Towngate is back in business and Elesha will star as Whitney

  Posted: 09.08.21 at 17:42 by The Editor

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WITH theatres now opening their doors and shows returning to the stage after the long Covid-19 lockdown, live theatre and concert fans in South Essex are looking forward to returned to the region’s venues.

And there is a real treat in store at Basildon’ Towngate Theatre on Thursday, 16 September when the acclaimed Whitney: Queen of the Night tribute show comes to town.

The star of the show is Elesha Paul Moses, who has been striving for success in the music business for 20 years, via traditional grafting and TV talent shows.

And now, after 15 months waiting in the wings since Covid-19 closed theatres across the UK, she’s ready to step back into the limelight.

Elesha, who lives in Hampshire and grew up in Surrey, appeared on The X Factor in 2010, alongside One Direction and in the same category as the bongo playing wild card Wagner. She then reached the battle rounds – twice – on The Voice, and was mentored by Mathew Knowles – Beyonce’s dad – on a Channel 4 talent show.

She is also touring the UK as Tina Turner in smash hit show What’s Love Got To Do With It? which also returns to theatres in 2021.

Elesha as Whitney

We spoke to Elesha about her love of performing, life being put on hold during the pandemic and how she recreates the stunning Whitney vocals.

Whitney: Queen Of The Night has been touring for a few years now. When did you join the show?

I joined in 2018, initially understudying Whitney and as a backing singer, then I moved into the lead role performing throughout 2019, including the amazing West End and Brazil shows. We were really getting stuck into the 2020 tour when Covid-19 struck – and theatres were closed.

The pandemic has hit the entertainment industry and performers so hard. How has it been for you?

It was very strange, as we’d been so busy with the tours. I’ll be honest, I welcomed the break at first as we thought it would be for a few weeks, but as time went on, and the adrenaline passed, I started to feel quite low with not knowing what was going to happen.

Elesha's audition performance on The Voice

I started running. The roads were empty, there were no cars, I could run anywhere – so long as it was only for an hour… Remember that? We were busy keeping the children entertained, as while I absolutely love being on the road and performing, having that time to be with the kids was brilliant and we had a lot of fun. So, as much as it has been hard at times, the time at home has also been lovely.

When it reached the autumn, I had to look for work, and like so many entertainers I got a job as a supermarket delivery driver. I posted a picture on Instagram, saying ‘I quite like this lime green T-shirt’, and the next day I got a call saying they wanted me to be in their Christmas TV advert.
That was pretty crazy, but a great experience among all that’s happened.

I’ve also done some acting, trained in stage fighting, and been writing music. I had to stay busy and active, that’s been the key to it. I’ve trained in nutrition and as a personal trainer, so I found things which all add to my ability to make the shows the very best they can be.

You perform as both Whitney Houston and Tina Turner – they’re very different artists. What’s it like recreating these iconic female performers live on stage?

You need a huge amount of stamina to do Whitney as well as Tina – vocally, physically and mentally. Whitney is the vocal challenge, while Tina is the physical, and they are such different sounding performers, of course. But each role makes me stronger in different ways which then pays off on both shows.

As Whitney, there’s nowhere to hide as it’s a slower, more mellow show. I actually had to focus more on Whitney when we started doing them both together to keep that laid back vibe, even though I’d been in Queen Of The Night for longer.

Compare that to What’s Love Got To Do With It? and Tina... Once you’re on stage, there’s no letting up from the moment you start. I love that contrast between the two.

Now you’re back on the road with Whitney – Queen Of The Night, what’s new for 2021?

We’ve got an all-new cast of singers and dancers – Iva, Vanessa and Joey, new choreography, new costumes, more storytelling, more interaction. And it’s all come together so well in rehearsals, it’s going to be awesome! Joey is our first guy in the show, and having him on board is great, as it adds some new dynamics in the performances. It’s funny, as I’d talked about having a guy in the cast, but we weren’t sure. Then they did the auditions and there he was.

For me personally, there’s even more choreography now, which has been fun to learn alongside the new cast. I’ve warned them though, they’re in for a shock with the shows – it’s hardcore! I’m doing two hours a day in the gym because I need to be able to do that to keep up the energy and have the stamina to sing and dance for two hours.

Vocally, I’ve not been doing too much during lockdown – although I do always sing in the car. My voice was ready for the break, I’d been working almost non-stop singing Tina and Whitney for about five years. Coming back to rehearsals, it’s all still there and is getting stronger with every session, so I’m raring to go and I’m fitter and stronger than I was before.

How do you feel about getting back to performing?

Seeing an audience again, singing and dancing along with us, is going to be massive. That is such a huge part of why entertainers do what we do. I’m up there singing these incredible songs that people love, and hopefully for those couple of hours I’m doing a good enough job that we take them back to believe we’re the real thing. The feeling of a crowd singing along to I Wanna Dance With Somebody or How Will I Know, it’s just great.

It was hard watching sports happening with big crowds while theatres were still being held back.
I’ve loved seeing it, seeing people together having fun, but it’s also been very frustrating too – and that’s been reflected right across the entertainment industry. How was that allowed but we weren’t able to have full theatres?

I was so, so pleased when the announcement came for restrictions being lifted, which means we can get back out on the road – and I can’t wait. But I was also reflective, it has been a long time, far longer than we could have ever imagined, all our lives have been on hold. We had plans as a family for last year, and they’ve got to wait now.

For now, though, I’m grateful to be getting back out there and seeing our amazing audiences again.

It’s a very busy schedule with both shows running alongside each other. How do you manage that with family life?

My eldest daughter Kookie is nine, and she’s only ever known me to be a singer. My little one Teddy didn’t know any different before Covid, I was lucky she was so young then – it’ll be interesting how she adapts now. But my husband Mark is amazing; I definitely couldn’t do it without him.

For me, I’m able to shut it off to an extent, as I know this is all about building for their future – whatever job you have, you have to balance family life. But we use Facetime a lot when I’m away so we can catch up easily and speak to them at home every day.

What’s the secret to the lasting popularity of singers like Whitney?

I’d say Whitney audiences are 80 or 90 per cent female – it’s people getting together for a real girls’ night out. Her songs have never gone away. People still know the hits, I Wanna Dance With Somebody or I Will Always Love You. You do those songs and they’re all over it, it’s not fading away.

It’s such a shame that Whitney’s life ended too soon. I sometimes wonder what it’d be like if Whitney had come through her problems, if she was still alive and I was able to see her live.

How did you get into singing and performing as a tribute artist?

When I first realised I could properly sing I was about 13 – I was always mimicking others and that’s how I taught myself. Then it was by listening to people like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, those kind of artists, that the big, belting voice came to me. It was when I was singing in a club and a friend suggested trying something different, I said ‘Shall we try Whitney or something?’. I went home, put down a couple of lines and realised I could sound like her – and it went from there.

I wasn’t necessarily a die-hard fan as a kid, but things were different when I was growing up; we were out playing on our bikes and running in fields. You had tapes or albums maybe, but you didn’t listen in the same way as kids do now to get into singing like their favourite stars. Music wasn’t so available where you click a button and have an album on your phone. But then the older I got, the more I appreciated the music and her voice and character.

How was your time on The X Factor and The Voice – and what did you learn from the experience?

When I did X Factor – in 2010 – I was in the year of One Direction and Wagner, he was in Louis Walsh’s Overs category with me, but I went home after judges’ houses.

I was asked to audition for The Voice when I was pregnant with Kookie but realised the live shows would be on when I was due so had to back out. I then auditioned in 2013 as part of a duo [getting to the battle rounds in Team], and again in 2014 [again, getting to the battle rounds with Team Tom].

Doing both of these did give me a boost at the time, even though I got so close but ultimately wasn’t successful. I’m so grateful and glad to have those experiences, but also to have moved on to what I’m doing now.

Forget being mentored by Louis Walsh – tell us about working with Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé’s dad!

So, yes, I did a TV show a long time ago, where I was mentored by Mathew Knowles – Beyoncé’s dad – that was pretty mad. It was Chancers on Channel 4’s T4, and I won the chance from UK auditions to spend a month in Houston, where the group of us chosen had various challenges. Mine was to sing at the same studio where Whitney Houston had recorded, little did I know what was to come all these years on.

But, that experience gave me a really tough skin, to know that whatever you do don’t worry about what’s happened in the past; it’s all brought me to where I am now.

The Towngate show on Thursday, 16 September starts 7.30p. Tickets are priced at £26 for adults and £25 for concessions and can be purchased online via this link.

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