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as Velma Kelly
<03>Speaking of great shows, you were in the original cast of Dreamgirls.
For the whole four years! From day one of rehearsals, through the whole debacle in Boston, then…
Well, Michael [Bennett] just could not figure out the second act, especially the top of the second act. It changed so many times. We were there for six weeks. Then we stayed another three.
Obviously, worth it. Were you aware that you were in the midst of creating a masterpiece?
Not at all. I mean, we had a feeling that, "Hmm...this<03> could be good." But not to the extend that it really is now. I mean, today you just say "Dreamgirls" and everybody screams!03>
You co-directed and choreographed the Actors' Fund benefit of Dreamgirls. How was revisiting that material for you?
Magical. Just to hear that cowbell at the top of the show... you get chills. It was the same in rehearsals with Lillias [White] and Audra [McDonald] cause everyone was just so happy to be doing Dreamgirls--and because everyone knows it so well, everyone just fell into place. And I'm so sorry that they're not going to try to do a full Broadway revival before they do the movie, which Jerry Mitchell and I were slated to do. Cause we were ready to do it. Then they said, “No, we're not doing it.” Which is so unfortunate, cause like Chicago, that Dreamgirls material just lives.
Is directing and choreographing something you'd like to pursue?
Directing, yes. Not so much a choreographer. I only did the choreography for Dreamgirls because I remembered the original, and was able to re-create it, giving everyone some background.
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You've worked with so many great Broadway directors. If each had their own show poster, what would the Brenda Braxton pull-quote be?
Hmmm... let's see. "Jerry's a good time."
George C. Wolfe?
"Crazy as cat shit. But a genius!"
[Long pause.] "I wished I had worked with him more."
[Laughs.] "He wants to be me!"
And now a performer, Peter Allen?
Ohhhh, I loved Peter. Couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag. But I Ioved him.
Yeah, what happened with Legs Diamond?
Well, there really were some ingenious little nuggets in there. But the whole show kind of changed direction right in the middle, and we just didn't have enough preview time. Then the sets started crashing into each other. And they started to fire people. Then they put me in the position of the fired person. And though Peter was such an incredible performer, you just couldn't believe him as this straight guy. You know? But he was always wonderful to me, tried to include me in everything. See, Peter wanted me to be a character in the show, having an African-American woman be one of [Legs's] conquests. But we just didn't have enough time to make the writing fit the idea. So you had this black woman who stepped out. And who was funny. And was a surprise! But kind of like the show as a whole... I don't know, it just sort of died.
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3/7/2005 3:15:00 PM