Not leaving the world behind
By David Hennessy
Rose-Marie’s career in music started singing to the cows on the family farm as she worked. Since then she has sold 15 million albums, performed at some of the world’s finest venues, performed with greats such as Johnny Cash, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck as well as singing for royalty. After spending nearly six years in America training to be actress and headlining shows in Vegas, the singer is back in the UK where she can be seen performing live at the Leicester Square Theatre on December 4. Originally from Newry, the singer of songs such as When I Leave The World Behind told The Irish World why she had to come back to the UK and Ireland where she first made her name.
“It’s fantastic to be back,” she told us last week. “I got America out of my system. I always wanted to go to Hollywood and I always wanted to do Vegas. I decided I would leave the UK for a while and reinvent myself and study acting. I had already played Mrs. Johnstone in Blood Brothers and I did a movie called Cold Fish, so I lived in Hollywood for a couple of years, studied acting at the Ivana Chubbuck School of Acting. I started doing shows in smaller venues in Hollywood and then I got the call to go to Vegas so that was a dream come true.
“I hung out with Engelbert and did some shows with him and I started doing The Golden Nugget when Gladys Knight wasn’t playing. She would have the Sundays off so I would play the Sundays. Then I would do the Hilton Hotel, Sheena Easton would play the week there and I would do every other Sunday until I gradually got my own following.”
Within five minutes of meeting Rose-Marie, The Irish World has heard the names Humperdinck, Knight and Easton and these are not the only celebs she came across stateside as she was moving in some extraordinary circles: “When I met John Travolta in LA, he put me up for a couple of agents and I had a couple of small parts in sitcoms. But then I got the call to go to Vegas so I never got to pursue that.”
As if any of this was not impressive enough, she has also toured with the man in black himself among others: “Johnny Cash was adorable. When I toured with Johnny Cash, Billie Jo Spears, Willie Nelson and and Tammy Wynette, we were all in this massive coach. Johnny Cash was just an icon and to think, I was playing his records in my bedroom when I was growing up. I’ve been lucky to work with some of the greats.”
When you can boast of such a fabulous career, can you pick out a highlight? “I’ve done the London Palladium three times and sold it out three times so I suppose the very first time I felt like Judy Garland walking onto the stage: That was a highlight for me. Then I sang for Princess Diana and meeting her backstage that was quite a moment as well and then the third was playing Mrs. Johnstone in Blood Brothers. Bill Kenwright gave me six days to learn the whole script. Acting and singing wise, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. He says: ‘Will you be able to pull this off?’ and I’d been wanting the role all my life.”
Rose-Marie has also starred in The Eva Cassidy Story with Faye Tozer from Steps. Although she performs there again in December, Rose-Marie performed in the Leicester Square Theatre last march with a show that was different to say the least: “I had people like my mates Barbara Windsor and June Brown who plays Dot Cotton in Eastenders, people like that. I had them all up on stage at the end singing We’ll Meet Again. The audience couldn’t believe what they were seeing so I’m blessed I have a lot of celebrity pals and pals outside the business. Being in America you miss your family and friends, the friendships you’ve built up through the years so that’s why it’s really good to be back.”
Has she ever considered writing a biography since any one from her would surely be a bestseller? “The subject’s come up quite a lot. I’m sort of in two minds. I’m scared to do it because people would want something controversial or something. At school I had a hard time with the nuns because I wasn’t what you would call a bright child. I remember starting to write a book years and years ago, I couldn’t get past the school bit, just 20 pages on getting battered by nuns. I wouldn’t rule it out in future.”
For the full interview see 10 November Irish World