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 CafĂ© 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,



NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

Reserve today for Peggy Herman. Click on the above banner and be part of our star studded audience!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
                    
Tomorrow's blog will be..YOU TELL ME! I'm open to suggestions!!





Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!







  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!








TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to Al Koenig! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!





Friday, April 27, 2012

Gordon Connell!

Gordon as Vandergelder taken by Charlie Karel.
Gordon Connell (born March 19, 1923) is an American musical theatre and television actor.
 Born as William Gordon Connell in Berkeley, California, Gordon married Jane Sperry Bennett (aka Jane Connell), also a native of Berkeley. He and his wife began their career by performing at such San Francisco night clubs as The Purple Onion and The Hungry I.
 They eventually moved to New York City. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he performed in revues at the Tamiment Playhouse in the Poconos and in several of the Julius Monk nightclub revues at Upstairs at the Downstairs, including Monk's "Pieces of Eight" and "Dressed to the Nines". He made his Broadway debut in Subways Are For Sleeping in 1961.
I visited him last week at The Actors Home in Englewood and spent the afternoon discussing all things Dolly!
Gordon Connell played the Judge in the original production of Hello, Dolly! Early on in his career, after Hollywood, Gower Champion did a lot of revues.

He was attuned to that type of performing.

Gordon's wife, Jane, and he and a group of graduates from the University of Southern California found a venue "like Judy and Mickey". They did three separate reviews that summer of '46. There were sketches and songs.
They did their own costuming and everything. They were barely making a living but loving it.

In 1948, Gower's Lend An Ear opened at the Las Palmas Theatre, Los Angeles which featured an unknown Carol Channing.
Then the Julius Monk revues came along that Gordon and Jane were also involved in. In a series of New York supper clubs and cabarets -- the Ruban Bleu in the early 1940's, the Downstairs, the Upstairs at the Downstairs and, in the late 1960's, Plaza 9 at the Plaza Hotel -- Mr. Monk was the host, or regisseur (meaning stage manager), a title he preferred.
In the heyday of cabaret comedy, he was the most celebrated maestro. Julius would always greet Gordon with "Good morning, Eve!" Enough said. Gordon appeared with a troupe of actors that included Dody Goodman.
Howard McGillin with Gordon Connell
In these reviews, Gordon would play the piano and the spinet with Billy Goldenberg. Among Goldenberg's most noteworthy were his collaborations with Steven Spielberg on his telefilms (in particular, Duel) and his seven-episode contribution toward the NBC Mystery Movie detective series Columbo. He composed the theme music for several popular televisions shows including Kojak, Rhoda, Rage of Angels and Our House. He also composed the scores to countless of films and made-for-TV movies; including Onassis: The Richest Man in the World, 18 Again!, Guilty Conscience, Helter Skelter, The Legend of Lizzie Borden and hundreds others.
(Photo: Henri Dauman) David Burns © Sony Music Entertainment
Courtesy of Sony Music Archives
Because of his involvement in reviews, Gordon was on Gower's radar and he simply asked him if he would like to play the judge in Dolly, That Damned Exasperating Woman. Gordon said Gower was extraordinary when it came to casting. He had already cast David Burns as Vandergelder and was seeking an understudy for him. Gordon accepted the responsibility and was employed for the next four years. He only did it on Broadway. He did not do any of the tours. Gordon was one of the lucky ones. His role in the show remained intact as everyone else's roles were constantly changing.
He did not go on for Burns until 1966! He was on for 21 days. Burns called Gordon and asked him if he was up for the job. Gordon had been rehearsing with Gower's assistant, Lucia Victor. Gordon told me that Lucia's passing was a distinct loss to the theater. He says he remembers making his first entrance on stage left with Alice Playton, Ermengarde. The memory is still vivid. He and Alice went on to do other projects together.
He remembers one night after playing Vandergelder, that he forgot to come down to take his star bow until he was prodded to do so by a cast member...he was so used to taking the judge's bow!
David Burns and Carol Channing
Playing Vandergelder, he didn't try to emulate David Burns. He also didn't use this as an opportunity "to unravel his gifts as an actor." He was just truthful to the text. It was a matter of finding the rhythm in the scenes. The punctuation. In the milliner shop, when Barnaby and Cornelius are hiding, there was a great thing that Burns used to do with his eyebrows while muttering under his breath. When Gordon stepped into the role, he tried to replicate that. The audience just thought it was "cute". It didn't work as well with him and he dropped it. It's all about choices. Burns stayed with the show until 1966. That's when Gordon first went on. Max Showalter replaced David Burns. Gordon said that Max brought more of a civility to the role. More of an upper class quality to the role, which came naturally to Max.
Max and Betty Grable had a very good chemistry on stage. Gordon's favorite Dolly was Martha Raye. Her soliloquy to Ephraim, "Ephraim, let me go..." is one of the most moving I have heard of all the Dollys. When she came into the show, she had a very short rehearsal period, and did not want the critics to come to her opening night. Alan Eichler of Lee Solters' office was there that night and felt that that was a mistake. He said it was an incredible night. Also, because of her "involvement" with the Vietnam War, there was also a lot of anti-war sentiment towards her. People stayed away. Martha was the one Dolly Jerry did not see. He refers to this in his memoirs, Showtune. He was in the hospital on her opening night. Phyllis Diller is an old friend of Gordon and Jane's from their old Purple Onion days but he never saw her Dolly.

When they were in Detroit for the very beginning, Gordon told me it was "madness". They were still going on night after night, with constant changes: entrances and exits, lines changing, songs coming and going. The reviews were terrible, Kennedy was also assassinated when they were in Detroit. They did the best they could do under the circumstances. The dancers and singers were terrific. Their moments ALWAYS worked. Gordon called it a "looney bin of personalities". Eileen Brennan, David Burns, Sondra Lee, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Carol Channing! "There you are!"
 As we all know, Carol was not the first choice for Dolly but she persisted until she got it. From time to time, Gordon would sit out front and watch the first act.
Eileen Brennan

He said, "Say what you want about Carol Channing but she was amazing." Her concentration was laser beam sharp and perfect. Gordon never got to play Vandergelder opposite Carol. In Before The Parade Passes By by John Anthony Gilvey, Gordon told John, " Carol is someone who works off a strange combination of preparation and the present moment.She is truly a visitor from another planet whose feet are very cannily rooted in the here and now. It's true (her performance) is calculated, certainly. She's learned it; she's practiced it."
He played opposite Ginger Rogers. Ginger, by the numbers, was a very disciplined performer. Her spontaneity was less than what Carol offered in the role. When Bibi Osterwald played the role, she brought a lot of her personality to the role, very motherly. Bibi was the standby for most of the Dollys. When she knew she wasn't going on, she would go out and schmooze with the audience.
Betty Grable had an efficiency in her performance and the other actors respected her. She knew where the "moments" were and made them work.

After a while, Gordon grew weary playing the Judge night after night. He started doing capricious things on
Ginger and Gower
stage. One night, he would be Gabby Hayes. Then the next night, he might be Mae West.
He would do a catalogue of aging stars. Betty Grable was in the show by this time and was aware of his shenanigans. It didn't bother her. Nothing bothered her. She would ask him who he was "going to be doing that night."

David Burns had a propensity for vulgarity, but always in good fun!
In today's world, he would not be able to get away with what he was getting away with 50 years ago. There was one instance in which a new "girl" joined the cast. His hands purposefully were full and he asked her to get a pen out of his pocket. "Would you reach in and get my pen?" That was a regular example of his "pranks".

I asked Gordon to describe the first time he heard the score. He said, "If there was a ceiling, he was there." Charlie Karel told me hearing that score with the  full orchestra in that rehearsal room was never replicated that way and it was magical.

Jane Connell
Jerry Herman was extraordinary. Interesting that Gordon appeared in one of Jerry's most iconic shows as his wife Jane appeared in two others. She, of course was Agnes Gooch in Mame. She was also in Dear World.

Gordon said Mame was an example of Jerry's versatility. It's Today was revised from Show Tune which was in Parade.
When Jerry was first interested in "musicalizing" Dolly!, Mister Merrick wanted an example of what he could create. He had a great ear for picking a style that was perfect for whatever he was writing music for. He was infallible in terms of the choices he made for his characters. Go back and listen to Gooch's Song in Mame. "Jane didn't have to do much. It was just created for her." He has an affinity for the full sound that a singer can create on a particular song.
It's obvious he really likes singers. He allows singers to "sweep with a sound." It is never minimized by a lyric. Gordon wrote his own musical, Bertha, The Sewing Machine Girl. It was based on a 1906 melodrama.   Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl (1906), a melodrama by Theodore Kremer. [American Theatre, 9 perf.] Bertha Sloane (Edith Browning) and her blind sister Jessie (Leona Francis) come to New York, where Bertha hopes to claim their late father's estate and also earn enough money in a sweatshop to help cure her sister's blindness.
Gordon was a schoolmate of Robert Emmett and they collaborated on this. 

Other than the Dollys that he appeared with on Broadway, he saw Pearl Bailey do Dolly. She was completely fulfilling according to Gordon.
When I asked Gordon about his thoughts on the film. He doesn't feel it's as bad as people have desired to paint it over the years.
Then there were the Barnabys! Glen Walken, Christopher Walken's brother was originally cast as Barnaby Tucker. Edmund Gaynes told me that he, Christopher, and Glen auditioned at the Mark Hellinger Theater.
They were all appearing in Best Foot Forward with Liza Minnelli at the time. Glen was in the beginning stages and was fired after two weeks in rehearsals.He was replaced with another guy, Gordon cannot remember his name. THEN, Jerry Dodge got the role and took it to Broadway. With Jerry, you instantly got the essence of Barnaby. Leading up to him, the others did not have that. Glen did not stay in the business. He became a merchant and is still living up in Vermont. I hope to interview him!  

© Sony Music Entertainment
Courtesy of Sony Music Archives (Henri Dauman)
When I asked him on any last thoughts on Dolly that he would like to share for my book. He feels that I'm taking on an enormous feat. "If you want to know why and how something works, look no further than Hello, Dolly!" He remembers opening night in a hotel suite on Fifth Avenue as the reviews were coming in and how happy he was for Gower.
There were a lot of bumps to get to that point.

Thank you, Gordon, 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,



NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

Reserve today for Peggy Herman. Click on the above banner and be part of our star studded audience!

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
                    
Tomorrow's blog will be..YOU TELL ME! I'm open to suggestions!!



Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!







  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!









TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to Al Koenig! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!





Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gary Beach's thoughts on Hello, Dolly!

Gary Beach as Horace Vandergelder and Vicki Lewis as Dolly Gallagher Levi tuck into some Harmonia Gardens chicken in 'Hello, Dolly!' at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Alicia Donelan
Gary Beach just completed his second production of Hello, Dolly!, as Horace Vandergelder, this time at the Maltz Jupiter Theater, formerly Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre, down in Florida.
He co-starred opposite Vicki Lewis and was directed by Tony nominated (Ragtime) Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Burt Reynolds owned the dinner theater from 1979 until 1997. When it exchanged hands, the theater was reconfigured to become a proscenium theater. There were a lot of clever staging ideas in director-choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s fresh take on Hello, Dolly!
He will be returning to Vandergelder's Hay and Feed Store in June wjen he plays opposite Lorna Luft as they open up North Shore Music Theater's Summer Season.  


Gary and I spoke last week and he began the interview by telling me that Hello, Dolly! is the one show he has seen more than any other. He has also appeared with TWO of the most iconic Dollys when he appeared opposite Carol Channing AND Mary Martin in Legends!

About nine months ago, Gary was having lunch with the producer of MJT. He was told that the theater had just chosen its next season. When he was told that the season would be closing with Hello, Dolly!, Gary told him that he would do Horace Vandergelder for them. Gary suggested doing it with a friend of his from Southern California (Since she didn't do it, Gary didn't reveal her name). Then Marcia called Gary and asked, "Why not Vicki Lewis?" Gary and Vicki had done an off-Broadway show together about thirty years ago. They have remained in touch and Gary told Marcia that he thought it was the most interesting idea he had ever heard. She was so far and away different from anyone he had ever seen play the role. That's how it all came about. Gary just volunteered to do it. When he moved to Florida, he had no intention of working in the theater scene there. However, Dolly! seemed like it would be so much fun.

Ruth Gordon as Dolly Gallagher Levi in The Matchmaker
Looking at photos of this production, Gary says it does not look like any production he had ever seen of Dolly! In a recent interview that he and Vicki were giving with a reporter down in Florida, the reporter asked how it felt to be doing a role that was so closely associated with Carol Channing. Gary feels, as I do, that that is such a rude question since thousands have played the part. Some of them very successfully! Gary jumped in and said, "Vicki's approach is not unlike the original Dolly." Of course, this guy looked at Gary as if he had lost his mind. Then Gary said, Ruth Gordon."  The reporter was really taken aback. Gary advises going back and listening to the original cast album, "Carol even seems to slip in a little Ruth Gordon from time to time.The elongated way that Gordon talked, Carol does the same.Of course, Carol made it her own". Vicki played Dolly a little more "coquettishly". She wasn't blatantly up front about putting her hand into everything. "She somehow snuck her hand into everything."

Photo credit: Alicia Donelan
Hello, Dolly! is the fifth show that Beach has done with Dodge. Marcia's reputation, particularly after Ragtime, is to take these old "war horses" and spiff them up, make them new, change things. The second show she and Gary did together was at Arena Stage in Washington in 1992 of Of Thee, I Sing. You don't get much older than that! Dodge choreographed that. And with her take on everything, it felt brand new. It ran for three months and never played to an empty seat. It was magnificent. She did the same with Dolly. She didn't begin the show with the horse cart and three ladies.Call On Dolly! leading into the newspaper reveal of "Dolly Levi!" The audience discovered Dolly (Vicki) in the middle of the crowd. They pretty much did the same thing with Tovah Feldshuh at the Paper Mill Playhouse.Tovah, by the way, was a protege of Ruth Gordon.

Sandi Patty as Dolly
Gary will be playing Horace again this summer at the North Shore Theater in Beverly, Massachusetts with Lorna Luft, who I think will be incredible, as Dolly Levi! Months ago, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra contacted Gary's agent to tell him that they were doing a concert version of Dolly with Sandi Patty. Gary was not that familiar with Sandi but thought that it would be fun and a great way to introduce him to the part. It made him so happy that he got a chance to do this KNOWING that he was going to be doing it later in Florida at the Maltz Jupiter. During the rehearsals for this, he was having so much fun that when he heard that North Shore was doing it, he had his agent call to see if Horace had been cast. Nooooo....Gary said he would love to do it and they called back and said they would love to have him do it!
Charles Repole will be directing.  Repole made his Broadway debut in Very Good Eddie in 1975, earning a Tony Award nomination and a Theatre World Award for his performance. Additional Broadway credits include the 1979 revival of Whoopee!, which garnered him a Drama Desk Award nomination, Doubles (1985), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1995), which he directed. Gary is very excited to be co-starring with Lorna Luft. He has never worked with her before. He went on YouTube to check her out! I saw her at Paper Mill Playhouse in December in White Christmas. She was fantastic! She is at the top of her game.

Sandi Patty starring in "Hello, Dolly!" presented by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at the Hilbert Circle Theater.. Credit: Thomas J. Russo
The Sandi Patty Dolly concert was done with a 75 piece orchestra.  Of course, the sound was magnificent. Sandi Patty's voice and talent are incredible. They brought in for Sandi, Just Leave Everything to Me (instead of I Put My Hand In) and Love is Only Love from the movie. Sandi sang both songs beautifully but Gary has always felt like Just Leave Everything To Me is more like a club act type of song. The feel of the song, to Gary, was more 1968 than 1900.

Gary feels his best moment in the show takes place at the end. "It's such a crumble that this guy does." He goes upstairs, distributes the cash that everyone wants, comes down stairs, gets on one knee and basically says, "I've been wrong for too the last two hours!." It's very Thorton Wilder. Very human. Gary finds it tough to do, especially in rehearsal because he finds it so sweet, so wonderful, so human. "I just blubber." Gary found himself channeling his father. "He had a certain swagger about him. He was very genuine". That's what Gary wanted Horace to convey in that last scene. Jerry Herman told Gary that he loved him as Horace.
Gary Beach, Jerry Herman, Vicki Lewis, Artistic director Andrew Kato, Fran Weissler
Gary loves Jerry. I was lucky enough to see Gary in the 2004 revival of La Cage Aux Folles.

Gary played Zaza. Gary had so much fun. When they brought Robert Goulet in, the show brighted up for Gary so much. He says Goulet was a wonderful person to share the stage with. He just adored him.

Gary remembers how much he loved the original cast album of Dolly. He was a teenager when that came out. He didn't see the out of town tryout of Dolly although he was in DC at the time it was playing. Years later, he was in Dallas, Texas, doing tryouts for Legends! Carol and Charles Lowe, who was so kind to him, invited him to dinner with a guy Gary got to know from DC, Richard Coe, the drama critic for The Washington Post. He was there to see Legends! and possibly offer some advice. The conversation over dinner turned to Dolly! Carol said it was because of Richard Coe that Dolly became such a big hit, that he gave them all the right advice. Gary has always thought that was such a sweet thing from an actor to a critic. Gary said it was fun to be at that dinner that night and hear them all reminisce about a show he loves so much.   
with Shayla Benoit as Ernestina Photo: Alicia Donelan

I asked Gary about the first performance down in Florida. He said it was great fun. The cast and crew were prepared. The audience did not know what to expect, however. They were there to see Hello, Dolly!  What they were seeing did not look anything at all like what they were expecting. Being Florida, they have a "mature" audience. They had a unit set, designed by Paul DePoo, that really did the trick. Audiences loved it! One moment the set was the Hay and Feed store. The next moment, it was the locale for the 14th Street Parade. It was all done with lighting, designed by Paul Miller.

Over the years, Gary saw Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Dorothy Lamour, Yvonne DeCarlo, Phyllis Diller, AND he was at Ethel Merman's opening night. Carol Channing was brilliant. She was the mold. The show was built on her and the costumes never looked better than on her. She was just fantastic. After her, he felt that Dorothy Lamour "leaned on Carol a bit and did a bit of an imitation." Pearl Bailey made it her own. He didn;t realize how "sweet" that show was until he saw Pearl Bailey in it. "She was funny. Of course, she was funny...she was Pearl Bailey."  She took it to places Gary had never seen it go. She was so real. She played opposite Cab Callaway. "He was just as sweet as he could be in that show". It made for an absolute incredible evening. He remembers the audiences just standing there reaching up at her.

The biggest change that Gary has seen since he made his Broadway debut is that shows are not as personality driven anymore. Gary misses that. The "revival craze that is in it's second decade has become stupefyingly boring! "Oh, boy! Let's do Gypsy again!" Gary's advice is to write another "Gypsy". It's hit a bad spot. He's coming to New York for a few weeks to rehearse for North Shore. When he thinks about what he wants to see, his response is "nothing!". He may be seeing The Best Man on my recommendation. The last time he was in New York, he saw Book of Mormon and War Horse...loved both!

I asked Gary if he ever say a production of Dolly that missed the mark. He said, No. He has always loved it and he can always appreciate the differences between each production. When he was in college, he saw the bus and truck company with Yvonne deCarlo. He remembers nothing about it except that she was absolutely beautiful. When she got ready to walk around the passarella for the big "wind up"she hiked up her dress to reveal these magnificent legs and high kicked her way around the runway.

Gary says, contrary to what he feels about revivals, that it is time for a revival and a resurgence and interest in Dolly! I hope that my book does this. He would like to see a "re-thinking" with an homage to the original. He says as he is out and about since doing Dolly in Florida that people have come up to him saying, "I thought I knew Hello, Dolly!" This production spoke differently to people. Marcia did not set out to re-invent the wheel. She did, however, set out to tell the story a little bit more quietly. Thorton Wilder and Jerry Herman are so brilliant that it can be done.
Interesting story. Gary did The Producers at the St. James Theater where Hello, Dolly! played. He picked his dressing room when they moved in on the second floor. It was fabulous. He loved it, with windows looking outside on 44th Street. All the things that you very rarely see in old theaters.  There was a wall that he wanted taken down. The wall came down after 45 years! To find out WHY the wall was up in the first place, read Sondra Lee's (original Minnie Fay) memoir, "I've Slept With Everybody"

Thank you, Gary, for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world and I cannot wait to celebrate you and Lorna Luft in person June at The North Shore Music Theatre!

Your devoted fan,

Thank you, Linnea Brown and staff of Maltz Jupiter Theatre for some of the photos in today's blog.

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Tomorrow's blog will be..My exclusive interview with  Gordon Connell, The Judge in the original production of Hello, Dolly! and David (Horace Vandergelder) Burns standby!





Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!






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TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

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