Through Dec. 20, she will be spreading her own peculiar, vivacious and full-throated brand of Christmas cheer through her new show, Virgin Mary, Make Mine a Double—A Very Lea Christmas (a very Lea title, that). The show began performances at The Belt Theatre (336 W. 37th St.) in Manhattan Dec. 4.
The entertainment, featuring DeLaria and a back-up band, will include one new song from her new album, "Play It Cool," but will primarily celebrate the sounds of the season—as Lea understands them, of course. Yes, there will be several traditional melodies, including "Sleigh Ride" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." But also in the mix will be a few "ridiculous Christmas tunes." In this category she places "The Hawaiian Christmas Song," made popular by Bing Crosby, and performed by DeLaria in a coconut bra and hula skirt, a la Mary Martin in South Pacific. A third segment of the evening will consist of "a lot of other tunes that I just make Christmas songs." Among these are the generous-hearted "I'll Be Happy When You're Dead," the Frank Loesser classic "If I Were a Bell" and "Teach Me Tiger," a kitsch cocktail-hour seduction number first recorded by April Stevens.
Christmas has always been important to her, said DeLaria, who was one of five kids. "Because I'm Italian. Big, big, big! We'd get up in the morning, four or five in the morning, getting our parents out of bed to open the presents." Pops DeLaria will be visiting Lea for Christmas this year, along with a brother, his wife and a niece and nephew. They won't arrive in time to see the show, however—unless it extends.
"But I'm almost hoping they don't!" DeLaria started laughing. "I could use the break. I've been working so hard! I went right from Little Fish"—the Off-Broadway Michael John LaChiusa musical she starred in last February—"to a monster, three-month tour. I'm exhausted!!"
DeLaria's schedule won't let up in 2004. In January and February she will tour Europe in support of her album. In March, she'll do 30 concerts in 30 days as the featured vocalist for the Newport Jazz Festival's 50th anniversary tour. After a short break, she will then begin rehearsals for what may be her most unusual and challenging dramatic assignment to date: Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days at Off-Broadway's Worth Street Theatre. Winnie is one of the most daunting dramatic roles in the canon of modern drama. The play is basically a two-act monologue. Winnie begins the action (so to speak) buried waist-high in a mound of dirt, while chirping on about the glorious gift that is life. By Act Two, the earth has climbed to her chin, though Winnie's spirits have flagged only slightly. The role is typically attempted by established dramatic actresses late in their careers.
"I'd read the play and seen it about a million times," said DeLaria. "The first time I read it was in high school and I longed to do this part. I said yes immediately, if not sooner, when they asked me, and was so shocked that anyone in New York would think of me for Winnie. There are so many Winnies floating around in this town. I'm hoping that I can make her funnier than I've seen her in the past. I think it's a really, really, really funny part. When I've seen it, it's been done by some serious actresses who I think missed the point."
Add classical actress to the resume.