“I have a very strong inner Dee Dee Allen,” reveals Tony winner Beth Leavel. Dee Dee is the gloriously vain Broadway diva that Leavel portrays in “The Prom.” Her impressive comedic chops earned the actress a nomination for Lead Actress in a Musical, marking her third Tony nomination to date. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“It’s so much fun to play someone who leads with such narcissism,” admits Leavel. Dee Dee is the type of Broadway broad who carries Tonys around in her purse and hoards the spotlight, onstage or off. Far from a one dimensional character however, the role isn’t all jokes and hi-jinks. Along the way “she finds her heart” and discovers what is most important to her.
Dee Dee is one of four egotistical Broadway actors who land in small town Indiana to help a lesbian high school student attend her prom… and scrounge up some positive publicity in the process. “We call ourselves ‘the olds’” quips Leavel, referring to her co-stars Brooks Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber, and Angie Schworer. Those four have been a part of “The Prom” since the very first table read seven years ago, and as such the part of Dee Dee was specifically written for Leavel. “Having someone write for your comedy, your voice… that’s such a gift and such a blessing. It doesn’t happen that often, so I’m savoring every moment.”
One of the songs perfectly crafted to take advantage of the actress’ abilities is “The Lady’s Improving.” “It’s a challenge,” says Leavel of her eleven o’clock showstopper. But more satisfying than the song’s final epic belt is the subtext of the number. It is Dee Dee’s final moment to win over her small town crush Mr. Hawkins (Michael Potts) and prove “that she has self worth.” That extra dimension makes the scene “really fulfilling.”
Leavel is no stranger to such grandiose musical moments. She won a Tony Award for “The Drowsy Chaperone,” singing another knock ’em dead number: “As We Stumble Along.” When asked what it was like to hear her name called as the Tony winner, Leavel describes an out of body experience. “It was terrifyingly, the most thrilling moment of my life, next to childbirth,” she adds.
For her third Tony nomination, Leavel finds herself in the rare position of being nominated alongside a co-star. Caitlin Kinnunen (who plays Emma, the teen the Broadway ‘olds’ are trying to help) landed her first career nomination in the same category as Leavel. The veteran actress is thrilled for the both of them, and says they both are “trying to be in the moment” and “to be grateful.”
“The Prom” marks Leavel’s 13th Broadway show. When asked if there’s any role she still has to check off her bucket list, she replies with a simple “no.” Describing herself as a “worker bee” who is always ready for the next project, she doesn’t keep those kind of benchmarks when thinking of her career. “But then something comes along like ‘The Prom’” she says, “and I go ‘Oh! I didn’t realize it was on my bucket list!’”
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