BWW Interview: Chicago's Dynamic Duo AMY AND FREDDY Headline The Copa Palm Springs, Beginning Tonight
The COPA PALM SPRINGS presents Chicago music and comedy legends Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen for two performances, July 18 and 19 at 8:00 pm. Amy and Freddy have graced the stages coast-to-coast, in venues both large and small, and in over 20 countries with their one-of-a-kind wit and musical prowess. They have had the pleasure of opening and sharing the spotlight with Kathy Griffin, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Phyllis Diller, Bea Arthur, Jennifer Holiday and Judy Gold, to name a few. In 2009, Amy & Freddy were featured on national television on Entertainment Tonight as part of their work with the NBC reality show "America's Got Talent. They are also the proud multi-recipients of both the Gay Chicago Magazine "After Dark" and Chicago Free Press "Pressie" awards. I had the chance to chat with Amy and Freddy about their upcoming engagement at THE COPA and more - here are a few excerpts from that conversation:
DG: Before the inevitable "how did you two meet" question, tell me a little bit about yourselves "before Amy and Freddy".
AA: Well, "before Freddy", I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. I actually got my degree in Musical Theatre ---there --- and, right after I got that I decided that Detroit wasn't really the place for the mecca of Musical Theatre, so I moved - I thought it was going to be either L.A. or Chicago, but I chose Chicago because I felt like it was a big city but still had suburban charm.
FA: I was kind of a country boy, but I studied piano and music all my life. My great grandparents were professional musicians ... umm ... so I kinda had that in my blood. So I studied, you know, piano and got my degree in piano performance and music theatre. I had a double major - I knew I wasn't really meant to be ON stage. I'm not a great dancer/singer/actor - I still can't act my way out of a bucket. But I certainly liked being a part of the musical aspect - as far as an entertainer.
DG: So, how did the two of you meet? What was the genesis of you two getting together?
AA: When I first met Freddy ... he met me at an open mic night at The Gentry, which no longer exists ... I was all glammed out and I think he didn't know if I was a real girl or not. I think he thought I was a drag queen. I really do.
FA: I had just played my solo show and I was sitting at the bar and Amy walked in and she was all dolled up - all beautiful, and - she's a tall gal - and her hair was done and her clothes were gorgeous and she had jewels on and I did think she was a drag queen at first (He laughs) - but as soon as she opened her mouth I thought "Oh my God, this girl can sing". So, the owner came back and was talking to me and I said, "Who the hell is she? She's fabulous." And he introduced me to her - this was way back in 1995. And, so we got together - she drove up to my house and I looked out the window and she drove up in a truck, in overalls and an engineer hat, and I thought "Oh my God, she's a lesbian too." But she's not. She's not a lesbian. She just likes to dress comfortably. (He laughs)
AA: Don't let the truck fool you.
FA: We did our first show together in October of 1995 and we've never stopped. Amy is my musical soul mate.
DG: How would you describe your style as a duo?
FA: Oh my gosh, it's all over the board. Musically we do everything from blues to showtunes - jazz, rock, pop - lots of comedy songs. She's funny. She's funny as hell. She's got the whole package. You know, she's this comedienne and then she's got this killer voice. She's just so engaging - she's quick and witty and she's very interactive with the audience.
DG: What would you say is your proudest "Amy and Freddy" career moment so far?
AA: Well, I really enjoyed when we played for PRIDE in Washington D.C. I thought that was really incredible. Because, you know, you're around all these monuments and you're singing and enjoying yourself and celebrating such a great day. I also love it that we have four C.D.'s out. I mean, I was happy to have just one. But to know that we can make those and have people listen to our music, that's probably the greatest thing, because when we're gone they'll still be around.
FA: Oh my gosh. I would also say the CD's, Those are always labors of love. The last CD was very special to us. It came out about three years ago and we'd both gone through break-ups. Amy had gone through a divorce and I had come through a break-up - and it was very therapeutic and healing for us. There are three or four of my songs on that album.
DG: Do you have solo aspirations beyond Amy and Freddy?
AA: Oh, yeah. I'd love to get into T.V. My new thing is I'd really love to get into T.V. or movies. I think I could play ... you know, I look at Melissa McCarthy and she's talented and wonderful and I'm like, " Well. I'm a big girl that's six foot - why can't I be in something?" I think big girls are in right now. Between her and Adele, I'm like, "C'mon big ladies - pave the way". I'm ready.
FA: We do different things - but we are "Amy and Freddy" and that's our main endeavor. I'm a jazz pianist as well and my focus is on the great American songbook as far as when I play solo. But being "Amy and Freddy" - we travel al lot and that keeps us so busy - we're very fortunate.
DG: Is there some place you haven't played or something that you have not yet accomplished that you are looking forward to doing someday?
FA: Oh my gosh, ummm .... Well, yeah ... I think we always want to dream big. I would love to play ... I think there's no reason we can't do Carnegie Hall or even Lincoln Center. I would definitely say that, for sure.
DG: What can audiences expect from this show at the Copa.
AA: I think they can expect to have a good time - they might be tappin' their toes or singing along. I do a variety of different music - not just cabaret or showtunes - I do standards - right now I'm working on - I just did an Annie Lennox show so there's a lot of Annie Lennox music in the show this time around. But the biggest thing is I just want you to come to the show and forget your troubles for a few hours. To me that's the best thing you can do.
FA: Our show is funny, Amy's hilarious. People are gonna laugh, for sure - they're gonna feel great when they leave. People walk out of our show feeling great. I guess it's a feel good show. We love Palm Springs. This will be our third time at The Copa.
DG: What's something people wouldn't know about you by looking at your resume?
AA: Hmm. You know, it's so funny because I'm a dirty comedienne so dirty things went into my head right now. (She laughs) That's just between us. I thought "Can't say that. Can't say that, either". (She laughs harder) You know, I'm an avid fan - and I know a lot of people think it's crazy, but - I love a lot of hardcore groups. I'm really into "Nine Inch Nails" and "Rage Against The Machine". It's very different music from what I sing but for some reason I love it.
FA: Well, I'm getting married next month. I'm getting married to my partner. I'm really excited about that. And, it's really cool. Amy became an ordained minister and she's going to marry my partner and I.
AA: You know, I am so very luck to be able to marry my best friend. It's probably going to be one of the best days of my life. I know it will be.
FA: That's one thing. You know, my hobbies are ... I love to cook - a country cook, really. Umm ... I love dogs. I have a passion for dogs. I can't walk down the street and see a dog without stopping and saying "hi". Gosh, I don't know. I don't know if I'm that fascinating or exciting. I'm pretty normal.
DG: What advice might you give to young people who have aspirations for careers in professional theatre?
AA: Don't listen to just one person's opinion. Keep strong of heart and of mind. And if you believe in yourself, you can do anything. I think as long as you believe in it and you have faith in it and you keep pushing ... and, you know, it's hard, sometimes 99 people will say no, but then one person will say yes - so just keep going. You know, I'm a six foot tall woman. Many times doors were slammed in my face for the way I looked. Many times I would go to agencies and they would say "if you'd lose fifty to seventy-five pounds I'll be your agent". And I'd say, "Well how about I gain seventy-five and tell you to go screw yourself." Really, don't let that one person's opinion affect you.
FA: Dive in. Head first. Take risks. Don't give up. Don't get discouraged and follow your heart.
DG: When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
AA: (LONG silence) That I made you smile when I sang and I made you laugh when you were feeling low.
FA: Making people smile from the inside out. Just making people feel good.
THE COPA PALM SPRINGS presents Amy and Freddy on July 18 and 19 at 8:00 pm. For tickets or further information visit www.coparoomps.com.