Tony nominee Michele Lee made television history, playing a record-breaking 344 performances as Karen MacKenzie on "Knots Landing." Her Hollywood credits are numerous, but Broadway can also claim her thanks to her memorable starring roles in such shows as The Tale Of The Allergist's Wife, Seesaw and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Lee has also performed in nightclub and cabaret stages for decades.
What brings you to New York and 54 Below now?
Michele Lee: I love the theatre. I love to play in front of an audience. I just thought, I'm going to perform in New York City now. Super Bowl week. It's a big deal! Literally 500,000 to a million people are coming to New York City depending upon the team. It's part of New York's culture, and it's the first time that they're here, playing in New York, and so I thought, this is it. This is the time to go.
It's about having fun! I love singing to people. I love the intimacy of 54 Below. It's like you're sitting in your living room! It reminds me of old clubs like Mr. Kelly's in Chicago. I think I was like 20 when I played the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel, which is no longer. You get to really reach out, and what I like is being me.
When I see people on the street, or meet people, they just talk to me like I'm a girlfriend. I was Karen [on "Knots Landing"], their next-door neighbor. I was every woman. I have a sense of direction, a sense of self, I was educated and I cared about the community, and we lived it, and I was a girl next door.
That echoes what I've heard about you. So many people have told me Michele Lee stories. They were at a party and Michele Lee was there, and they all sang around the piano. Or they were rehearsing at Manhattan Theatre Club and Michele Lee did the finale from Seesaw for all the chorus boys.
ML: I love music! All kinds of music. I don't care if it's opera or hip-hop. I love it, I understand where it comes from, where its origin is, the beginnings of it, and so I really get involved with the story of the song that I'm singing. I love doing my own interpretation, and I mean it literally, of what the writer, what the composer was trying to say. And I do a lot of that in the show too — for instance, "A Case of You," which I do in the show...
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