The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania will begin their season with Mame starting May 23, 2013. The show will star Andrea McArdle in the role of Mame andL Lea Dearia as Vera Charles. DeLaria is a multi-talented performer, she is known as a comedian, jazz musician, actress and author. On stage, DeLaria is best known for her role as Hildy Esterhazy in On the Town in which she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, and won a Theatre World Award.
We had the opportunity to speak with Lea DeLaria about her character in Mame, Vera, and her career on stage.
Kelli Curtin: How would you describe your character Vera Charles?
Lea DeLaria: Vera is so New York. She is dry and sophisticated. She also is all about herself, famous and has a Broadway personality. Vera is based on a real person who was known for her costume changes. She was like the Lady Gaga of the 1920s. Most importantly, Vera loves Mame.
Kelli Curtin: Are there any characteristics of Vera’s that remind you about yourself?
Lea DeLaria: I have been known to drink, say inappropriate things and speak my mind.
Kelli Curtin: Why do you think Mame is still so loved?
Lea DeLaria: Mame is a popular musical, but unfortunately there has been no Broadway revival. There are also many truths in Mame that speak to people. They story of Mame is beloved by Americans, people live the book, the movie and the musical. Mame has amazing music and lyrics, and beautiful songs. One of the best songs ever written for a musical, “Bosom Buddies,” is from Mame.
Kelli Curtin: Are there any themes within Mame that are relevant in society today?
Lea DeLaria: There is the classism theme; Mame is all about class – conservative versus liberal. Also about what is appropriate for a child. Also, a theme in Mame is the perception of alcohol, perceptions over time change and Mame speaks to that.
Kelli Curtin: How did you get involved with musical theatre? Were you always interested in performing?
Lea DeLaria: I have always been interested in musical theatre, I was a drama major in college. After that I began doing comedy with improv, touring with a comedy troupe and did stand-up. I was the first openly gay comic to perform on television in the United States, that projected me right into the limelight. Eventually I met George Wolfe, who directed On the Town, and he was looking for a woman who acts like a man for the role of Hildy. I have done little stand up since and I’ve never looked back.
Kelli Curtin: Who influences you as stage performer?
Lea DeLaria: The old school guys: Sammy Davis Jr., Carol Burnett, Frank Sinatra. These people took it all seriously: acting, dancing and singing. They also had a strong work ethic and a strong play ethic.
Kelli Curtin: What gives you the most fulfillment on stage?
Lea DeLaria: I love being onstage. I love being in the studio and working with such great people such as Jenji Kohan and Jodi Foster. For me, nothing tops being downstage center, whether it is at Joe’s Pub, 54 Below or the Gershwin Theatre.
Kelli Curtin: You said in an interview you did in 2012 that your life’s motto is “Now is the time.” How did that come about and do you still use this?
Lea DeLaria: It is still my motto, it is from jazz. The running theme with me is being present and listening – being in the moment.
Kelli Curtin: Do you have a favorite role you have played?
Lea DeLaria: I loved playing Hildy in On the Town and Jane in The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. I also really liked doing the voice of Helga from the “Oblongs,” it is hilarious.
Kelli Curtin: Is there a role you would want to play onstage?
Lea DeLaria: I would like to play Rose in Gypsy, but also I would really like to play a role someone wrote especially for me.
MAME begins at the Bucks County Playhouse on May 23, 2013. Call their box office at (215) 862-2121 or go online at www.bcptheatre.org for tickets.
Also published on the Broadway World Philadelphia Site on May 13, 2013.