I was born in the Texas Panhandle in a town so small that ours was the only house in it. Moved to Amarillo on Highway 66 – population: 60,000, the biggest town for a 100 miles in every direction. From there to Dallas, chosen by Paul Baker to be in the original company of The Dallas Theater Center which was the only theatre designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and very beautiful. The building was still being finished when we arrived. That company had actors from all over the world and included the Broadway star John Cullum, the television star from The Waltons – Ronnie Claire Edwards, and the fine English actor William Gaunt. I played opposite Burl Ives in Joshua Beane and God, and was directed by Burgess Meredith. And I did my first musical there, Little Mary Sunshine.
From there I went to New York City and felt that I had come home at last. I loved it. I was young and single and happy as a lark. My first job was as understudy for the entire chorus of The Trojan Women at Circle-In-The-Square starring Mildred Dunnock and I was cast by the director Michael Cacoyannis. It was an amazing experience and I was lucky enough to eventually go on. I did other Off and Off-Off Broadway shows and summer stock around the country and two national tours with the National Shakespeare Company as leading lady, playing Katherine in Taming of the Shrew, Ophelia and Lady Macbeth.
From there I came to London in 1966 and have been here ever since. Anton Rodgers directed me in my first show here, a musical called Grass Roots, at Leatherhead Theatre. Then my first show in the West End was Anne of Green Gables at The New Theatre, as Miss Stacey. I’ve done a lot of work since then (see my resumé), and the thing that makes up for the disadvantage of being an American over here, is that all the business is centred in London. In America, one goes to NYC to do theatre and LA to do tele and films; there isn’t any place one can go to take part in the glories offered by BBC radio. I’ve been able to do everything here and the variety of work is the thing I love most about the business.
I came to jazz singing late. I had to learn to use a mike – in the musical theatre it had been a case of ‘Sing out, Louise’, which I did perfectly well. The mike offers different opportunities that I find both exciting and liberating. And I became aware that I knew an enormous number from the classic repertoire just from listening to the radio as I grew up. I was given the opportunity to sing with Jeff Nuttall’s band, Brenda’s Boyfriends, later led by Martin Davison who taught me to read chord symbols. That has been the most wonderful gift; now I can accompany myself on the piano and pick chords that I particularly like and set tempos and keys that suit me and my voice. A far cry from the musical theatre.
The making of How About You? was a thrill and a revelation to me. And that is true of I Wish You Love as well. My four musicians are gifted, resourceful and adorable men. It has been a happy time.