Interview: Lorna Dallas of GLAMOROUS NIGHTS AND RAINY DAYS at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

" If my life were a book, I'm still on chapter one or two."

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Award-winning cabaret artist Lorna Dallas has returned to NYC with a brand-new show titled GLAMOROUS NIGHTS AND RAINY DAYS that will make its Manhattan debut on May 13th at 7 pm. The musical cabaret played London last year to rave reviews and, after waiting her turn to book dates into an NYC club (many of which were fulfilling canceled covid dates), the singing actress and nightclub storyteller is ready to share her latest creation, helmed, as always, by longtime esteemed colleagues, Director Barry Kleinbort, and Musical Director Christopher Denny.

In anticipation for the two-night run at The Laurie Beechman (May 13 and 17), the always elegant Lorna spent a happy two hours with me in the studio, taking photos and talking, and laughing, laughing, laughing, and something I should mention is that, before we sat down for our, official, interview, one of the things I found most inspiring about Lorna Dallas is her devotion to her husband, Garry Brown. The British talent booker and the Illinois Soprano were together for thirty-four (and one half) years, married for thirty-two, when he died in 2014. For Dallas, thirty-four years wasn't a fraction of the time she would have liked to spend with the love of her life - and when she speaks of him, today, it is clear that she is still in love with him, which his why she brought his gingham shirt to wear in her photos. That, to this romantic, speaks volumes about the power of finding one's true love.

With Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days three days away from opening night, it gives me great honor to present this interview with Lorna Dallas, with a suggestion that everyone visit the ticket link HERE to make their reservations for either performance, each one at 7 pm, and see one consummate cabaret storyteller at the height of her game.

This interview has been edited for space and content.

Photos by Stephen Mosher; Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.

Lorna Dallas! Welcome to Broadway World.

Thank you. Pleasure to be with you.

We've been gossiping together for about an hour...


We have been gossiping together for an hour and taking pictures.

Time flies when you're having fun.

I am having fun.


But we are specifically here to talk about your new cabaret show, which you are opening at The Laurie Beechman on May 13th, but that you've already performed in England.

I did the show last April, which was my birthday, over there, and, of course, getting the dates here was quite difficult, at that point... everyone, after the pandemic, was trying to recoup dates and, so, it was explained to me: get in line. But we've gone through and changed the show. We've got some different things in it for here, tailoring it more for the U.S.

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Do you find that necessary, having to change your show, depending on where you're playing?

Sometimes, yes - certainly, in the chat about things. I'll say something in particular... I mentioned (in London) that I pay tribute to two of my favorite leading ladies that I've worked with, and spent many a glamorous night on stage with: One, Miss Cleo Laine, the other, Mr. Danny La Rue.


But Americans maybe don't know (Danny La Rue)... Cleo and I, of course, did Show Boat together, but Danny was Dolly to my Irene Molloy In London, in the West End. I adored that man. He was the most elegant man. And when I first went over there - I was there before Show Boat, and Danny was doing his show at the Palace Theater. And I was there doing these backers auditions for Ambassador The Musical by Dan Gohman and Hal Hackady, and we raised a ton of money and the show did go on in London and New York, but I couldn't do it because I got Show Boat, and that broke my heart because I adored those two guys, and I loved the show, and music had been written for me in the show.

Anyway, I thought, I'm in London I've got see the Palace Theater. I had no idea what it was - The Danny La Rue Revue. And I was sitting there in the audience, and, of course, this fella's coming on in drag, in beautiful beaded gowns and jewelry, and everything. And I thought, "My god, he's gorgeous," and it was so wonderful. The show was fabulous. I sat there and thought, "How the hell do I explain this to anyone back in the States?" It was so much fun. Then, of course, when I went back to do Show Boat, my opening night, I'm not kidding, there was a tub of beautiful red roses - a bucket full of red roses in my dressing with a note: "Welcome to London, my dear. A long and happy run, Dan." And I thought, "Oh, my god, I really don't know the man, but how wonderful that he's done this for me." So I made a point of writing him a letter, and his agent rang and said, "Oh, Dan wants you to come by, anytime you want to come by the theater, after the show or anything, please come to his dressing room." It was easy to get back up to his theater after mine, after the show, and I met him on a number of different occasions and he says, "My darling, any of your friends that come to London, they must come and see my show, after yours."

Well, of course, I would tell American friends who came, "You've gotta go see him, you'll have a wonderful time." I would race after Show Boat and get to the Palace Theater and I would hear this rollicking laughter coming from the dressing room. The doorman would say, "Go up, Miss Dallas, he's waiting for you upstairs." And my friends would be there, champagne flowing like crazy, and Danny was entertaining them. He says, "Oh, Lorna has arrived. Wonderful!" And it was like a party with him. And over the years, Dan was always just there. And, as I say, he was this elegant man.

My late husband booked him on the QE2, because Danny was afraid of flying and people wanted him over in the States and in Canada. I said, "Would you go on the ship for me?" and Danny said, "As long as I don't have to get on a plane." So Garry worked out getting Danny over on the ship, and Danny did shows for him on the ship, and when he got here to New York, there was a row of Rolls-Royces waiting to take him to Canada - he did his tour there, came back and got on the ship back to London. Danny, over the years, said, "My darling, I want you to do some concerts with me," and I said, "I'd love to see you in white tie and tails." The concert we did in London, with the London Symphony Orchestra - he comes out for the finale in white tie and tail. Took my breath away, he was so beautiful. Then he asked for me to do Dolly with him. And on the opening night in London, I had a black silk tux suit on, and Danny was in white. There was a picture taken of us, and I'm pulling on my bow tie and I said, "He's my favorite leading lady."

I had some wonderful friends I made in London and beautiful colleagues.

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And the title of the show refers to Danny and Dame Cleo.

Yes. Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days.

What's the Rainy Day part of the title?

It's the song, Here's That Rainy Day.

Which, that's like a big deal.

It is. It's a standard but it was never written that way. Dolores Gray did it and she won a Tony as Best Actress for a show that ran for less than a week, Carnival in Flanders. I had met Dolores Gray in London when she took over from Angela Lansbury in Gypsy, and she later starred in Follies. And she was on a couple of the big galas that I did in London. I found a poster during lockdown - I was going through, organizing and digitizing my memorabilia, which, dear Lord, what was I thinking? And it does not pay to be a pack rat. Anyway, I found all sorts of things and I found this poster with all these names on it, and Dolores is one of the names. And I was thinking back on it, and I mentioned it to Barry and he said he'd seen Dolores do that number at Town Hall many years ago. He said, "It's quite different in the show, Lorna, let's look at it." And we looked and it is totally different from the standard that everyone's done over the years.

So people who come to see the show will get the original version, which has, to our knowledge, not been performed over here since that time at Town Hall.

Not even by Dolores herself. And that was a long time ago. It's exciting.

Exciting for you and the audience.

And it was a challenge when Barry said, "I'm throwing this at you, it's a challenge, Lorna." I said, "I'm up for it." And that's when I spoke to Penny Fuller and said, "I have to look at this piece and break down the acting points in it. I'm not just singing. It's a true acting piece."

Well, you're a musical monologuist.

That's a wonderful expression. No one's called me that before. Thank you.

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You're not just up there crooning. You are in the body of the song.

At University, I was being groomed by my voice professor for opera, and I was with the Metropolitan Opera National Company for a year, and I could sing all that stuff, but there was no heart in it. It was fine, throwing off high notes, that technical ability, and all that. That's fine. But it's boring. There's no heart in it. And if I was gonna sing opera, I would love to just sing Puccini all the time but I found that I could express myself more in musical theater. I looked at words first and I wanted to find the story, what's behind all of that, rather than just go out and sing this song that has no heart. But to take a song and really look at it and make it your own, if you can find a way with it, find the words - that to me is exciting.

That's one of the virtues of singing in cabaret and concert.


Because you're not restricted by a script.

Exactly. You can make the song your own if you find the rhyme and reason for it. There's always a rhyme in my shows, I go through a journey and I want the audience to go through the journey with me. I can't do a show of just getting up there: "One of my favorite songs I'd like to sing for you." Anyone can do that. And it's fine. People can sit there and tap their toes and, "Didn't so and so sing it that way?" No, no, no, no, no. Find the Journey. Find a rhyme and a reason for the song. And it could be a silly song, it could be anything. But there's a rhyme and a reason for every song and a way that it makes it special to you.

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When you sit down to craft one of your shows, do you like to journal? Do you make notes? What's the process of writing a Lona Dallas journey?

Well, I mention a bunch of things to Barry Kleinbort. I'll write a bunch of songs down, and ideas or points of things I'd like to express to an audience that they may not know about me. A lot of people probably think, "Oh yeah, we've seen her and she's this sort of elegant lady, whatever." And I think, "No, I'm basically very shy. I probably was very quiet and very reserved." But underneath it all, I'm just bubbling over with these ideas for songs and all, so I sit and jot down things I'd like to express about my life or things that have happened, career-wise or personal, that I'd like to express. I want you to know me, I want to tell you this. And I write down those things, and I say, "Barry, I really would like to do that song because it relates to... and he goes through and edits me, and he says, "No, we're doing such and such because..." and I think, "Why has he chosen this?" Then I realize the reason he's mentioned a particular song to me that does relate to my story, and I can relate to that song. So it's a collaboration. Then we bring in Chris Denny - they're my Team Dallas, I would not do without them.

You've got the best.

I have the best. And they are very sympathetic and very soulful, and they're very much on my side of telling my story and want to be there, as my cushion, to hold me up. I feel this genuine desire, I don't wanna let them down because of what they've given me. And they're pulling things out of me that probably no one else did before.

I promise you that they have a desire not to let you down, either.

I know that. I'm used to Barry sitting there, and he sits and he's tweaking his mustache, and we go through and he tweaks, and I think, by now, he should be missing all the hair on one side of his lip. I think, "What the heck is he thinking?" And then he'll come up and he'll put his finger on something that maybe I was having a problem with, and it's just a comment. All the time he's thinking, it's for my good - he'll come in with the zinger and say exactly what I need to hear. Barry and Chris, they're a wonderful team. I adore them.

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There is nary a night that I go into a club, that you and I don't run into each other. You are so supportive of the other artists.

I love supporting them, and it feeds my artistic soul. When I go to a show and someone's good, I just love that. It's beautiful. I enjoy seeing my fellow artists and, and watching the process they're going through, I just enjoy that. And I learn from them. I really do. I sincerely enjoy the shows.

Do you remember when the New York Times did the ABCs for Broadway shows?


If we were doing the ABCs for your show, what would one sentence to describe this musical cabaret look like?

Oh, what a tough question.

I know I don't ask the easy ones.


I asked for a sentence and you gave me a word. Marvelous.

It's digging for gold. And I think I'm finding things in it, when I think, "Gosh, I did go through that. No one else had that experience, but I had it, it's my story to tell."

You are continually in a state of creation.


Just before the Pandemic, you won an award for one show. Just after the pandemic, you did another show. And now here we are with a new show.


Does it ever quiet down in there?

No. Nor should it. If it does, I'm not being true to what I have been so generously given by people who love me and who have helped me through life and been there for me. I'm not being true to them. I feel like a beginner. I really do. I feel like a kid in a candy store. And it's more and more layers that are being peeled back and opening up with me. I really feel I'm beginning, and it's exciting. It is exciting to find different music that I had not thought of before, and even going back with something that I sang ages ago, and probably was too young to really understand, but now to go back... and I've lived. I have life experience to put into the song.

I do feel I'm just beginning. And I don't wanna lose that feeling.

A word that I use quite a lot: Wonderment. I feel a wonderment in a lot of songs, and that bubble of excitement. I love singing, I love to find new things in my voice. There's the meaning that goes with the songs. It's no longer a singing exercise, it has more depth and maturity. I have grown in my heart.

You are evolving as an artist.

And I don't want to lose that. If my life were a book, I'm still on chapter one or two.

Lorna Dallas, thank you for this chat. I will see you at Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days.

Thank you. I adore you.

As I do, you.

Visit the Lorna Dallas website HERE.

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