Quinn Lemley is bringing her show Burlesque to Broadway this Friday night, November 6, 2015, at 8 PM to the Weinberg Center for the Arts, in Frederick, MD. I asked her to tell us about what audiences will be seeing and what the performers will be taking off…
Joel: Where have you performed the show before?
Quinn: We just finished a Halloween extravaganza celebrating 80 years of burlesque at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown, PA last weekend complete with a Boo-lesque party afterward.The week before, we played the gorgeous Valentine Theater in Toledo, OH. We were The Valentine’s annual gala celebrating 120 years. It was quite an evening – the theme was Great Gatsby with dinner, the show and dancing afterward. Prior to that we graced the stage at Grey Eagle Casino in Calgary, Canada. Burlesque To Broadway has played major casinos and performing arts centers across North America. We are so excited to play The Weinberg Center on Friday! What has been thrilling is many of the icons of burlesque and Broadway that we celebrate have played many of these houses in their careers! You can feel the energy.
What is burlesque and why is it making a comeback?
The definition of burlesque is: something that is comically exaggerated or a variety show, typically including a strip tease.
As we discover in Burlesque To Broadway, it’s so much more than that. It’s the art of the tease, what shows? What doesn’t? Hard hitting music, corny jokes, sexy girls, sequins, feathers and fans, women’s empowerment and so much more… In our case, it’s about great singing, dancing and humor.
Burlesque in it’s hay day gave so many women, in a time when women didn’t have a lot of employment opportunities, the American dream to earn a living and invent themselves some of them became legends.
The burlesque comeback and neo-burlesque movement is giving women today the opportunity to dress up and celebrate themselves. Whether it’s classic burlesque like Dita Von Tease or the edgier tattooed/pierced burlesque artists that go further than classic burlesque, which was about “the tease,” it gives women of all ages, shapes and sizes a chance to embrace and celebrate themselves.
How much of your show is Burlesque, and how much is Broadway? What will the audience see when they see your show?
Burlesque To Broadway is a celebration of the icons that went from burlesque, Broadway and beyond. The beyond is the variety show and pop music today.
This is not a typical “burlesque show”; this is about these icons that shape shifted culture, as we know it today in fashion, music, double entendre humor and dance. It’s a night that’s fun, flirtatious, and all about the tease! The show will recall the theater’s early days of vaudeville and burlesque with Burlesque to Broadway. We are backed by an intoxicating live big band led by Brent Frederick (Pricilla Queen of the Desert on Broadway) straight from New York City.
This is a fast-paced, glamorous production choreographed by David Eggers (Nat’l Tour: Nice Work If You Can Get It) features vaudeville humor and show-stopping hits, including “Hey Big Spender,” “She’s a Lady,” “Boom Boom,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and many other hits. It’s a great date night or girl’s night out to experience this first class production. Celebrating women and all who love their power, glamour, beauty and intelligence.
You attended “Jo Boobs” famous School of burlesque, what did you learn to help create the show? Where else did you get training to create the show?
When we first had the idea create the show, we hired Jo to consult with us. We had her spend a day with our company teaching us the classic ways to shimmy, bump and grind, the glove peels, boa moves and she introduced us to the Sally Rand Fans. She holds the flame of the history of burlesque. She referred us to Ms. Tickle, who taught us a lot of the fan techniques, which we were able to refine.
To create the show, I did a lot of research. I asked a lot of questions, like “Gypsy Rose Lee is so famous from the musical Gypsy, but what was her act really like?”
I found rare recordings of her act, which influenced me. It was all about the mind, her wit. I read so many biographies of Mae West, Sally Rand, Fanny Brice, Gypsy, June Havoc, Sophie Tucker etc.…. to get a feel of the era. My producer, Paul Horton and I spent hours looking for music that would support our story of the evolution of these women. We wanted to use music from the American standards to Broadway, pop and R@B.
Our choreographer, David Eggers is Kathleen Marshall’s Assistant Choreographer and the director/choreographer of the National Tour of Nice Work If You Can Get It and recently Annie in Mexico City. He has been in numerous Broadway shows and worked with Bob Fosse.
His lexicon of dance is incredible. He choreographed each number so there is something for everyone Different concepts of “the tease.” From the doe-eyed innocent French maid number, “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” to the 1960’s shimmy dress numbers to the stunning Sally Rand Fan dance with five stunning ostrich fans to the classic number from The Producers, “When you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
Wendall Goings of Broadway’s Rock of Ages, our costumer did the same thing with the costumes and props. Each number represents these different women in various times and places.
How long did it take to create Burlesque To Broadway? Where has it toured before and where will it go after it stops in Frederick, MD?
It has taken us about 5 years to create Burlesque To Broadway. Unlike a lot of shows, we developed the show in front of and with the audiences. We saw what worked, what didn’t and adapted to please our audiences and to tell a story that has heart.
Our show was even a finalist out of 38,000 people for Season 5 of Shark Tank.
We have been so lucky, as I mentioned before, some of the venues we’ve played.
Other venues that we’ve played are The Kravis Center, Casino Seneca, Ho-Chunk Casino, Deerfoot Casino, Kay Meek Centre, Kelowna Theater, River Rock Casino, Newbury Opera House, The State Theater’s in PA and NJ, and many other wonderful theaters in the US and Canada.
Next stops: The Largo Cultural Center in FL and The Rose Theater in Brampton, Ontario. We can’t wait to play in Frederick on Friday!!!!!!The Weinberg Center
Who are some of the famous burlesque artists that have influenced you?
There are so many influences in our show. Primarily, Gypsy Rose Lee, Mae West, Sally Rand, Fanny Brice, Cher, Abbott and Costello, Burns and Allen, Ann Corio, Betty Paige, Lily St Cyr, Margie Hart, Tallulah Bankhead, Sophie Tucker, Carol Burnett, and more!
Of course, Sally Rand we pay homage to in our fan dance “When you’ve got it, flaunt it.” We pay homage to Gypsy in “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” and I perform a piece of her actual nightclub act to the theme of Peter Gunn.
So many homages sprinkled in the music, costumes, and jokes.
Who are your co-stars and what do you admire most about working with them?
We have an incredible company! So lucky! Julie Conuel plays Razz, who is modeled after the wise-cracking Rosalind Russell. Nathalie Marrable plays Gracie, who is a Gracie Allen type. Alexandra Milbrath plays Trixie L’Amour – a bubbly typical burlesque type showgirl, and Cristina Dueno plays LoRita St Lo, who conjures up those exotic girls like Zorita Queen of Snakes.
What I admire most about them is their talent, beauty and ability for all of us to connect together and with the audience.
Have the reactions of the audiences surprised you? What unexpected surprises have happened during the performances?
The audiences have been amazing. We do a meet and greet after the show and sometimes it can go for hours posing for pictures and getting to know the audience members. That is so much fun! They have their favorite girls. The energy of the audience after the show and during the show is so high; it really is a celebration of these women and those who love them.
The past two weeks, my sister-in-law, Mary Canaday was in Toledo at The Valentine Gala and this past weekend my parents saw the show for the first time at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. I tell a lot of personal stories in the show and the thing that surprised me the most was that audience’s thought I made the stories up! Sometimes life is so crazy, you can’t make these things up! My sister-in-law, Mary and parents told the audiences that these things really happened! They were shocked!
Unexpected surprise – last weekend in Allentown, we had a Lehigh Valley 80 year-old burlesque queen – Penny Starr – come up on stage and help us teach the audience the bump and grind and the shimmy. She had lots of fans in the audience! It was exciting.
How many musicians are in the band?
There are 9 in the band. They are amazing. Most of them are Radio City and Broadway players. Incredible musicians. This music is challenging, really high trumpet and clarinet parts, these guys nail it. Steve Rawlins, Bette Midler’s orchestrator, arranged the show. It has everything from the standards to Broadway, pop, and R & B. We’ve been playing together for a long time both with Burlesque To Broadway and my other 12 piece band show Rita Hayworth: The Heat Is On! So it’s exciting. They are like family. What do I admire about them? Their talent and passion for the music in Burlesque To Broadway!
Burlesque to Broadway plays this Friday, November 6, 2015 at 8 PM at The Weinberg Center for the Arts – 20 West Patrick Street, in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 600-2828, or purchase them online.