LONDON Premiere of THE PASS
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In late 1978 American singer-songwriter Dean Friedman reached #3 in the UK charts with Lucky Stars, a duet with a young and up-and-coming female singer. Denise Marsa had moved to New York a year before and was performing with her own band when Friedman heard her singing at a club in the city. He then wrote Lucky Stars with her in mind to sing, however Friedman and his record label did not publicise her name on the single and consequently she became known initially as “the sexy mystery voice”. THE PASS is Marsa’s story; from the beginning of her career in the mid-70’s, through the highly volatile, emotional 80’s, on to the tech-driven 90’s into the present day. From her start in her West Village studio apartment dating from 1810, to London to West Hollywood and back again, Marsa is the explorer, the innovator, and the woman drenched in tenacity – a woman unwilling to play the game by anyone else’s rules, a woman determined to do things her own way in an industry dominated by men.
“The songs are the real soul of the show, although tunes are at times reminiscent of Disney movies and the lyrics sound like simplified versions of Rent’s. The storytelling is simple, but effective. Songs simply flow out of Marsa’s life, as much as her life can be traced back and pinned down in songs – they are one and the same thing. One just feels sorry not to know the lyrics, as the temptation to sing along is quite strong.” – Anna Zanetti
London Live TV interview: Denise Marsa was the voice behind the 1978 hit single, Lucky Stars, who went on to become a successful recording artist, releasing several albums. Now she has returned to London with her new biographical show, The Pass. It explores music from the past 4 decades, unravelling the stories behind the tracks, to explore her career. Denise will be performing The Pass at The Playground Theatre 27th to the 29th of September.
“It’s all about, as the programme tells the audience, ‘songs and vignettes’, and as all the material is Marsa’s own, it all fits like a glove. A few still images are projected at the appropriate moments, saving the time and effort involved in laborious descriptions. The first half seemed, at least to me, to be skilled and tuneful enough but more than a tad reserved, though patience is rewarded after the interval as the best stories are saved for last. And why not? The reverse would have been anticlimactic to say the least.” – Chris Omaweng
EDITOR’S PICK: THIS WEEK LONDON
CM: So it’s based on your own life, and is therefore factual, but do any particular themes emerge from the telling of it?
DM: Yes, as I work on it I realise there are many themes and defining moments. Strength. Artistic survival. Not giving up. Timing. Being resourceful. Being yourself. Doing it for yourself. Grabbing Opportunities. Courage. Being a strong woman and not backing down because in your head and heart you know what is best for you. Doing your art as you see it and feel it (especially when I first got started, I was producing myself and there was push back). Not being forced subtle or otherwise, to do what makes you uncomfortable. Also, on a personal level, the challenges and struggles between being who you are and keeping your identity, while in a very close long-term, intimate, committed relationship. Caro Moses
What was the spark to put together the vignettes and songs in The Pass that relate to your life as a singer and songwriter?
After not performing for a while, I decided to book a few performances in the States. Some of our libraries here put on these really nice intimate Sunday concerts, and some also function as museums with a special room for art or exhibits – some even have pianos.
One was a library-museum in Springfield, New Jersey. It was such a lovely environment that I suddenly decided to make the show a Q&A. After each song, people asked about me and the song and said what they thought, what they felt, just off the cuff, and they really enjoyed it.
That was 2014, and when I tried it again in 2016, I began to think maybe it would be an interesting concept for me to tell longer stories as well as sing my songs. It would give people an idea of my background, what it’s like to be a songwriter, what it’s like to be in the music business and a woman, to share something of my journeys. – Nick Awde
You’re bringing The Pass to The Playground Theatre what can you tell us about it?
It’s many of my life’s defining moments, through vignettes and songs. Decades of my original music and stories about my life, in the music business, PR and working in various cities like London, New York City and Los Angeles. It expands on my growth as a woman, artist, songwriter, entrepreneur, publicist, mentor and my struggles with relationships and being alone. – Greg Stewart