PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Michele Lee, Going From "Knots Landing" to 54 Below

By Ben Rimalower
26 Jan 2014

So, all those years you were in L.A., are there any plays or musicals that you did regionally that we might be surprised by? Was there ever a Michele Lee Gypsy or a Michele Lee Mame that we don't know about?

ML: I did Mame at the Hollywood Bowl... Christine Ebersole played Vera to my Mame. We had an incredible cast. I did the things that you would expect me to do. I did Hello, Dolly! Actually, I have not done Gypsy, which I did want to do, so don't let me forget it! Gypsy is mine!

Any songs in the 54 Below show that come from those roles? Do you sing from Gypsy at all?

ML: No, but the closest thing I sing in the show to Gypsy is the Seesaw Finale!

That's Gittel's turn!

ML: It is. It's a three-act play, like "Rose's Turn." It was the 11 o'clock number and it was originally called "I'm Way Ahead," which is the body of the song. Michael Bennett and Cy Coleman, and Neil Simon, who was helping re-write everything, thought the song could be embellished [with additional dramatic material] because it was the closer and it could be more of a tour de force. They put it in the show the day we opened.

Broadway history!

ML: I have been fortunate, working with the greatest entertainers in the world, like Fred Astaire or Bob Hope. Lucy [Lucille Ball], Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye, you know, great composers — Cy Coleman and Frank Loesser — and Marvin Hamlisch was a friend forever and ever and ever. And Sandra Bernhard is one of my best friends. Because of Sandra, I'm now on Twitter. She said, "Michele... how could you not be? You're an insane person! You have to do this, and you gotta to do that, and you know, I'm gonna tweet and I'm gonna tell my followers and I'm gonna whatever." So I don't even know what I'm talking about right now because I'm just learning it... Sandra is coming to the show. And I hope all my friends and cast mates and everybody will come and enjoy the time in my living room.