At 21, young actress Mary Stout was drawing age lines on her face and playing character women, and those lines can be traced over the years to illustrate a career of steady employment in such Broadway shows as Me and My Girl, My Favorite Year and the current Jane Eyre.
Stout, middle-aged and not a size six, knows who she is and will celebrate it in a new benefit cabaret act, Lighter Than Eyre, April 23-24 at Upstairs at Studio 54.
"I've been playing 50 plus since I got off the bus," said Stout, quoting a lyric from her show. "This is about my joy at being a character woman..."
Stout said she had an unsuccessful brush with cabaret several years back, when she wasn't quite ready to do an autobiographical show. But now she's touching on her "character woman" persona by singing standards, comic pieces and new songs. The shows above the famed former disco on 54th Street benefit The Marcia Shew Fund for Pediatric AIDS.
Stout said she has no other plans for the show, but the benefit performances are the seeds for other possible bookings. "A long, long time ago, back in 1984-85 I did an act, unsuccessfully, it played three Monday nights," she told Playbill On-Line. "It snowed on two of the nights. That show got very personal and serious. This new one is funny and that feels good; it's what people enjoy."
Stout has been earning giggles, critical affection and warm respect as the dotty housekeeper in the Paul Gordon-John Caird musical, Jane Eyre, since fall 2000, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. She has been Mrs. Fairfax in the musical since the first readings of the show. She was also Eugenia for four seasons on the cult TV series, "Remember WENN," on the AMC network.
Lighter Than Eyre performances are 8:30 PM April 23 and 11:30 PM April 24.
"People will see a new side of me," Stout said. "People don't realize that I am a chanteuse."
Songs in the cabaret evening will include "The Alto's Lament," "Character Gal," "The Party's Over," Rupert Holmes tunes, and a signature salute to Sophie Tucker. Christopher Marlowe is musical director (on piano) and Leo Grinhauz is on cello. Lee Tannen is producer-director and Will Campbell is associate producer.
Stout was born in West Virginia and raise in Marietta, OH. In college, in West Virginia, she got hooked on theatre.
Lighter Than Eyre tickets are $30 ($20 for members of Actors' Equity and MAC), plus a two-drink minimum. Upstairs at Studio 54 is at 254 W. 54th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. For reservations, call (212) 280-1360.