REBECCA STORM, one of the most popular leading ladies in musical theatre over the past 30 years, makes a welcome visit to Galway to play the Town Hall Theatre on Friday December 7.
Audiences can look forward to hearing hits from some of her best-loved roles in shows like Blood Brothers, Chess, Evita, and Les Miserables, as well as various timeless classics, and a few surprises for good measure.
Ahead of her Galway visit, and speaking from her Kildare home, Rebecca took some time to chat about her long and illustrious career. I began by asking whether she is one of those performers for whom Christmas tends to be a very busy period.
“I think I’ve pretty much covered the whole gamut of Christmas,” she replies, with traces of her native Yorkshire accent still audible in her voice. “There have been times when I’ve only had a day off through being in pantomimes, or more usually, musicals. Then again I’ve been in situations where I’ve taken the entire time off so I could go and see my family.
“One year I took my daughter and family off on holiday to see Fr Christmas and go ski-ing. I’ve been on cruise ships a few times at Christmas too. But I love Christmas, it’s a great time of year for people to get together and this year as it happens I’m going to be having the entire family around, so there’ll be 12 of us sitting at the table!”
Ever since her breakthrough, at the age of 23 in Blood Brothers, Rebecca has enjoyed a glittering career in musical theatre, with leading roles in shows like Chess, Evita, Aspects of Love, and Annie. Yet musical theatre was not where her dreams initially lay as a young singer.
“I always wanted to sing from a really young age – I used to be singing in my chair when I was two years old,” she tells me. “My teachers and church were very enthusiastic about pushing me forward, from singing in the choir they would be getting me to do solos. But I wasn’t into musical theatre, when I was young that didn’t really exist in Yorkshire.
“I became a folk singer, I’d play guitar and sing in the folk clubs. It wasn’t until Evita and Cats came along that musicals, in my opinion, became a bit more sexy and my ears pricked up. When I was in college in Leeds I used to sing in the clubs at the weekend and the first standing ovation I ever got was for singing ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’.
“I hadn’t been in a musical at that stage so it was a gradual process – I got an agent who said I should try it so I auditioned for Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers in 1984 and got the part.”
It was with Blood Brothers that Rebecca first came to Ireland to perform in 1985. She became a frequent visitor to these shores in the years that followed, culminating in herself and her husband and musical director Kenny Shearer settling in Kildare in 2000.
Her most recent release, The Essential Rebecca Storm, is a double CD comprising one disc recorded live at Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre and one of new studio material.
“I wanted to do a live recording as all my other releases had been studio-based,” she tells me. “When I’d be signing CDs after concerts so many people would be asking ‘Does this have the songs you did tonight?’ and that wasn’t really the case so it seemed a good idea to have a live album.
“We went for the Grand Canal as the venue for the live recording because you can afford to put a full-size 15-piece band in there because it has 2,000 seats and it’s a fabulous theatre. Ciaran Byrne did a great job of recording it and I’m very happy with how it came out. The show in Galway will be based around a lot of the material that features on the live album along with a few new songs, like ‘Mister Mister’.”
It has also been announced that Rebecca will appear with the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society in Hello Dolly at the Gaiety next April. “It’s my first time appearing with a musical society,” she reveals. “It’s their 100th anniversary next year so it’s a big occasion. I’ve been a big Barbra Streisand fan for ages and I’ve really longed to play that part so when they asked me, they didn’t have to ask me twice - and the Gaiety is my favourite theatre so I’m really looking forward to that.
Tickets for Rebecca Storm’s Galway concert are €25 and are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie