; how does it feel to perform to millions of homes up and down the country?
Oh, it’s just incredible, and it was great for the show! The buzz that we had from doing The X Factor performance is just amazing, and the fact that it helps promote the show and it helps promote Motown music is great.
It’s so daunting, but we love what we do, and we especially enjoy doing it with Motown music. It really is such an electric genre and style, and it brings so much joy and love and happiness. Doing The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Jonathan Ross Show, all the amazing TV shows, is so great for our show, and helping to promote the music, it is incredible.
Were there any nerves amongst the cast before you went on, or was it just another show?
Oh no, it’s probably worse! At least in live theatre you get to create it again every night, and live theatre always still goes on when things go wrong. But when you’re doing a live performance in front of the cameras, that’s really hard because you want to nail it in that one shot.
How was it meeting such an iconic figure in the industry as Duke Fakir?
It is amazing; it is such a special moment when you meet someone who paved the way for Motown music. He and all the Motown artists we’ve met have said that we’re part of that amazing legacy now, and that alone is such an achievement.
Duke was such a wonderful man. He’s so fun and young at heart. We actually went on stage, gave him a backstage tour, did a few interviews together, and then had time at the end for a little Four Tops boogie on stage, so we actually did a few of his iconic moves. He was giving me tips, words of wisdom and encouragement.
With Motown, we want to do it justice. Motown artists are very supportive of what we are giving on stage every night, which fills my heart with so much joy, and it’s so exciting; having such people involved as Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson and Martha Reeves, we’ve met all these incredible artists and it’s amazing to have their support.
You’ve got so many iconic figures supporting you, and you yourself play one in Diana Ross – how do you prepare to tackle that kind of role?
It’s something I still get nervous about every night, because every show is new and fresh, and you’ve got to tell the story and be truthful every night.
Because she was an icon, and so unique, people come expecting to see her. I can’t ever fill her shoes - they’re massive shoes to fill! - but I hope I bring some of the energy and quality and nuances that she had, so that when you watch the show as a whole, you go “Ah yes, that’s Diana, that’s Diana Ross!” It’s so daunting doing it every night, but with the support that we’ve had from Duke Fakir, Berry Gordy, and Smokey Robinson, we seem to be doing okay.
Do you have a favourite part of the show?
I think my favourite part of the show would have to be Reach Out And Touch. It used to be one of my most daunting moments, and before we’d discussed it in the rehearsal process, I’d wake up in cold sweats. I have to go out into the audience, speak to them, be Diana Ross and be face-to-face with an audience member. They’re looking at me thinking “This is Diana Ross!”, and I’ve got to keep that truth.
That was a very scary moment for me in the beginning but now, as I’ve gone on, it’s still nerve-racking every night, but I just love connecting with an audience. Seeing their reaction, you can just feel them being so in awe with the whole production - the costumes, the hair, every element - they’re so captivated, and to feel the love that they have for her as a performer is amazing.
Finally, why should audiences head to the Shaftesbury Theatre this winter season?
You can’t miss Motown! Everyone loves Motown, and everyone comes out Dancing In The Street.
You’ll be dancing for the rest of your week, it’ll make you feel so joyous and so happy. The excitement that you’ll get from watching this show will be exhilarating and it’s an amazing show with an amazing cast, who pour their absolute heart and soul into it every night; you’ll definitely feel that by the time you leave the theatre.
Motown The Musical is playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and is currently booking until 28 October 2017. You can book tickets through us here.