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Home > Past Buzz > Fame is the Spur That Brings Barbara Back

Oct 1 2004
IC Cheshire Online
By Lew Baxter, Daily Post

Such is the close to delirious affection that Liverpool folk hold for Scots singer Barbara Dickson - after all,, her mum is a Scouser - that some would no doubt stand out barefoot in a snow storm to hear her glorious soaring voice swooping through well loved refrains.

Indeed, Barbara confides that performing in Liverpool is actually something of a 'busman's holiday' for her and that, yes its true, she really does love the place.

And that's one of the reasons she agreed to reprise her role as Miss Sherman in the energetic musical Fame which bounces all over the Empire stage next week, a venue she last graced earlier this year as Mrs Johnstone in her chum Willy Russell's now iconic Blood Brothers weepfest.

The role of an old fashioned teacher who barely gets to unleash her vocal chords never mind twirl the ankles in a dance routine might seem an odd choice of role for the Dunfermline born chanteuse who was catapulted to her own fame after appearing in Russell's memorable early musical John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert at the Everyman some twenty years back.

Barbara has a notion to disagree, describing the part of the bespectacled teacher as pivotal to the show, which is loosely based on the film of the now fabled New York music school that spawned a series of imitators across the world.

"The teacher is the only voice of reason and she has a very succinct line which declares - '90% of these kids will never make a living in the arts, we have to prepare them for life'.

"That is what the whole show is about, her trying to make these children see that it might not work out for them. And considering the film is now thirty years old it is still very relevant today when everybody seems to want to be in show business," comments Barbara whose own career began as a purveyor of traditional folk songs, an idiom she still holds in high regard.

Indeed, her new album Full Circle - released this week - contains six traditional songs, as well as two classically influenced numbers and a handful of 20th century style songs, such as the Everly Brothers Living Too Close To The Ground.

But before she gets stuck into the proper promotion of the album - which apparently also has the approval of Willy Russell who thinks it's lovely - there's the matter of Miss Sherman and her ideas to consider which Barbara reckons have a particular message for this generation's wannabes.

"So many people are wanting their children to be in show business and are packing them off to stage schools. I think this is a very slippery slope because - God love them - only a few of them will make it. And essentially the rest won't have had a proper education," comments Barbara.

Barbara made her debut in the musical in what was planned to be just a one-off, three-week appearance in Edinburgh last Christmas.

"It was terrific and I took my whole family up and we had a sort of holiday. But I didn't expect to return to the show which is being staged by Adam Spiegel's company and touring the UK," she says.

"But he knew what I felt about Liverpool and it seemed a natural thing to agree - but only for that one week, which is fine for me," added Barbara who returns to the city next March for a concert at the Philharmonic Hall to crank up publicity for that new album.

Barbara's keen not to upstage the Fame pals but is clearly much enthused by this latest recording, which has been produced by the Cumbrian composer Troy Donockley.

She explains that Troy is an unusual musical creature as he fuses the classical style with her own beloved Celtic muse, creating a sound which she insists is simply wonderful for those of a Celtic persuasion; able to conjure up pictures in the mind perhaps forged from the poetic passions that drive the race.

"And even though Troy is Cumbrian he has a feel for the pipes and whistles which lend themselves so perfectly to his compositions," enthuses Barbara who has adored slipping back into the traditional genre with such haunting ballads as The Unquiet Grave, The Eriksay Love Song and the Singing Bird, a melange of songs lifted from all over the British Isles.

"They reflect the mood and temperament of the songs I was weaned on, and they were a defining period in my life," she says while admitting that of course she retains a fondness for the Beatles material that swept her onto a wider arena all those years ago.

* FAME - the Musical, starring Barbara Dickson: Liverpool Empire Theatre, Monday October 4 - Saturday October 9

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