Saturday, April 28, 2012

Quinn Lemley!


“Don’t Tell ‘em! Show ‘em!” 
Happy Saturday!
I love the above quote. Carol Channing always said to me, "Don't talk about it. Just do it." Quinn Lemley has been doing it for as long as I can remember. From the moment I first saw her as Rita Hayworth in The Heat Is On directed by Carter Inskeep. I have been a fan. My friendship, which I cherish, came later. Quinn epitomizes old show biz glamour. At an earlier time, she would have been headline in Vegas and giving Mitzi Gaynor, who I love, a run for her money.
After 5 years of dreaming and developing this show touring, they are coming back to New York at the historic Millennium Theatre in Brighton Beach Brooklyn.
Friday and Saturday May 18 and 19
Burlesque To Broadway at the Millennium Theatre in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn 8pm.  www.theatremillenium.com for tickets (coupon code for 50% off is myunion)
Burlesque to Broadway is a theatrical concert directed by Tony Award winner, Joseph Hardy that celebrates the icons that broke thru boundaries and went from Burlesque, Broadway and beyond. 
It has it all!
Sequins, feathers, fans, a hot 10-piece big band, corny jokes of the era, provocative choreography by Merete Muenter, gorgeous talented girls, Stacey Harris and Natalie Loftin Bell AND Quinn Lemley!

The music takes all of us on a journey from Irving Berlin to Tom Jones; there is something for everyone.
 The Millennium Theatre is a state of the art 1400 seat theatre. Brighton Beach has so much to offer, great restaurants, markets, the Millennium Theatre and it’s only 45 mins from Times Square and a block from the Q train! “Take the Q to Q!”
Do yourself a favor...Go see what show business is truly all about. 
When I asked Quinn who the most iconic person she ever met was, she said there were three that stand out.
Her dear friends, Richie and Preston Ridge told Quinn to keep a day and evening free to surprise her for her birthday, they were going to have an adventure.  Her dream was to see Ann-Margret (who like Rita Hayworth, she LOVES), but there were no listings anywhere that she was playing.  Lo and behold, they took Quinn to Foxwoods, where she was doing a private high roller show in the theater! They had VIP seats front and center! She was amazing.  They topped it by getting themselves backstage to meet her and Roger Smith and her dog.  It was a madhouse backstage with tons of admirers, but Ann came right up to Preston and Richie to greet them, and then hugged and greeted Quinn as their guest and told them that she loved their beautiful redhead! Quinn! She was so gracious, lovely and wonderful!
Quinn was also in Illinois before Obama was a household name, when he was still Senator; she was at a luncheon where he was the keynote.  She had the opportunity to meet him.  He was so charismatic, passionate and intelligent, but what struck her the most was his ability to connect in a sincere way on each person’s individual level no matter who they were.  That is a gift.
Eartha Kitt, is also one of Quinn's idols.  When Quinn moved to NY, her mom and she would go to the Café Carlyle every year to hear her.  Even in her ‘’70’s she was sexy, playful and FABULOUS!  She always greeted Quinn after the show.  Quinn's mom said that all of the great performers in her day at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago would meet the audiences after their show to sign records, cd’s, autographs etc… but mainly to meet the audience.  Quinn always does that.  It’s her thank you for sharing the evening together, the few times in Quinn's career she didn’t do that, she didn’t feel complete.  She loves it because her "girls" in Burlesque To Broadway now always meet and greet after the shows with her.
I asked Quinn if she ever lost her concentration on stage, and if so, what she did to get back on track.  
They shuffled off to Buffalo, NY and were playing a gorgeous old Vaudeville house with Burlesque To Broadway last fall.  In the second act, Quinn is  "under dressed" so that she can “peel” off her costumes, her mic pack for her body mic is under EVERYTHING.  Well, they were dancing up a storm performing some challenging and sexy choreography by Merete Muenter (who is an old friend and I will be blogging about in the near future).  In the middle of the number, Quinn's mic pac went out and the house manager ran to stage right to give her a handheld mic for her to finish the number (how she did her moves holding a mic she doesn't know, but it worked!) But the problem was, they were going into their fan dance where they give the audience a little  “tease” with those feathers and there was no way she could perform it using a handheld mic, holding the feathers and teasing!  She doesn't know how on earth the crew was going to replace the pack.  Well during sound check, she was telling the band all of these ridiculous jokes that are her own (not from the show) so they encouraged her to tell these jokes as they, the band, improvised the "bah duh duhs" on the drums.  The moment Quinn's pack was ready to be changed they jammed and in less than a minute they were set to go! It brought down the house! Sometimes it’s the unplanned stuff that is the most fun for the audience. She never imagined her "mushroom" jokes would save the day! 
 
One lesson Quinn has learned in this business is to always say thank you, always give your best, always be a pro, always treat everyone with respect.  If someone doesn’t have your vision let them go. It’s a team effort. 
 
Your thoughts on Arts in Education 
The arts are one of the most important things in education! Brazil has one of the largest funds for education, the arts and community development.  It’s their culture. The arts bring the world together; they inspire dialogue, creativity and collaboration. 
What one role would you like to play that you would never be cast in and why?
The emcee in the musical Cabaret
He has great numbers by Kander and Ebb, he’s mysterious, he gets to dress up and wear fabulous make up, and he’s sexy, mysterious, dangerous and uninhibited.  
What life lessons did you learn from your parents?
Follow your dreams.  The Universe does provide. Celebrate life.  There is always enough for everyone. Be inclusive. Learn to let go.
I’m campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in 2012. If you agree that she should receive this honor, can you say why you think this should happen?
“Why Y-E-AS!”  Carol should receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor.  She is a National Treasure! She has touched all of our lives directly or indirectly with her talent and magnetic personality!

How do you choose what roles you desire to do?
Rita Hawworth choose me.  Playing Rita Hayworth in The Heat Is On! was a challenge, I wanted to capture "Margarita Cansino", the desires and needs of who she really was and juxtapose it with the created personae of Rita Hayworth who was the icon of Femme Fatale and synonymous with glamour. She always said, “They fell in love with Gilda, and woke up with me.”
I like sexy, strong, powerful, glamorous women who can also be campy and funny and laugh at themselves.   Now I get to play myself, Quinney, Quinn Quinn in Burlesque To Broadway that is fun!  When I was looking to do a new show after The Heat Is On! Paul Horton, my manager said I needed to be myself onstage. 
After the success of The Heat Is On!,  Quinn's manager Paul Horton and Quinn needed to create a new vehicle for the Performing Arts Markets.  They were on tour playing Naples Philharmonic and were lying on the beach when she thought of Gypsy Rose Lee!  Paul didn’t want her to play another deceased movie star/personality.  He said she was ready to develop her own personality on stage. 
Quinn has always been fascinated about Gypsy Rose Lee.  She wondered, “Outside of the musical, GYPSY, what did Gypsy Rose Lee do? What was her nightclub act like?”  Quinn started reading all of the books on Gypsy, June Havoc, which lead her to study burlesque and the icons, like Fannie Brice, Mae West, Sally Rand, Cher, Bette Midler and now we have Lady Gaga. They all pushed the boundaries, which shaped and influenced, fashion, humor, music, television, as we know it today. God, I miss the Variety Shows! Quinn was able to weave their stories with her own experiences growing up learning about them as a child from her Granny Lemley, performing in her Dad’s chicken n ribs restaurant, The Buffy in Indiana dressed up in feathers for the customers, even for the local flasher, Greasy Bob.  Quinn had an idea! They’d do a show celebrating the women who went from Burlesque Broadway and Beyond!

She never dreamed that creating this show would be a process, such a journey.  The biggest life lessons she would ever learn, painful and joyous.  It’s a fabulous show! I've seen it!! GORGEOUS!Quinn has her dream team.  Burlesque To Broadway is, so far, Quinn's biggest success! She is so grateful and excited!
 
What would you tell your 25-year-old self?
Don’t worry about being “liked”, be authentic. Be true to yourself and your visions, the right people will come into your life.
What one change would you like to see in today’s industry?
What has been exciting and interesting is that we have a lot of younger audiences.  Women love this show.  They dress up in boas, sequins, get all glam and come in groups with their girlfriends or with the men who love them.  They come to have a good time, to celebrate women.  
 It’s exciting to see people in their 20’s and 30’s loving the standards as well as the typical theatre going audiences. 
 
Michael Buble and Robbie Williams have really helped connect with that demographic, but we need MORE exposure! Pun intended!
In general, I wish popular music was more diversified.  AND LYRICS that can be understood!  To me the lyric is essential.
I love the American Songbook and, like you and a lot of our colleagues, I am keeping it alive. I perform in Europe and because of classic films and an appreciation of jazz.  Last New Year, we were playing at The Half Note in Athens, Greece on my fourth run of shows, I think we’ve sold out about 45 shows there.
 I love Greece, It’s my second home. We had tons of Greek men singing back to me, “Da- da – da –da da-dadadad” when I was singing Cole Porter’s, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”!  
As if they were Daddy!
 It was hysterical and fabulous! The Europeans know the songs, but in general, young people today in the US don’t listen outside of MTV and the radio.  They need to know the standards!  Lets get the songs out!
 
 Do you consider what you wear on stage for your show a costume? Or is it just clothing to you? 
Richard, I’m like Cher, never more than 8 minutes onstage in the same costume! Mr. Wendall Goings, my costumer for Burlesque to Broadway has created the most GORGEOUS costumes laden with sequins, feathers and fans for me and my girls, Natalie Loftin Bell and Stacey Harris.
They are so sexy and beautiful we feel exquisite! And like my gowns by Michael Louis for Rita (The Heat Is On!) the costumes are props and part of the choreography as well.  
 
 Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career?

I’m performing Burlesque To Broadway, a show that I created in some of the top theaters around the country and Canada to standing ovations doing what I love to do with a talented group of people, and a sizzling 10 piece big band, how could I not?!!!! 
 
I just wish I was doing it every day!
What makes you unhappy?
I mentioned creating; birthing this show was a process. Believe me, we learned the hard way, but had angels along the way!
The thing that made me the saddest was giving people an opportunity and they took advantage of me at my expense on every level.  You know, you were there in the beginning at the first showcase.
I gave an aspiring director friend of 20 years a chance at directing the showcase and he in turn had me hire his best friend, an actor/writer to be the MC and write the patter.  
 My manager’s mother had just died, so I had to put a lot of trust and faith in my director friend and his writer.
The director and his friend put their ambitions and desires ahead of what was best for the show and me.  You were there it was a disaster. Everyone hated the emcee and his
writing, he wasn’t even off book in his 20-minute opening monologue, and the direction was non-existent, the casting was ridiculous. The costumes, which cost a fortune, were literally falling off. It was the actor’s nightmare!  It was the worst night of my life.  We had to fire all of them and start from scratch, we lost our shirts, but we persevered and it has paid off.  Honey, we have so many stories, I could write a book! It was Joe Hardy who told me to write it myself and after some trial and error we got our dream team.  Merete’s choreography is provocative and exciting, it tells a story in dance to compliment my story in words.  We got a professional casting director, Jamibeth Margolis, found our “Charlie’s Angels" on stage, Natalie Loftin Bell and Stacey Harris.
Our musical directors, Francis Minarik, Charles Lindberg and W Brent Sawyer brought the arrangements together with Steve Rawlins and Tedd Firth’s rousing orchestrations and Wendall Goings stepped in and created the most gorgeous costumes ever.
 
A long way from the first try from what you saw!  With the right creative team and a lot of help from our friends, the show is now what Paul and I dreamed back in Naples 5 years ago!  We have all grown from this experience!
How has the industry changed since you made your debut?
 A lot, the world has changed. But the creative process is still the same.  We have to create and get it out there with passion and conviction, no matter what it is! 
 How on earth do you reach theatergoers now that newspapers are obsolete and there are so many channels on TV you can’t pick the right ones to advertise on and with the web being so hit and miss.
I just want to take this opportunity to say that we have been so lucky having the best promoters and executive directors around the country!  The arts are really an engine of economic growth.  People don’t realize that for every show that comes into the theater, there are so many roles that various people play.
 
From the marketing department (they do A LOT of the pr) lighting, sound, crew, ushers, ticket department, dressers, catering, make up, the monitor operators, the spotlight operators…the list goes on.  Every position is integral to putting on a great show and getting the word out there.
So to get the word out… I guess it’s by doing the doing, Good Work, word of mouth, the obvious - Face Book, your blog and others like it, interviews, linked in, Twitter, postcards, A GOOD PUBLICIST, buses (I had 4 in Kelowna Canada in November – we screamed with delight when we finally saw one drive by!!!!) billboards, performing arts centers subscriptions, groupon and all of that, websites, listings, plus I have to say I have the best manager ever, Paul Horton at Century Artists! 
A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?
To Travel The World to packed houses and rave reviews performing my show, BURLESQUE TO BROADWAY and others
To never have to worry about anything
To always get to spend time with the people I love
Thoughts about where you are RIGHT NOW in your career
Grateful, Happy, Perfectionist, I want more!
 
Is your priority in your career doing the work or being famous
I love what I do. I work very hard. I love being known for what I do!
What do you do to prepare for your performances?
Write, rewrite, work out a lot, practice a lot, take lessons, go over everything with my manager over and over, promote, do interviews, rehearse, rehearse, travel, then let go and be in the moment and connect with the audience, the music, the band, my co-stars, the space.
 
  I’m one of those performers who has freedom when I am prepared for everything and then can riff from there, but I like to be prepared.
You do an iconic role. Do you think you should on to an iconic costume piece as a memento OR donate it to a museum for others to enjoy?
NOT YET! I’m still wearing them!
 We will be performing Rita again later this year touring and I hope for years to come!  
Have you shared any love today? (From Myles Savage)
Oh yes! Lot’s of it!
What is your fondest Memory?
I have so many for different reasons.  One is the first time I played BB Kings in The Heat Is On in Times Square.  The place was packed, it was the first time I had ever played with such a big band, and I looked out in the audience and everyone in my life was there, my colleagues, my family, friends…even my show business parents Jeanne and Harry Snow, (Once Upon A Mattress, Most Happy Fella) who were stars on Broadway ‘30’s-‘60’s came from Indiana in their 80’s right before Harry passed away.
 It was exhilarating! It was touching. 
Quinn Lemley will be onstage May 18 and 19th at the Millennium Theatre in Brooklyn.  http://www.theatremillennium.com (coupon code 50% off is MYUNION)  Come up and see her! 


Thank you, Quinn, for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world and I cannot wait to share your experiences with the world!

Your devoted fan,



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