BWW Interview: Will Nolan, Leola, Farah Alvin, Sean Patrick Murtagh of CHRISTMAS IN LADY LAND! at The Green Room 42
What a year it's been for Leola! The Kelly Clarkson-loving, senior citizen, redneck lesbian has been playing to big hordes of happy theatergoers and comedy lovers during her year-long residency at the hip and happening club The Green Room 42, and her stay at the Midtown Manhattan cabaret theater has been extended into 2020! After packing them in and garnering great notices, the award-winning Leola is ready to close out the year with her Christmas show CHRISTMAS IN LADY LAND! on December 5th at 7 pm, before having a much-deserved holiday before her return to TGR42 in the new year.
In her show Christmas In Ladyland! Leola will celebrate all the holidays -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, African, and Redneck. But she won't be doing it alone because it was recently announced that Leola, usually a solo artist, is welcoming four of New York City's brightest lights in entertainment to join her onstage for all the hilarity, social commentary, surprises, and cabaret group therapy to be found at any Leola show... and, of course, one lucky audience member will win a perfectly aged, gently used... no, not the usual lipstick that Leola gives out! For Christmas, the lucky audience member will go home with a 2016 Fruitcake!
Before her show, I reached out to Leola, her director Will Nolan, and some of her guests to check in on how things are going.
Will, how has Leola enjoyed her residency at The Green Room 42 this year?
WN: It's been a blast! When I headed into the new year and the daunting task of creating 6 new shows for 2019, I didn't know if people would care or if we could pull it off. I think Leola's reached more people than we could have hoped for, with new disciples showing up at each show! Building an audience is a marathon, not a sprint, and I'm so grateful to Daniel & The Green Room 42 team for giving Leola a home in NYC to develop more shows!
Leola, What does Christmas mean to you?
L: LOVE THIS QUESTION! Sure it's about family, friends, and fruitcake -- the Christmas F words -- but it's also about magic. It's the one time of year where anything seems possible, miracles can happen. There's a romance to the season, a nostalgia. It's in the music, the twinkly lights, the snowfall. Whether or not you believe in the Baby Jesus and the manger, or Santa and the elves, I think we can all agree that this time of year is special. Plus, you know, ham. You can't spell Christmas without ham.
Will, what makes CHRISTMAS IN LADY LAND the must-see Christmas show in NYC this year?
WN: Christmas in Lady Land! was created in the style (the redneck style) of the old Christmas variety shows. Think Judy Garland, without the fancy soundstage or Liza dancing. Leola is welcoming you into her home -- cause, you know, when she comes to NYC she lives at the Green Room backstage under a piano bench -- and inviting over some of her talented friends to sing songs and share stories. I've always loved variety shows and for the holidays, I wanted to invite some of my uber-talented friends to share their gifts with Leola's crowd! Incredible singers like Farah Alvin and Sean Patrick Murtagh, hysterical comedians like Michael West and his alter-ego Kenn Boisinger, and an amazing storyteller like Maulik Pancholy, gives us the opportunity to celebrate the holidays and maybe learn a little bit about how different cultures celebrate this time of year. And, there are snacks. You don't get free snacks at other shows!
Farah Alvin! What excites you about appearing in the show CHRISTMAS IN LADY LAND?
FA: Are you kidding? Leola is my favorite septuagenarian lesbian Christian! What better way to bring in the holiday season than to share a stage with her!
Sean Patrick Murtagh, what drew you to appearing in Leola's Christmas show?
SPM: Well, quite simply, she asked! We are in the same Green Room 42 family and she has been so supportive of me on Facebook and through messages- cheering me on through my debut and all. I felt honored that she thought of me for this lineup.
Then she explained the show to me and I thought, "not only do I have to do it, but everyone needs to see it!"
Leola, what's your favorite Christmas decoration?
L: That's like Sophie's choice! I got three -- my latch-hook toilet seat cover of Santa saying "you better watch out!", my plunger Christmas tree with a Tab soda angel on top, or my nativity made entirely out of Pringles cans and Slim Jims. Oooo! Or my singin' largemouth bass wall decoration.
Farah, how are you enjoying the Christmas holidays, now that you have a little 'un at home?
FA: We celebrate Hanukah and open a present every night. We also have an open house Hanukah party for family and friends. My son and I cook holiday stuff together. And then on Christmas, we have stockings with little gifts because...well, why not?
Sean, I know you like to entertain -- do you do the hosting on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day or do you attend other gatherings?
SPM: On both Christmas Eve and Christmas, I am back home in The Bay Area, and it's as if time has stood still. I am my parent's right hand... I cook, I clean, I wrap, I pour wine. My parents are the most hospitable and inviting people. When I go home, I am definitely a cohost. And in a way, it recharges me for the upcoming year. Last year I added chocolate and pineapple tamales to my repertoire...let's see what this year holds!
Will, how do you and your husband and son spend your holiday usually?
WN: We are a multifaith family, so we kind of celebrate everything! Our Elf on the Shelf, Dreidel, comes to visit and our son has to find him every morning. We do the 8 nights of Hannukah and Christmas Eve with our closest friends, and then Christmas day we jump in the car and drive 14 hours to Georgia to celebrate with my family and watch a ton of bad Christmas movies. But the most meaningful thing we do as a family is sponsoring another family for the holidays, buying whatever basic necessities they need on their wish list. We never meet the family, but it helps us all keep things in perspective and reminds us that at the end of the day, we just need each other. All the 'stuff' doesn't matter.
Leola, if you could have Jesus to Christmas dinner, what would you like to say to him?
Hey buddy, we're outta wine. Can you help?
Proceeds from the 2019 Christmas in Lady Land will be donated to benefit the PA Youth Congress, a totally youth-led advocacy organization for LGBTQ youth in Pennsylvania, the Tyler Clementi Foundation and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
Leola plays The Green Room 42 on December 5th at 7 pm. For information and tickets to CHRISTMAS IN LADY LAND! Please visit The Green Room 42 Website
For all things Leola Please visit her Website