Lane Bradbury, who created the role of Dainty June/Baby June in the original Broadway production of Gypsy opposite Ethel Merman, returns to the New York City stage for two appearances in the coming weeks.
In that musical about how stripper Gypsy Rose Lee came of age in the world of vaudeville, June was Gypsy’s younger, prettier sister—a favorite of their mother, Madame Rose. Rose built their acts around June until the day June finally had enough and ran away—leading Rose to the decision to put her older daughter (originally played by Sandra Church) into the world of burlesque stripping.
On September 17 Bradbury will be a special guest for the monthly Sondheim Unplugged concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below, singing “Broadway,” a number for June in her Newsboys act that was part of the original production of Gypsy, but was not recorded on the original cast album. The song includes the Stephen Sondheim lyric “Broadway, Broadway, How great you are/ I’d leave the farm with all its charm to be a Broadway star!”
On September 24 Bradbury will take audiences on a tour of her career in her solo show Let Me Entertain You, Again, as she journeys from making her debut in Atlanta to making her Broadway debut. Bradbury will do the show at Don’t Tell Mama nightclub in Manhattan. She described it to Playbill as “just the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Bradbury performed Let Me Entertain You, Again in New York previously, in 2013 and 2015. In those versions she included songs “Gee, But It's Good to Be Here,” “Corner of the Sky” and “Another Hundred People,” as well as four songs from Gypsy: “Everything's Coming Up Roses,“ ”If Momma Was Married,“ “Let Me Entertain You,” and “Broadway.”
Bradbury’s last Broadway show was Marathon ’33 in 1963. It was written by June Havoc, whose life was the model for Dainty June. After that, Bradbury relocated to California for many years and pursued a career in TV and movies. Her film credits include Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Hawaii, The Barony, and Consenting Adults. Her TV work includes In the Heat of the Night, Kung Fu, The Rockford Files, The Partridge Family, The Waltons, and The Mod Squad.
Bradbury said she was lured back to the East Coast by something she experienced during a visit in 2009. “I saw [the Broadway musical] Next to Normal and it turned me upside down. It was an amazing experience, and I found that I just couldn’t leave the theatre. That’s when I knew I had to sing again.” She now makes her home in Weehawken, New Jersey, and takes ballet classes and voice lessons in Manhattan. “I’m a New Yorker now,” she said.
Let Me Entertain You, Again was written by Doug DeVita and Bradbury’s daughter Elkin Antoniou, with additional material by Bradbury and musical direction by Jan Roper. The production is directed by Antoniou, who also has a history with Gypsy, having played one of Dainty June’s Hollywood Blondes in the 1993 Bette Midler TV adaptation of the musical.
Bradbury said she wants to save her Ethel Merman stories for the stage show, but she did say that one of her favorite post-Merman Madame Roses was Tyne Daly, who played the role in the 1989 Broadway revival. “She was extraordinary.”
As for seeing other actors play Dainty June, Bradbury said, “It’s really interesting to watch someone else do it. What I don’t like to see is when it’s overdone. June is such an over-the-top character that I feel there has to be a reality to her. If you just give me over-the-top, it doesn’t get me. It doesn't move me.”
Tickets to the September 17 Sondheim Unplugged at Feinstein’s/54 Below cost $40–$70, plus $25 food/drink minimum, and can be ordered here.
Tickets to the September 24 Let Me Entertain You, Again at Don’t Tell Mama cost $20 plus a two-drink minimum, and can be ordered here.