Interview: Countess Luann de Lesseps Teases New Cabaret Show, Broadway Hopes

On February 16, Luann de Lesseps will premiere her most personal cabaret act yet: "Marry, F, Kill."

By: Jan. 25, 2024
Interview: Countess Luann de Lesseps Teases New Cabaret Show, Broadway Hopes

For Countess Luann, life is still a cabaret – no matter what anyone says.

The Real Housewives of New York star and Bravo mainstay is making her return to 54 Below for a series of special shows, marking the final performances of her "Countess Cabaret" routine.

After launching her first "Countess & Friends" cabaret show in 2017, the Bravo mainstay has sold out venues across the country, bringing her hits like "Money Can't Buy You Class" to Bravo-holics everywhere.

Now, on February 16, de Lesseps will premiere her most personal cabaret act yet. "Marry, F, Kill" will dive deep into her 15 years on Bravo, past relationships, and more juicy details from her storied life and career.

BroadwayWorld sat down with Luann de Lesseps prior to her January 31 return to 54 Below to discuss what to expect from the new cabaret show, how she and Sonja Morgan brought the arts to Benton, IL on their Crappie Lake spin-off, and if Broadway could still be in the cards for her.

You're back at 54 Below this month. How are you feeling about the big return for January?

Oh, great. You know, 54 Below is like my home. It's where I got my start in cabaret, so it's like my living room. I love it. I sold out my first three shows there for holidays, so we added in more, and then I'm off to LA for "Marry, F, Kill," which is the kickoff for the new tour.

What do you enjoy the most about working at 54 Below, especially now that you are a staple in the New York cabaret scene?

I love being up close and personal with my fans. I'm playing much bigger venues, so this for me feels like my living room. You're on my living room couch and it's pop culture meets cabaret meets comedy. I obviously talk about Ultimate Girl's Trip. I talk about Crappie Lake with Sonja [Morgan]. So it's just a lot of fun. I sing my favorite songs and some of my classics. I look forward to it. It's a feel-good place. It's the perfect venue for my kind of show because it's cozy and it just feels very cabaret.

It's such an iconic spot for New York but then also for The Real Housewives of New York, with that "Jovani" episode.

I think part of the attraction also is because there's so much history on the show.

You mentioned it before, but "Marry, F, Kill" is starting in February. What can we expect from this new show?

It's a totally different show. I'm actually having an intermission on that show. It's going to be a totally different structure from what people are used to seeing. I have Richard Jay-Alexander as my director and we are so excited to kick off at The Wiltern, where I sold out my first show when I first went to LA. It's really about who we would marry, who we would F, who we would kill – meaning get rid of, really, because we're not killing anybody. It's like who we're gonna cut from our lives.

It's really about all of those things kind of put together. What I do is I pick the music that is personal to me and then I weave in my stories as to how I got to that song. It's very personal. Even though it's a big venue for me, whether I play 54 Below or a big theater like The Wiltern, it's very immersive.

We're gonna play a game. We're gonna play "Marry, F, Kill." There's a new song that I wrote because I'm always inspired by by my experiences on the show, my experience in Crappie Lake with Sonja. You know, I'm always in trouble when it comes to men. I mean, there's good trouble and then there's bad trouble. God knows I've gotten married on the show, I've gotten rid of guys on the show and divorced on the show. It's really kind of that journey, which is totally different from what I've done before. Diving deeper into relationships and love and when the red flags are there. Love is blind. Let's talk about all of those things because we all do the same thing.

My audience is 80% women and I got my boys. I think really everyone loves to come because they're also learning something about me that they've never learned before. It's immersive and it's personal.

I've had people come to my show that go, "I just came from Beyonce" or one of these big shows. And they're like, "We had so much more fun at your show," because they are a part of the show. They can't talk to Beyonce. They can't talk to Taylor Swift, but they can talk to me. That's what I love about cabaret. It is very personal. Every song that I sing has a personal meaning to me.

My inspiration for "Marry, F, Kill" was really the audience. Every time I do a Q&A with my audience, I always get asked that question. So really, the fans are the ones who gave me this idea for the show.

Interview: Countess Luann de Lesseps Teases New Cabaret Show, Broadway Hopes
Luann de Lesseps at 54 Below

These tours are such a massively successful endeavor for you and it really is groundbreaking in the Housewives and even reality TV universe that you do this.

Somebody said that to me recently. "You started touring. You started the notion of Housewives touring." Now, nobody is doing what I do, but I was like, "Really?" Oh yeah, I never really even considered that. I just did what I loved. I didn't know it was cabaret. It was Countess & Friends.

My first director – Ben Rimalower, who I adore –  was put together through a mutual friend with him to start cabaret. He had such an understanding of pop culture because he is, first of all, a great director and a fan. So together we put together the show based on what I wanted to talk about, what I wanted to sing, what I wanted to highlight from Housewives that meant something to me. It really kind of morphed into Countess Cabaret.

I felt like at a certain point I was filling a void for something that was missing. You know, Liza [Minnelli]'s not doing cabaret and Chita [Rivera] and the great Bette Midler. Now I have the director of all of them, which is pretty amazing. And Brian Nash is an incredible musical director. I started with Billy Stritch, I love Billy Stritch. We talked about doing something in the future together. I'm lucky I'm surrounded by the most talented people in the business.

On that topic bringing the show to other people around the country, I loved that you were on the other side of that in Crappie Lake. Through the Benton Follies, you and Sonja gave a spotlight to performers to help their own town. What was that experience like for you?

I was very lucky. When I got there, the town actually has a theater group and they were putting on a production of The Addams Family. So I literally landed and on the second day I was there. I went to see the production even before we started filming. I was scouting already for the talent that they had there locally. I found some great performers. But I started really casting from there and we didn't have a musical director, so we had to find somebody there that could accompany us on piano. It was not easy finding talent in this small town. But we did, and it was a process.

Interview: Countess Luann de Lesseps Teases New Cabaret Show, Broadway Hopes
Luann de Lesseps, Sonja Morgan in Welcome to Crappie Lake

Sonja and I are totally different when it comes to our creative so it was a challenge working with Sonja for sure, because she's very off-the-cuff. So am I, but I have a total outline and kind of script, and then I go off-script when I want to, but I just don't go out there and make it up. I mean, I do a professional show and it's very laid out and I work hard at cabaret. I think people don't understand that. I think when they come to my show, they don't know what to expect. I say that they drive in in a Toyota and they drive out in a Rolls Royce because they don't know what to expect.

When my fans come, they get dressed. If they don't have Jovani, they're going to find something that looks like Jovani. They're going to put on a statement necklace. What I love is that they all are bonded from this pop culture, Housewives experience because they all have something in common already. I'll have single girls that come, they'll meet other girls and then they'll go out together. They have a common thread, which is really cool. It's like, they're already connected when they get there. They have already have something in common to talk about and share. It's very Bravo-universe.

But at the same time, I've had people come to my show that never seen The Housewives that love it. I do a lot of music that I personally love that they know. Kids that have grown up with their moms and their moms are listening to the same music I do. So all the 20-year-olds know the songs that I sing. So my audience is very young. I get all the bachelorettes, I get the birthday girls, I got the anniversaries. They're there to celebrate, they're there to party, have a good time and lose themselves into my life. Life is a cabaret, regardless of what Bethenny says.

As you said, you are very busy with your cabaret shows, but is Broadway ever something that you'd still be interested in? Is there a role you'd want to play?

Absolutely. Wait until you hear the song "Marry, F, Kill" which is gonna drop just before my show in LA. It's so good. I think it's gonna take on a life of its own. Maybe it is something meant for Broadway. Richard Jay-Alexander will tell you, "Girl, this is going to Broadway." So, let's see.

Obviously that would be a huge honor for me to do something on Broadway. The sky's the limit and life is a cabaret. I write my own story and hopefully this story will go on to Broadway.

Countess Luann returns to 54 Below on January 31, with more performances on February 1 through 3. She then launches "Marry, F, Kill" on February 16 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, CA, with more tour dates listed through the spring.