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Interview: Chatting with Minnesota Native and Former Miss America Dorothy Benham

We chat with Dorothy on her Broadway career and theatre

Interview: Chatting with Minnesota Native and Former Miss America Dorothy Benham Dorothy Benham is a Minnesota native and is a former Miss Minnesota and Miss America. Dorothy made her Broadway debut in "Jerome Robbins Broadway." She is a trained singer and has a book out titled "The Bastard Queen."

We chat with Dorothy about her experiences in performing and theatre.

How does it feel to have live audiences and theatres back?

Its wonderful to have live theatre back. There is nothing quite as exciting as being a performer of live theatre where you have instant gratification from your audience or being an audience member experiencing performers in the vulnerability of their craft.

What inspired you to pursue performing?

Performing has been in my family for decades and actually centuries going back to the 1800's with my 2x's great grandfather John T. Kelly, a famous Vaudeville performer on the Benham side of the family and my mother was a singer and actress as well. It is in my genes and it felt natural and fun. From a young age I was given the solo opportunities in school and church choirs and for me that began my trajectory of becoming a performer.

What Minnesota theatres did you participate in?

Oddly enough I haven't been a performer in Minnesota theatres. It has consisted of mostly concert work and television. My theatre life really began in Birmingham, Alabama and eventually in Connecticut with the Ct. Opera Company and a couple of other smaller opera companies and then New York City where I was in the original cast of 'Jerome Robbins Broadway' My solo for that show was Somewhere from West Side Story.

Who were your musical influences?

I had many musical influences growing up...Anna Moffo, Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, Deanna Durbin, Jeanette McDonald, Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Julie Andrews and so many more. Just about any one who could sing and dance!

What was the first musical you saw?

The first musical I saw was in NYC in the Broadway show 'The King and I' with Yul Brynner during my year as Miss America. I was with my traveling companion and Miss America USO troupe. We were invited to meet him afterwards.

What is your favorite role you've played or production you've done?

My favorite role to perform was that of Hanna Glawari the rich widow in Franz Lehar's comic opera 'The Merry Widow'. My favorite production to perform in of course was 'Jerome Robbins' Broadway. A great cast and such fun. I made wonderful friends and we still have reunions and get together's.

What is your favorite musical (top favs)?

Any of the classic musicals are my favorites from My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof, etc. and the one that surprised me the most was 'Rent'. Honestly I didn't expect to like it but had been given comp tickets to see it in NYC with the original cast and we, the audience, were on our feet before the last note could be sung.

What is your favorite musical song (top favs)?

There are far too many beautiful, fun songs for me to choose favorite.

What is your favorite musical song to sing(top favs)?

I would have to say that I love singing anything from My Fair Lady. Such as 'I Could Have Danced All Night'

Do you have another role that you hope to play?

Though there are many roles I would have loved to perform, I began having children and family took precedence.Now I am retired and don't sing or perform any longer.

Interview: Chatting with Minnesota Native and Former Miss America Dorothy Benham

Whenever you perform, what do you hope your audience takes away?

When I was performing I always hoped my audience would feel joy, and the true beauty of each song touching the heart and soul. To be moved by any single moment that they would remember always.

What are your favorite local spots in Minnesota?

When I do get back to Minnesota I love walking around Lake Harriet. It holds many wonderful memories for me.

Thank you so much Dorothy for your time!

Photos courtesy of Dorothy Benham

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