Expect big sounds from little belter at Felixstowe Spa
Despite being asked the worst two questions you can put to a lady, her age and dress size, Elouise Freeman speaks to entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE about her new one-woman musical.
“I’m not a midget. I’m just a normal size eight sort of girl,” laughs Elouise.
Let me explain. Having asked her age, she’s just turned 30 by the way, I inquire about her measurements; purely for professional purposes.
Specifically, to get to the bottom of her nick-name Little Belter; also the title of her new show.
“I’ve got an hourglass figure with a very tiny waist, that’s what people pick up on. They think ‘oh my God, look at the size of her waist, where’s the voice coming from?,” she laughs. “But I don’t know.”
The tour, at Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion on March 10, sees her take on show-stopping standards and epic torch ballads made famous by the likes of Streisand, Bassey and Garland, as well as arrangements of more contemporary songs by Lady Gaga, to name but one.
Little Belter is written by novelist and record producer Terry Ronald, part of the creative team behind West End hit The Hurly Burly Show, who has worked with Girls Aloud, Danni Minogue and Cheryl Cole.
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Responsible for the musical arrangements is Southend’s Steve Anderson, the musical director for the last eight Kylie Minogue tours. It’s a celebration of the legends who have inspired Elouise, who also shares tales of growing up and why, ultimately, she couldn’t do anything but sing.
“It’s because I can’t do anything else,” she laughs as we talk about some of her more, less than glamorous jobs.
“Oh God, the problem is I’m usually sacked from most of them,” she laughs again, “or I’m too busy working on a show.
“I’ve done so many of those jobs or been dressed as a tomato or a chicken. I can’t even tell you; it would be too awful,” Elouise giggles.
“One minute you’re selling out the Liverpool Empire [playing Lola in a touring production of Copacabana], the next I had no job and was waitressing in Manchester.
“You’ve got to have those times, it makes you the person you are and it gives me these funny little stories now that I’ve got to tell.”
Elouise was clearly made for more than selling pies and dressing up a Nicorette, trying to stop people smoking as they walked around Manchester.
“Growing up, people would say to my mum ‘God, she’s got a right belt on hasn’t she’ or ‘isn’t she a little belter’. It just stuck and seemed perfect for the show.”
She trained as a dancer from the age of four – to this day she’s never trained as a singer. but her big voice started making itself heard when she was about 11-12.
While everybody else was into Take That, Elouise was belting out Shirley Bassey and Bette Midler in her bedroom.
“Singing like them, in some ways it’s held me back in the industry until I met Steve [Anderson]. I worked with other songwriters who didn’t know what to do with my voice.
“I’ve got a very soft voice as well, but there’s this other side to me which is huge.
“People were always trying to say ‘oh no, sing more poppy, sing more breathy, don’t go into the belt’. I thought, that’s not me.
“I wanted to sing these big massive songs which people love and I was being told not to, to try to fit into the mould of the music business or what was wanted at the time.
“Steve always says it’s like having his own little Barbra now – which is lovely.”
Performing 20 of the most massive songs in music history sounds scary.
“It’s exhausting. I don’t know why I put such a ridiculous set list together now because I’m like ‘oh my God’,” she laughs yet again as talk turns to dance routines and multiple quick-fire costume changes.
Something tells me audiences are in for a treat; after all Steven knows how to put on a show - ask anybody who’s seen one of Kylie Minogue’s shows over the last decade.
He’s been the Aussie pop queen’s musical director since 1997, working on every tour and appearance including Aphrodite – Les Folies and The Sydney Olympics. He’s also worked on productions for Take That, Westlife, Britney Spears and The Pet Shop Boys.
“The Kylie team is very close knit, there’s a lot that goes into putting on one of those shows. I work principally with her director and herself. We start about eight months before the show goes out and the prep for it is massive; it’s much more than just a girl singing songs,” he says.
“There’s massive production, choreography, video and everything that goes with it. But you know, I don’t put any less work into something like Little Belter than I would into a Kylie show, they’re equally important.”
Steve, from Southend in Essex, was always looking for what he calls his Barbra Streisand project.
“I saw a show of Elouise’s when she was doing some Motown covers and thought her voice was incredible and it was wasted doing what she was doing,” he says.
After producing a few EPs and some shows for her, they came up with the idea for Little Belter.
Every time she opened her mouth to sing, a cross between Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey came. So Steven and scriptwriter Terry Ronald created a show around that.
“It’s a real labour of love for everyone involved but particularly for Elouise, because she’s the one who has to get through 20 of the most notoriously hard to sing songs ever all in one show.
“We find by the end of it audiences are really willing her along to do the last few songs. It’s a bit like watching a prize fighter, you know. Every single one just takes it out of her that little bit more.
“The stories of her as a performer are all pretty hilarious. Some of them sound like they’ve been made up but they’re all from her life.”
As well as fabulous frocks, great choreography and some up-temp disco numbers, there’s a few of Steve’s songs in there.
“We obviously wanted to make sure the majority were well-loved songs by people they could come along and really enjoy. Audiences can expect a really fantastic, fun, warm night out.”