by Eric Andrews-Katz -
SGN Contributing Writer
9 to 5 the Musical
5th Avenue Theatre
Whether it's in Seattle or on New York's Broadway, Dee Hoty knows her way around the stage. She's been a familiar face on both coasts, starring in MAME or Lonestar Love and earning three Tony Award nominations for her Broadway credits, including City of Angels, Footloose, Will Rogers Follies, Mamma Mia, and The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public. Her television credits include As the World Turns, Guiding Light, and St. Elsewhere among others. And now, this talented lady returns to Seattle for the 5th Avenue Production of 9 to 5 the Musical.
Eric Andrews-Katz: What started your interest in musical theatre?
Dee Hoty: I had always been a singer as a kid, with a loud, clear voice. I was in the choir in junior high school, but it was in high school that I discovered musicals, with the combination of both singing and acting. We always had cast albums in my family, but I wasn't obsessed until I discovered them myself. I love the genre and the combination of the different art forms.
Andrews-Katz: Do you prefer modern or classical musicals and why?
Hoty: I actually like them both. Of course I love the classics like Rodgers & Hammerstein. I wanted to be Laurie [in Oklahoma], but I'm more suited for Ado Annie. I enjoy Sondheim and all the new writers like Jason Robert Brown. I'm also a fan of Jeanine Tesori [Shrek the Musical], and [Adam] Guettel's Light in the Piazza as new classic works.
Andrews-Katz: City of Angels is a story within a story, and most actors play two characters. You played the ingénue Alaura, as well as Carla. Was it difficult to keep the two roles separate as they play out the storyline?
Hoty: No, not at all. I thought Alaura to be more of a leading lady. Frankly, Larry's [Gelbart] dialogue and writing is genius, and very distinct, at least to me. There was no question that you were in a scene in a movie versus a scene that was happening in real time. When we got into the production, we had black and white clothes [for the movie segments] and color outfits for real time. Our set designer Robin Wagner made it really obvious to what was happening at the time.
Andrews-Katz: In Will Rogers Follies, you played his wife, Betty Blake Rogers. Do you find it any less challenging when playing a real person as opposed to a fictional character?
Hoty: That was kind of a challenge. We met one of their sons [Jimmy Rogers], and the other son, Will Rogers, Jr., was not well enough to make the trip to NYC. They were so generous when we got to Oklahoma, where we ended the tour, and it was pretty remarkable. We had the moon thrown at us, but in a good way. I remember David [Carradine, playing Will Rogers] with Tommy Tune saying it's not necessary to do an impersonation of the character, but to get the essence of the person was more important. Jimmy Rogers paid me many compliments, saying that it was like looking up [on stage] and seeing his mother; the gestures and the recreating of her spirit on a stage. We were connected to the Will Rogers Institute and they were very complimentary.
Andrews-Katz: What was your reaction when you were told the movie Footloose was going to be a musical?
Hoty: My first reaction? "Gee, is there a part in it for me?" I only learned about it when Walter Bobbie (who adapted it for the stage) called and asked me to do a table reading, and asked would I play Vi Moore, the preacher's wife. I thought: "Bring it on, why not?" It was also really a fun, fun time. Catherine Cox (who played Mrs. McCormack) used to be up against me for every role and sort of my friendly nemesis (in my mind, at least) because she always got the roles. When we worked together, we became good friends and had a blast standing in the wings, chatting about the kids working on stage.
Andrews-Katz: You were back on Broadway for Mamma Mia! Do you think it helps if audiences know the music in jukebox musicals before going to see the show?
Hoty: I don't think it matters one way or another. I was not a huge ABBA fan, but I like it and I enjoyed learning to sing those songs with a pop style. Those songs are not usually in my musical vocabulary, but they were what made that show so iconic. I think that even if you didn't like ABBA, or even if you didn't know ABBA, it wouldn't hinder your ability to enjoy that show at all. It's not high art, nor is it pretending to be something it's not. I can't explain why some things work and some don't, but as far as jukebox musicals go, Mamma Mia! is pretty well done.
Andrews-Katz: In 9 to 5 the Musical, you play Violet, the role originated by Lily Tomlin in the movie. In what ways is the character different for the musical?
Hoty: I never felt there was a shadow of Lily Tomlin because I just admire her so much as a performer and a person. When I can, I try to put a little something - something that only I would recognize, but it's in there - and that's my homage to them. What I remember from Lily's performance is that she is so still, as a character, and then the flip side of it, it becomes more physical/situational comedy. I also saw Allison Janney do it on Broadway and thought she was terrific. She doesn't have a huge Broadway sound, but she sings fine and she held her own. It's a great part and I try to pay homage to both of them.
Andrews-Katz: How does an actor take a role that is so well-known and create something completely new?
Hoty: It always starts with the book. Since Patricia Resnick is the librettist and was at many of our rehearsals, it was easy to access. For me, it starts with the page my character enters on. What does she say, what is said about her? It can be daunting stepping into some huge role that was made famous by someone else. Directors hire you thinking you can do it. I wouldn't have said yes [to a role] if I thought it was out of my league. You don't want to start being tied down, or held back.
9 to 5 the Musical contains familiar and new songs, with all music and lyrics written by Dolly Parton. Dee Hoty co-stars with American Idol runner-up Diana DeGarmo (Doralee Rhodes), Broadway veteran Mamie Parris (Judy Bernly), Kristine Zbnorik (Roz), and Joseph Mahowald as Franklin Hart, Jr.
To contact Eric Andrews-Katz email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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