Sunday, May 23, 2010

Interview with Lesli Margherita

Actress/singer/dancer Lesli Margherita is super talented.
She's been in The Grave White Way, Beehive, Zorba for Reprise!, among many other shows.
And...she's already won an Olivier Award (Great Britain's Tony) for Featured Actress in a Musical - unusual for an American artist - and is currently finishing up her run in the controversial world premiere of Michael LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See on Sunday May 30 at the Blank Theatre. On Tuesday June 8 she will perform her acclaimed one-woman show All Hail the Queen once more for one night only at Level 3 in Hollywood. We talked about her theatrical successes here and abroad.

What are the challenges of playing in See What I Wanna See?

SWIWS is absolutely the hardest score I've ever sung; for all of us in the cast, I think. Not only is it technically tough, but it's emotionally exhausting as well. One minute you're screaming, the next weeping...and then you've got to belt to the sky right after that -ha. I play three extremely different characters, but at the same time, they all have to have some similarity. Sound confusing? It IS!!!

Tell me about your experiences on the West End with Zorro (2008-2009), about your role in it and the overall effect of winning an Olivier Award - very few Americans win it! Congrats!

Well, the whole experience was pretty amazing. After doing the workshops here, I never in a million years thought I would actually get to go over there. I was the only American in the company, so there was ample opportunity for my castmates to make fun of my valley girl accent. I played Inez, the Queen of the Gypsies; she's just the role of a lifetime; I loved creating her. The response to the show was amazing, I had been warned that the British critics were notoriously tough, but thankfully, they were very kind to us. I fell in love with the city and my cast, so the Olivier Award was icing on the cake. That was surreal, and everyone had told me I probably wouldn't win, because Americans usually don't, so I was just thrilled to be nominated and that my husband and cast were there with me. I couldn't hear for about an hour though- my husband screamed so loudly in my ear when I won.

I first saw you in The Grave White Way a few years ago and reveled in your talent. What other roles have been in the picture since then?

Thanks! I loved that show, actually some of us are talking about trying to, ahem, resurrect it. I've been so lucky with the roles I've been able to play onstage, Anita in West Side Story, Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Amneris in Aida...all roles that start with "A". I really need to branch out...

When and how did your one-woman show originate and how did you put it together?
When I got back from London, I knew I wanted to do a cabaret. As I started writing stories and picking music, I realized it was going to be sooo much bigger than a cabaret. It's a full on nightclub act, with a band, backup singers and dancers, video screens, costume changes, puppets, literally everything I could throw in. I kind of modeled it after Bette Midler and the Divine Miss M. The Queen is a hightened version of myself. It's not meant to have some grand message; it's just supposed to be FUN. It's mostly pop songs that have been pulled apart. My musical director, Brett Ryback is a genius. I would literally go to him and say things like, "can you make this Britney song into a swing number?" It would be done the next day. Everyone on my incredible team has been working so hard on this, from choreography to lighting. It's really special.

Who are your favorite performers?

I'm a huge Madeline Khan fan, and Carol Burnett as well. As for singers, I like the girls with some grit. Pat Benetar, Pink, maybe that's why I chose pop songs for my show instead of theater songs...I guess I secretly want to be Celine.

Is there anyone in particular who has been a great influence on your performing? How?

Chita (Rivera) was a huge influence. She is a true triple threat, and everything she does has such meaning behind it. I think about Judy Garland a lot. Yes, her voice was amazing, but every single lyric she sang was so specific, and it never mattered if a note wasn't perfect, because her ability to tell a story was so phenomenal. It wasn't about vocal gymnastics, it was about the song. And then of course, Lucille Ball. Genius.

What's upcoming for Lesli M? Film or TV work on the horizon?

Again, I'm so grateful to be able to go back and forth between theater and TV/film here in LA. I know that I'd like to check Broadway off my list very very soon. Zorro absolutely has plans to come to the US; I'm looking forward to that; they are in talks now. In the immediate future, I'm going to play The Lady of the Lake in Spamalot at Sacramento Music Circus in July; I can't wait. We are going to bring All Hail the Queen to New York in the fall, and we're looking at San Francisco and London as well.

A wonderful triple threat herself, so don't miss her on Tuesday June 8th at Level 3 in Hollywood.

ONE NIGHT ONLY!! TUESDAY, JUNE 8th (doors open at 7:30p; show begins at 8:00p)

LEVEL 3 HOLLYWOOD @ 6801 Hollywood Blvd (inside Hollywood & Highland) Hollywood, CA 90028
TICKETS $20 in advance; $25 cash at the door (if avail) (+ 2 drink min)
Also featuring: Brian Beacock, Robin De Lano, Ray Garcia, Robert Laos, Jeremy Lucas & Teresa Marie Sanchez
Written & conceived by Lesli Margherita

Directed by Lauren Bass;Musical Direction & Arrangements by Brett Ryback;Choreography by Katy Durham;Lighting Design by Kristie Roldan;Produced by Lauren Bass & Jordan Bass
Visit Lesli@:

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