The Lisa-Marie version

We talk to Birmingham-born singer Lisa-Marie Holmes about coming out of lockdown.

Lisa-Marie Holmes has a wealth of experience in musical theatre. We spoke to her about how she’s coped with lockdown and what she plans to do once she’s able to perform again.

“I created a one-woman show Called the Streisand version, which was a bit of a joke name as every time I did a song in cabaret I did a Streisand version because she’s the most famous cabaret singer there is. In 2019 a friend of mine was running a smaller venue in Leicester Square called Studio 88 and asked me to do a Streisand show. I’d played her in a revue called You Don’t bring Me Flowers and she’s my big influence. I put it together as a songbook show of her most famous songs. It took off from there, I toured it on Cunard liners and It launched itself into this show that everyone enjoyed. Then I was asked to do it at Crazy Coqs, which is the top cabaret venue in London and that’s how we got to here.

“It was great to get the call to play there where so many of the big names have played, going from the smaller venues through Cunard and the most prestigious venue in London is quite a feat. I’m now looking forward to seeing if it can go to a big West End venue.

You come from Rubery, which must have been awkward if you were wanting to perform when you were growing up as it’s a bit out of the way and you don’t thin of those sort of place as having much in the line of cultural activity.

“I had a really supportive family. There wasn’t a lot happening when I was growing up, not like there is now. Places like Elmhurst, none of that existed. I went to the Birmingham Midland Operatic Society from the age of nine and my mum used to drive me to rehearsals in Ladywood every week. We did shows at the Old Rep and the Hippodrome. Even as a kid I did shows at Symphony Hall, places like that. I did the Hippodrome’s 100th birthday celebrity gala, I was one of the kids in Oliver. I had a singing teacher in Quinton who classically trained me and I did the exams in central Birmingham. I was very much a part of a lot of things going on.”

You’ve quite a background in that sort of theatre.

I was in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, then I was Joanne in the twentieth anniversary tour of Rent, I recently did the big online fundraising production for Rise Up With Arts which had Brian May, Kerry Ellis, Brenda Edwards and so many people involved. It’s going to be re-aired worldwide later this month.”

That last one was been inspired by the problems facing the industry during lockdown. You must have your own story to tell about that.

“It’s been really tough. I had a few cruises booked for Cunard that got cancelled and a couple more tours were scrapped, then nothing this year until things open up again. Even auditions have been put on hold so it’s been difficult. I’m working as a receptionist at the moment in Colmore Row to keep me going. I’ve been doing that during the day and it certainly keeps me grounded then I’m also doing a lot of online things, anything I can get involved with just to keep up.”

“If you’re in the mainstream pop industry you’ll get some radio plays or downloads to get royalties but for a live performer its been a case of spending your savings and dealing with it. It’s get another job or live in poverty.”

And as you’re primarily a live performer you’ve not been able to do much studio work.

“I’ve done some demos at home with my own equipment. A music producer who works for Disney sent me some tracks to do but it’s really difficult at home – you have to get it right, do the mixing and make sure it’s not distorting, all those technical things, so I have been doing that a lot. A lot of artists have been doing that and sending it into the studio but of course if you do it wrong it has to be done again so it’s a big old process and a lot harder to do to from home.”

Once things get back to normal do you see a new spirit of co-operation amongst performers, management, venues, all the people who were perhaps in competition with each other but will now be working together to get the arts back on its feet?

“Lockdown has brought people from all corners of the arts industry together to create and raise money and show how important the arts are to people’s well-being and what use we are to the world. There’s been a lot of camaraderie and support, artists raising money for other artists who are starting out or who might have fallen on hard times. It’s showing how we all help each other and it’s been quiet moving to see how much people are willing to support each other. Show business is portrayed as a stab you in the back business at times but it’s not been like that. It’s been a case of holding each other up, supporting each other, helping. It’s been wonderful to see.”

Lisa-Marie Holmes is performing The Streisand Version at Crazy Coqs inside Z├ędel Brasserie, Piccadilly Circus, August 8th. Tickets

Rise Up With Arts is showing from 14th-16th May. Tickets are available here.