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BWW Interview: Therese Lee's RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET & Further

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Songstress Therese Lee will debut her one-woman concert RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s September 29th

BWW Interview: Therese Lee's RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET & Further

Songstress Therese Lee will debut her one-woman concert RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET at Feinstein's at Vitello's September 29, 2021. Therese and I have crossed paths many a time, in years past, working the Red Carpet. I grabbed the chance to catch up with my former co-reporter.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Therese!

I remember you when we were both interviewing on the Red Carpet. And now I'm interviewing you. How cool is that?

Pretty cool! I always loved watching you work on the Red Carpet.

Sooo, what initially inspired you to create RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET?

Originally, I thought about doing a vlog or a reality show with the same title. I came up with it when I was sitting on the bus going back home after an evening interviewing celebrities, listening to a man in a seat behind me telling no one in particular why he loved the moon more than the sun. It hit me how insane my life seemed at that moment and wouldn't it be interesting to document the life of someone riding the bus to the Red Carpet.

In December of 2019, I was having lunch with Jeff Harnar while he was visiting Southern California and told him that story. He said, "That sounds like a cabaret show!" And, we started working from there!

How many songs were considered in the first draft of RIDING?

We have fourteen songs. We had two more, which we cut because the show was running a bit long.

At what point did your musical director Doug Peck and director Jeff Harnar contribute their expertise?

BWW Interview: Therese Lee's RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET & Further Jeff was there from the beginning and Doug joined us not long after that.

Would you say you were an expert on Zoom now, after all your Zooming with Doug and Jeff?

During rehearsal, I had to get used to sharing screen time with Doug's cats while Jeff watched from New York. It's interesting that we will have only had one rehearsal with the three of us in the same room before I perform at Vitello's on September 29! Zoom has been an invaluable tool. I'm not an expert, but it's an important part of my life today!

What's your three-line pitch for RIDING?

Therese Lee recalls her days as a very poor entertainment reporter in Los Angeles with no car, taking the bus across L.A. to interview celebrities. She shares what her interactions with some of Hollywood's biggest stars did to change her life forever.

Your director Jeff Harner has his own one-man show the following night September 30th. Can the Feinstein's at Vitello's audience expect to see you spring up from your table to duet with him in a Sondheim song?

Not this time. But I will be there, cheering him on. It's going to be wonderful!

Besides putting together RIDING, what else did you do during the lockdown to keep creatively sane?

I tried to vocalize every day. I also tried to meditate every day to stay centered. And, I called a lot of friends and watched way too much YouTube.

You've sing opera and art songs in five different languages. Are you fluent in those five languages? Or do you learn the songs phonetically?

I wish I were fluent! No, in school we had diction classes because we were expected to sing in other languages. I remember having a French diction class where we repeated "une universite" over and over again to get it to sound right.

BWW Interview: Therese Lee's RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET & Further You earned your Bachelors' in music from UCLA and studied acting at the British American Drama Academy and at London's Royal National Theater Studio. Did you find any difference in teaching attitudes/styles between the two countries?

I was more of an adult (in my 30's) when I went to England for those two summer programs because I wanted to study Shakespeare. It seemed to me that there was more of a mentorship mentality there. Professional actors were our teachers - people who were members of The Royal Shakespeare Company or doing shows in The West End. Acting seemed to be a respected profession there, as opposed to L.A. where sometimes if you mention you're an actor people wonder where you are waiting tables.

When I went to the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, I found the same thing I found in England. Tim Schall has created this amazing chance to meet people like Marilyn Maye or Faith Prince and learn from them. That's how I met Jeff Harnar. He's a wonderful teacher and mentor, in addition to being an incredible performer.

Interviewing on the Red Carpet can be exhilarating and nerving, and all emotions crammed into the few minutes you have to get answers from a celebrity on their way into their main event. Who were you most excited to interview?

John Cleese was one of my favorites. We had 15 minutes at a junket, and I suddenly found myself having a conversation with him about Shakespeare and the comedy MEASURE FOR MEASURE. I wanted to pinch myself. I had admired him all my life and here I was having this incredible discussion with him.

I rarely got starstruck, but when I saw Robert Redford coming down the carpet, I almost fainted. Same thing with John Travolta. The people on the carpet that I'd seen since I was a kid always overwhelmed me.

What was the most unexpected reply you received from an interviewee?

I was interviewing a well-known actor who lived in my neighborhood in Venice - I'd seen him when I was out walking a few times. So, I mentioned to him and his wife, a famous actress, that we lived in the same neighborhood, and he said "Oh, so this is about you?" I was not prepared for that.

BWW Interview: Therese Lee's RIDING THE BUS TO THE RED CARPET & Further I screwed up a celebrity's name once. Did you ever mess up someone's name? And how did you recover?

I tell a couple of those stories in the show. One that isn't in the show was, one time, I had no idea who this woman was or what she did. To this day, I can't remember her name. But, I tried to fake it! She looked at me and said, "You have no idea who I am, do you?" I just nodded. It was terrible.

What's in the near future for Therese Lee? Any more Red Carpet gigs?

I don't think there are any more Red Carpet gigs, but you never know! I do want to keep singing, and I look forward to doing this show again on December 19th at the Arthur Newman Theater in Palm Desert. And, I have plans to do the show in April 2022 in NYC.

Thank you again, Therese! Great reconnecting with you after all these years!

For tickets to the live one-nighter at Feinstein's at Vitello's September 29, 2021; log onto www.feinsteinsatvitellos.com


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