Quinn Lemley: To sequins and beyond
It's called "Burlesque to Broadway," but the song and dance revue, 7:30 p.m. March 2, State Theatre for the Arts, 453 Northampton St., Easton, is much more, according to its star.
"It's a celebration of women, from Burlesque to Broadway and beyond," says Quinn Lemley, star of the show with co-stars, Sara Brophy, portraying Raz, a Rosalind Russell character, and Amanda Brantley, portraying Gracie, based on Gracie Allen. They're backed by a 10-piece orchestra.
"The show is like a young Bette Midler meets 'Chicago,' " Lemley says.
"It's not just a burlesque show. People will learn a lot about these women, that they used the power of their mind, the power of the tease. They used their intelligence to build a life for themselves."
OK, we understand that "Burlesque to Broadway" is more than sequins, fans and boas oh, my!
But what we really want to know: Is Quinn Lemley a stage name?
"It's my real name," says Lemley in a recent telephone interview. "My mom thought I was going to be a boy and she was going to name me Boris. And she saw that I was a girl. 'It's a Quinn,' she said.'"
Lemley is a British surname. Quinn is Irish. Her mother's side of the family is Polish.
Lemley's family story and show-biz journey is woven into "Burlesque to Broadway."
"I take them [the audience] on a journey of these women, and these characters and I talk about my famiily in a fun way. And there's all these outrageous stories that are fun and tied to the theme of burlesque and Broadway."
Lemley does a Gypsy Rose Lee monologue. There are jokes, references and anecdotes to and about Tallulah Bankhead, Mae West, Fannie Brice, Sophie Tucker and Bette Midler.
"We do all those corny, vaudeville fun jokes. What's unusual is that women are doing it. They used to be done by men."
Of the burlesque aspect of the revue, she says, "It's all about the art of the tease. The tease is all in the mind. What's sexier than a woman taking off a glove?"
It's a big show, with lots of costume changes. Steve Rawlins, who did arrangements for Midler, arranged the revue's numbers. W. Brent Sawyer (Broadway's "A Chorus Line") is music director-conductor-pianist.
"It's one show-stopper after another. There's something for everyone. There's Cole Porter's 'My Heart Belongs to Daddy,' and we do that with a twist; Tom Jones' 'She's A Lady'; Leslie Gore's 'You Don't Own Me'; Cher's 'Bang Bang.'"
"Not only are we doing these amazing harmonies and vocals, but the choreography tells the story, as well," Lemley says. Merete Muenter is choreographer. "She really takes us from the girly-girl dances they did in the '20s and '30s, with the boa, to today."
And then there are those costumes by Wendall Goings ("Rock of Ages"), from gorgeous gowns to showgirl outfits, Sally Rand fans to beaded dresses.
The 120-minute has a 15-minute intermission.
"There are boas on sale at intermission. So, if the audience is in the mood, they can get their own boas if they want to get their burlesque on. There's a lot of audience involvement."
Lemley has been developing the show for three years. This, ahem, leg of the tour began Feb. 1 in New Brunswick and continued in Vancouver and Montreal and went on to Louisville.
"There's something for everyone. We meet and greet and do a photo-op with the audience" [after the show]," Lemley says.
Lemley researched and wrote the show, collaborating with Joseph Hardy, who edited it. "He worked with a lot of these people," she says of the Tony Award winner ("You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown").
Lemley began singing and dancing at age four at her parents' restaurant in Columbus, Ind. At 16, she studied with opera diva, Christianne Castelli, in Bordeaux, France. She was in "The Great American Backstage Musical" at Interlochen Arts Academy before heading off to New York City, where she graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts.
She has performed at The Joslyn Theatre, Palm Desert, and The Annenberg, Palm Springs, both Calif.; the Algonquin, Town Hall, Symphony Space and The Knitting Factory, all New York; Spazzio and Gardenia, both Los Angeles, and toured in Switzerland and China.
Her New York stage credits include "The Heat Is On," Israel Horovitz's "Barking Sharks" and Off-Broadway workshops of "Rita!; Hollywood Goddess."
Lemley has recorded five CDs on HepCat Records, including " Sirens: Songs of the Silver Screen," "Cocktails With a Twist," "Dance or Die," "The Heat Is On!" and "Live! At The Half Note."
"My grandmother would introduce me to all this music. She was my best friend in the whole world. I would go over there [in Columbus, Ind.]. I would cross the street every day after school. She would educate me on theater, artists, music and film. We would read Mae West's biography."