Meet the singer drawing global audiences to her Barking living room
- Credit: Andrew Earwaker
The heart of theatre in the USA - New York's Broadway - may need to move aside because a living room along its Barking namesake is drawing global audiences too.
That's thanks to singer Dinah O'Brien whose show, Live in the Living Room, is broadcast online from her home in the Broadway.
Since going online a year ago, the 34 year-old has seen thousands tune in from the UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Brazil and more to listen to renditions of pop, swing and jazz hits.
Dinah started the weekly performances after the country was plunged into lockdown and theatres were forced to close their doors.
She was three days into her honeymoon when the trip was cut short by the outbreak of Covid-19. Scheduled tours to Monaco and Australia had to be cancelled.
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"I had work booked up to August, which is rare for a performer. All that was cancelled.
"At first it was a panic. It felt like everything had been swept from under my feet," Dinah said.
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Friends recommended the professionally trained singer and dancer should do a show online and one year on it is being viewed thousands of times on Facebook and YouTube.
Sister Becky O'Brien, who appeared on Britain's Got Talent, joined the show after returning to the UK from New York - where she had appeared in two shows on Broadway.
"It's not quite Broadway, but we do live in the Broadway," Dinah joked. "I never imagined a year later we would still be doing it.
"The audience has created its own community around the show, which is really humbling and beautiful."
Husband Andrew Earwaker - who is organist at St Margaret's Parish Church in Barking - does all the technical wizardry needed to produce the show, plays piano and arranges the music.
Performances of hits by the Carpenters, Abba and a horror inspired version of Enter Sandman by heavy metal band Metallica have featured in the show, which airs for the 55th time on Sunday, April 18.
On the show's importance, Dinah said: "It has definitely been a lifeline. It's given me a focus. I do love when I'm on stage. That's when I come to life.
"I'm usually a shy and retiring person but when I'm on stage I feel like I'm alive. Having that taken away was a really scary thought."
Performance is in the family. Dinah's dad, Paddy O'Brien, was one half of comedy duo Dailey and Wayne, while mum June is a dancer and choreographer who runs Gem Studios from Ripple Primary School. Her cousin, Alan Howard, played bass with The Tremeloes.
Barking born and bred, Dinah's first job as a professional was singing in the film Mrs Henderson Presents which stars Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins.
She appeared with singer Will Young in a BBC concert to mark the 60th anniversary of VE Day.
On International Women's Day two years ago, she made history in Saudi Arabia where she became the first female soloist to dance in public under efforts by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reform the country.
Her talents have taken Dinah to Australia, Canada, China, India and Dubai. But home is firmly in Barking where three generations of the family have lived and worked.
On the prospect of venues opening up and audiences returning to auditoriums, Dinah signalled a note of caution.
Under the government's roadmap out of lockdown, venues may be able to reopen from May 17.
But Dinah explained that while West End theatre productions will probably restart, venues elsewhere may wait until there is more certainty over infection rates due to the expense of putting on productions.
"There's a huge demand for live performance. People need entertainment, not necessarily reality entertainment, but something grounded and real.
"For me, music makes me calm. If I'm feeling anxious, I'll dance or sing and that's the same for a lot of people.
"Without entertainment during lockdown, there would be far more anxiety and depression.
"People need music."