The director of Little Starz Academy, Louise splits her time between her students in Craigavon and Keady - teaching dance, drama and singing - and her passion for her pupils is plain to see.
“I’m putting on my own concert - but it’s all for the children!” Louise explains, her face brimming with pride at the mention of her students.
In need of microphones for the Little Starz Academy’s upcoming December show, ‘Welcome to the West End’ - written by Louise, herself - Louise set out to think of fundraising ideas. That’s when someone came up with a suggestion she hadn’t quite expected.
“Someone said to me, “Why don’t you put on a show? You’re a singer - people would love it!”” Louise shares.
“I thought, ‘Me?’ But they talked me round to it! I love to sing - musical theatre is my passion - so I decided to organise a concert and sing the songs of my life. I’ve called it ‘All of me’ because that’s what it is - these are the songs that come to mean so much to me over the years.”
Louise was born and raised in London by her mother, a Donegal native, and her Tipperary-born father. She lived there until her early twenties, training extensively in theatre and drama.
“I trained with Stagecoach, Songtime and Sylvia Young,” Louise says, rhyming off the trio of top theatre arts schools.
“My Dad’s a singer - he has a fabulous voice - so my sister and I grew up with a love for music.”
When Louise moved to Northern Ireland, she didn’t pursue a career in theatre or performing and noticed an absence of the arts in our country.
“I moved over to bring the West End to Northern Ireland!” she laughs.
“When I first arrived, I was doing office work and karaoke singing in my spare time, and then someone suggested that I run a summer school - so I did! It was such a success, so I started Little Starz Academy - first in St Anthony’s in Craigavon and then a second branch in Keady. We’ve been running for over four years now and have just under two hundred students.”
Louise has grown incredibly fond of the students she has acquired in her adopted homeland, and they will be starring alongside her onstage on Friday, September 25. Around eighty pupils from both her Keady and Craigavon branches will join her for several songs on the night, as well as two rising stars, eighteen year old Ethan Lawlor and sixteen year old Holly McConville. However, there might be one star in particular who will stand out above the lot.
“The proudest thing will be having my students on stage with me,” Louise says, “and my son, Rioghan. He’s four, and is coming up for a few songs, including ‘Small Bump’ by Ed Sheeran. I’m dedicating that one to him.”
‘Small Bump’ might prove to be one of the most emotional songs to bring to life on the night, as it is written as a lullaby to an unborn child, and Louise plans to sing it with her son right by her side.
“I asked Rioghan to sit on stage with me and hold my hand during ‘Small Bump’,” Louise shares, “and promised I’d buy him a present if he sits still for the whole song! We practiced the other day and just before the second verse he stopped me, giggling, and said, “Mummy, you can’t sing this song to me without laughing!” It’ll be quite an emotional night!”
Louise has been overwhelmed by the support she has received so far. Despite only having the idea for this concert eight weeks ago, she has already sold half of the tickets - with students’ families buying five or six at a time. She also has friends and family travelling from far and wide, with friends from London and family members journeying from Donegal, Dublin and Tipperary.
“When I came to publicise the show, I realised it was a lot bigger than I ever expected it to be!” Louise explains. “Michael Murray has been hugely involved in it - helping me to pick out songs, costumes, everything - and Naoimh Fearnon, my production manager. They’ve been incredible, and St Anthony’s, where I have my head office, aren’t charging me for using the venue on the night. Kitchen, the cafe on North St, Lurgan, are sponsoring the green room food, making sure the kids have snacks backstage. They’re fantastic!”
The night looks set to be a truly collaborative effort - and certainly a show not to be missed. Not giving too much away, Louise shares a couple of the tracks she’ll sing on the night:
“‘House of the Rising Sun’ is on the set list - it’s my Dad’s big song. ‘My House’, a song from the ‘Matilda’ musical, is also on there. That song really is about my kids at Little Starz Academy. It’s my favourite place in the whole world - being with them every week.”
‘All of me’ takes place on Friday, September 25, beginning at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased from www.ticketsource.co.uk and you can find more details on the Little Starz Academy Facebook page.