Steps singer in Eva Cassidy stage role
Abigail Saltmarsh For four years, Faye Tozer was part of a pop band that rode the charts with such hits as Tragedy, Last Thing on My Mind and Heartbeat. Now the former Steps singer is bringing some very different songs to Norwich. Abigail Saltmarsh asked her about her role in musical Over the Rainbow.
In many ways there could not be more of a contrast between the music of late-90s pop band Steps and that of “songbird” Eva Cassidy.
But singer Faye Tozer seems to have made the transition smoothly and is now winning acclaim for her role as the late Eva Cassidy in musical Over the Rainbow.
“It has been really uplifting doing this,” said Faye, who is already on the road with the show.
“I didn't realise that I had such a wide singing range before taking this part.
“Eva's music included elements of folk, country and blues, and sometimes there's this fantastic sound that is almost wailing. It really is a beautiful way to sing.”
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Faye, now 33, shot to fame with the launch of Steps in 1997. The band was formed to be an all-singing, all-dancing outfit that would appeal to older children and teenagers alike.
Faye, Lisa, Claire, Lee and H had their first hit with line dancing number 5, 6, 7, 8 almost immediately and then went on to achieve chart success with a run of singles, including One for Sorrow, Deeper shade of Blue, Stomp, before splitting in 2001.
“I'm actually not recognised that often when I'm out and about - not as often as my agent would like anyway!” said Faye.
“I was very blonde in the days of Steps. Today I've gone back to my natural colour of mousy brown.
“It was fun being in Steps but I am glad to have been able to move on from it too. Performing in a musical like this is completely different from anything I did with the group.
“There, I was one fifth of a product. It was more about entertaining and it was brilliant, but I do find theatre so much more satisfying.
“You have to be very focused on one thing and it is extremely challenging. You also have to perform live every night - and for six months or so it is constant.”
After the demise of Steps, Faye had a top 10 hit with Someone Like You, which she sang with opera singer Russell Watson. The pair also toured the country together.
Since then she has been starring in musicals, including Tell Me On a Sunday in 2004 and Love Shack.
She also appeared in West End show Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, which has music written by former Evening News reporter Jon Croose and Norwich musician Robin Forrest.
And in 2006, Faye starred in Me and My Girl before taking a lead role in Dial M for Murder.
“I jumped at the chance to perform in Over the Rainbow. I was introduced to the Songbird album about 15 years ago and thought it would be fantastic to play the part of Eva Cassidy.
“There are some similarities between us. She was quite arty and had a bit of a problem with stage fright, which I had to learn to handle too.
“She was also a bit of an introvert and I am too,” she said.
She went on: “Since starting rehearsals, I have really found the music magical. I love the blues chords and the melodies. Eva really had a beautiful way of singing.”
Eva Cassidy became a household name after her death from cancer in 1996. Born in 1963, she grew up in a musical family on the outskirts of Washington, DC, singing as a small child and later learning to play the guitar.
Her father, a teacher of children with learning disabilities and a part-time musician, formed a family band with Eva, her brother Danny, on violin, and himself on bass.
She later sang backing on a number of albums for other musicians before beginning to perform live with singer Chuck Brown.
Four years after her death, her music was brought to the attention of UK audiences when her versions of Over the Rainbow and Fields of Gold were played on Radio 2.
Shortly after, the compilation album Songbird, climbed to the top of the UK Albums Charts.
In the show, nearly 30 of Eva's best songs are performed by Faye and the cast of 30 West End performers.
The role of Eva's mother is played by Ireland's flame-haired performer Rose-Marie, who is a regular performer in the seaside theatres of Yarmouth, where she has appeared for several summer seasons.
Over the Rainbow will take Faye up to Christmas, when she'll appear in Aladdin in Peterborough.
“I come to this part of the country every so often because I have friends up here,” she said.
“I was last in Norwich when I performed in Love Shack but I'm looking forward to coming back.
“I'll also be heading up to Caister, near Yarmouth, as I have friends up there. I love Norfolk - it's so beautiful.”
t Over The Rainbow is being staged at the Theatre Royal on Monday, September 29, at 7.30pm. For tickets priced £5 to £18.50, or for further information call 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk