BWW Interviews: Katy Moore as Dolly Levi in The Playhouse's HELLO, DOLLY!
The character of Dolly Levi is many things, including an expert talker. It seemed fitting then that I would speak with Katy Moore who plays Miss Dolly Levi herself at The Playhouse's current production. Ms. Moore gave me plenty of insight into the beloved character and what we can expect from The Playhouse's current offering.
JD: Hi Katy. How are you?
KM: I'm good! How are you?
JD: Good, good. First of all, thank you for speaking with me today. I'm really excited to talk with you about HELLO, DOLLY! What do you think makes HELLO, DOLLY! such a beloved show?
KM: I thought a lot about that. You know, this is 2012. We have a lot of other shows that are more contemporary and more fitting for our culture and our time than an old fashioned musical like HELLO, DOLLY!, but I think that's exactly why it's beloved. I think there's charm in the old-fashioned musical. It's simple. It's sweet. It's about love. It's funny, and it doesn't try to solve any of the world's problem. You can truly get away and live in a time where life was a lot simpler.
JD: So what is it like to play Dolly?
KM: Always challenging, always fun, and sometimes very frightening. Even now that we're in production, I'm finding new challenging and new fun things and new things that scare me. It's definitely one of those growth roles.
JD: Dolly's been played by many great actresses, including Carol Channing who originated the role on Broadway, Barbara Streisand who did the film, and lots of other actresses such as Mary Martin, Pearl Bailey, Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman. Where you intimidated about taking on a role played by these iconic women?
KM: It's really interesting. When I was cast back in May, I could not see myself in this role at all. It completely intimidated me. I grew up on this musical, and I knew every word. The Barbara Streisand movie was on at our house fairly frequently, so I know the show and I know Barbara's performance particularly, and I was completely intimidated. I really had to figure out how to make it my own Dolly, and once I figured out that I'm not doing Carol Channing's Dolly and I'm not doing Barbara's Dolly and I'm not doing Pearl Bailey's Dolly, which is actually my favorite cast recording-
JD: Oh my gosh! You know the Pearl Bailey cast recording! I have to say since it's now out of print I had to fight and search to find a copy of it for years! You can't find it anywhere.
KM: So do you know the recording? If you have it or you know it, the best part is when she, in the middle of "Sunday Clothes" does her little monologue to Ermengarde. It's awesome. I recommend you listen to it later.
JD: Oh, ok.
KM: So I do a Carol Channing voice, and I had to kind of let all that go and approach her like any other character I've ever approached, you know, from the text and build her from the ground up and just trust the process that the Dolly that came out of me was an acceptable Dolly, not the same as Carol Channing or Barbara or anyone else.
JD: Dolly is many, many things, but I think most people would say that she's a vivacious, witty, sassy theater heroine. Is she similar to you in any way?
KM: Wait, what did you say? Vivacious, sassy theater heroine? [Laughs] I'm vivacious, and I'm definitely sassy, but I wouldn't say I'm a heroine.
JD: Are there any qualities of Dolly that you wished you had?
KM: Yeah. I think that Dolly has more guts than I do. Dolly's got guts. This is woman who's living in the 1890s, she's not married, and she's making a living and having a really good time doing it. That in itself is quite shocking when you think of the time, and so I love her guts, you know? And then when decides she wants something, she goes for it, and that's the part of her that's kind of like me [laughs]. Once I decide, "Okay, I really want that," then I'm kind of an all-in kind of girl. I put everything I have into it. I don't think I'm manipulative like Dolly is. I mean, she really is quite the little wizard the way she works people and makes things happen without them knowing that she's making them happen. I wouldn't say that I'm like that, but when I get my mind set on something I really go for it 100% and I'm not satisfied until I reach whatever goal that is. In her case, it's getting Vandergelder.
JD: Dolly is one of those characters from the great star vehicle shows of the 1960s like MAME and FUNNY GIRL and GYPSY. Have you ever played any of those roles?
KM: Well, my senior year in High School I played Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL, but that was before I knew anything so I didn't realize what I was doing. Since then I've been cast in a lot of big comic roles like the Ugly Stepsister in CINDERELLA and Kitty in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE so a lot of big roles but not star vehicle roles. I've even done Anna in THE KING AND I which is a big role, but nothing like this. It lives on its own planet, this type of role. One thing I've thought about a lot and said out loud in the dressing room is that it's incredible to me that Carol Channing did this show as many times as she did. That blows my mind because this requires massive amounts of energy. Vocally...I mean just the talking, I mean she never shuts up, this Dolly. And then you have to sing on top of that and act on top of that and dance on top of that. It's a booger.
JD: It's been a lot time since I've seen HELLO, DOLLY!, but as I recall, Dolly's one of those characters that's almost in every scene of the show. Is that true?
KM: True. I have a couple of breaks. I have one time where I actually get to sit in the chair in my dressing room and breathe, and that is the top of Act Two. Once she enters in Act Two, which is for the "Hello, Dolly!" moment, she's on stage till the end, pretty much. I have two quick changes off stage, and that's that. It's very labor intensive and energy intensive.
JD: DOLLY features one of Jerry Herman's best scores, and according to some people among the best scores of any Broadway show. What's your favorite song from the show to sing?
KM: My favorite song is "So Long, Dearie." I absolutely love it. I love fun, up-tempo comic numbers that don't take themselves too seriously. And the way that our director staged it, it's very much that she's telling Vandergelder goodbye but the entire time I'm bring him toward me. So I'm just toying with him the entire time, and I used Mae West as a big inspiration as to how I was going to do that number. I love it. It's really fun to do. It's very difficult to do because it's at the very end of the show, but it's my favorite.
JD: Nice. So Dolly is nothing without her gorgeous costumes. Can you tell me about the costumes you get to wear in the show?
KM: They're amazingly gorgeous. Of course, I've been in a corset for weeks, you know, rehearsing, and I'm always glad on Sunday afternoon when I get to take my corset off and not wear it for a few days [laughs]. You know, that changes everything. Those poor women who had to wear corsets every day, I can not imagine it. But my costumes are all extremely bright, vivid, layered, gorgeous colors, and with amazing hats. They actually modeled the "Hello, Dolly" dress after Carol Channing's dress, so it's red and velvet and beautiful and I have a boa and gloves. You know, playing dress-up is one of my favorite parts of acting. I'm thoroughly enjoying the costumes.
JD: Well with this type of show, you certainly get to do your share of playing dress-up.
KM: Exactly. Exactly. I'm always hesitant to admit that to people because it seems kind of frivolous, but I love it.
JD: Oh, well us theater people on BroadwayWorld.com, we totally get it.
JD: So what can audiences expect if they come see the show?
KM: I think they can expect lovely sights, lovely sounds, and an evening of just good old-fashioned entertainment. It's a beautiful, bright, happy, upbeat, fun show. I think just a good old-fashioned time which is perfect for the summer.
JD: Well it sounds like a great show. Thank you for taking the time to talk to BroadwayWorld.com. It was an absolute pleasure speaking with you, and I wish you and the cast the best.
KM: Thank you!
HELLO, DOLLY! plays The Playhouse in San Antonio now thru August 19th Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. Run time: 2 hours plus a 15 minute intermission.
For tickets and more information, go to http://www.theplayhousesa.org.