Sheena Easton is a bona fide music star. She has sung a Bond theme – For Your Eyes Only. She recorded with Prince. She had her own show in Las Vegas and appeared in Grease on Broadway. But it has taken 42nd Street to bring her to the London stage more than 35 years after her first recording success.
There’s an irony that the British-born performer comes to London in a classic Broadway tale. 42nd Street debuted in New York in 1980, at the same time as Easton was recording her first album. It tells the story of aspiring star Peggy Sawyer, a chorus girl dreaming of standing in the spotlight. Her dream could become a reality when the star of her show is injured. Will she be able to grasp the opportunity?
The hit musical, which features songs including We’re In The Money and Lullaby Of Broadway, comes to the West End with an astounding cast of 55 performers set to fill the Theatre Royal Drury Lane stage.
At the production’s launch we grabbed a couple of minutes with Sheena Easton to find out why this was the show to bring her to the West End.
Why has it taken so long for you to make your West End debut?
Since I did Broadway many years ago, I’ve had several approaches to do other things. Living on the West Coast of America, that would have meant taking my family to New York. That was a no-no for me. Once you’re in the theatre, your whole life has to be about that show. You have to stay focused. You have to be fit. You have to rest your voice when you’re not working. Having two little kids, that was not going to be happening. I decided that I wasn’t going to commit to doing something like that until my kids were raised.
You’ve raised your kids, but what was it about this role that drew you to London?
There are only a few roles and a few shows that I would consider changing my life for. This happens to be one of them. It’s a great part for a woman my age. I’m 57. They’re not writing a tonne of great roles for 57-year-olds.
I saw this show in Los Angeles with Millicent Martin in it. She was playing Dorothy Brock and she blew me away. The whole production was fabulous. I remember thinking, “It must be great to be in a production like that.” When this production came up, it took me aback because I wasn’t thinking, “I’ll do the West End next year.” But I took some time to think about it and decided, yes, this is a show that makes me want to change my life for a year.
What was it about the character that intrigued you?
There’s stuff I can relate to. I love the over-the-topness of it. I love that she has fun by being fake and larger than life, but there’s a truth to it as well. Her insecurity, no matter how great she is… I see from the older woman’s perspective that she sees the future coming at her hard and she knows she’s not part of it. I think Dorothy’s fronting. She comes out and it’s all about “Darling!” But there’s also a vulnerability on the inside that she’s masking. She’s expected to be a diva. In the timeframe that it’s set you couldn’t be a star, especially a female star, and be understated. You had to stand out. It’s a well-written role. And I love the songs.