Q&A: Motown The Musical's Cedric Neal & Lucy St. Louis

Q&A: Motown The Musical's Cedric Neal & Lucy St. Louis

Updated On: May 1, 2018
By Nicki McIntyre
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    We recently caught up with Motown The Musical cast members Cedric Neal and Lucy St Louis, who will be stepping into some pretty big shoes when they play legendary Motown founder Berry Gordy and The Supremes icon Diana Ross, respectively, when previews begin at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 11 February.

    What is your favourite song to perform and why?

    Lucy St. Louis: My favourite has to be the duet; it really shows the love story between Diana Ross and Berry Gordy in that one song. That’s the moment where she becomes a woman, and there is a relationship and work balance between the two. I think the song is beautiful and that has to be my favourite moment in the show.

    Cedric Neal: And because she gets to kiss me. I have two favourite moments. I agree with Lucy on “You're All I Need To Get By”. Short story – first day of auditions for this show, we go in the room together, having never met each other, and we have to sing that song “You're All I Need To Get By”. Neither one of us knew there was a kiss at the end, but we just instinctively kissed at the end. So Charles [director Charles Randolph-Wright] was like “You know each other, right?” Ever since that first moment, that song has been special to me. But the first solo that my Berry Gordy character sings is “To Be Loved”, and both lyrically and personally, that song means the most to me.

    Can Berry Gordy actually sing as well?

    Cedric Neal: If you ask him, yes… He is a very prolific songwriter. There are thousands and thousands of songs that not many know that he wrote – some of the most popular songs ever like “For Once In My Life”.

    Lucy St. Louis: He’s a genius.

    What is the one Motown hit that’s not in the show that you wish was?

    Lucy St. Louis: I thought “Baby Love” would be in the show because it’s quite an iconic Supremes song. Maybe vocally, singing “Love Child” or “Come See About Me,” because it shows the Supremes before they made it big and their style shifted into the 1970s. In those songs you get to see them when they were starting out. You can’t include all the songs because then we’d be here for hours. There are the most amazing songs. Everyone can name a Motown song.

    Do you feel more pressure or excitement at the prospect of taking on such iconic and influential people?

    Cedric Neal: I don’t envy Lucy’s position at all. She’s playing a living icon that no one can touch, and she’s playing the hell out of a living icon that no one can touch. She is bliss. For me, people know who Berry Gordy is, but they don’t know his character or even if he can sing. So I’m playing a legend but nobody knows his personal side so I have a little bit more freedom. He told me yesterday, “You’re a lot more suave than I am, I like that.”

    Have you actually met the people you’re portraying?

    Lucy St. Louis: Berry Gordy has had a heavy impact in the show. He is very hands-on. He’s been here with us this week in rehearsals, so we’ve had meetings and get to talk about everything that happened then, which is amazing. In theatre you don’t always get to play real life incredible people, icons, and actually get to meet them or ask them questions about what actually happened. It is incredible that he is so hands-on, so involved and so open. It is wonderful to be able to really get an insight into the people we’re actually playing. For me, no one can touch Diana Ross – she is incredible, she is way up on a pedestal. I’m not trying to copy her or be a caricature or mimic everything she does. I’m taking the essence and the qualities she has. So when someone watches the performance, they get transported back to that time and they have the feel of her. I can’t touch Diana Ross – she’s a legend! But I’m trying to give the essence and the feel of her, rather than be her. 

    Cedric Neal: I have a feeling that if you ask that question on March 9th [after opening night], her answer will be totally different and she’ll be able to say, “I just met Ms. Ross last night”.

    Lucy St. Louis: If she comes to press night and we have Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson there… they are all very much involved and love the show, and went to the Broadway press night. Fingers crossed, we’re hoping we get to meet them and ask them questions too. But Berry Gordy is the mind behind it all. The fact that we have him is very special.

    Why do you think Motown is such a great show for people to see?

    Cedric Neal: Music aside, everyone can relate to a real love story with truth. The music is an added bonus.

    If you could sum up the show in 3 words, what would they be?

    Cedric Neal: Soul, love, legendary.

    Lucy St. Louis: And I would say truth too.