DIVA TALK: Chatting With Mamma Mia! Star Felicia Finley

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14 Sep 2012

Finley in Evita.
Photo by Olgonquit Theatre

Question: You said earlier that you had done Forbidden Broadway?
Finley: Twice, yes. And, that's my family.

Question: What are some of your best impressions?
Finley: [Laughs.] Well, I recorded Spoof Odyssey, and we won all kind of awards that year. And, [Ben] Brantley went "goo-goo-gaga" over a few things I did. I originated a lot of impressions that year, but I think the one that changed my career was when I impersonated Heather Headley because I wasn't doing Aida yet, and the heads of state over at Disney, including Heather Headley, all saw me do her. And then I got Amneris because I was doing Heather…and she just won the Tony… I had done Bubbly Black Girl with LaChanze over at Playwrights, and they were looking for someone to impersonate Heather Headley, and I was the only white girl that auditioned. [Laughs.] They actually thought I was African-American because my resume reads like a black girl because I've done all these black shows, and I'm from New Orleans, and they didn't ask me for a picture. And, when I walked in they said, "Who are you?" [Laughs.] And, they said, "What are you doing?" And, I said, "I don't know! You called me here." Anyway, I ended up doing a bunch of impressions. I never tried to do impressions, and I just kept doing them, and they just kept laughing, and next thing you know, I got the job. And, I did [Forbidden BroadwaySVU a couple years later—right after Katrina, actually, and right before Wedding Singer—and I got to do Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and I came out as the car, and my boobs were the headlights. [Laughs.] So funny! I mean, I had a ball! Whenever I can do that show… I'm so glad they reopened. They make me crawl across the stage because I'm crawling up from Broadway back to Off-Broadway. [Laughs.] But they're my family. I did "Beauty's Been Decreased"—that was mine—I helped create that. I mean, I've done a bunch of them. When you originate a show in Forbidden Broadway, you're never the same. It's quite an experience. There's so many characters, it's hard to pick one. But I will say when I did Heather Headley, it's the reason I got Aida because they saw me doing their show. That was the liaison for me getting Amneris.

Finley in Damn Yankees.
photo by Paul DeGrocco

Question: Do you have any dream roles onstage that you'd like to do?
Finley: I've been very lucky—I have to tell you that first. I would love to play Evita. I mean, I've played her already… I don't know if that's on my trajectory anymore…She's my favorite role because I can sing that music. For me, it's a rock opera, and I love Heart—the group Heart—and I would warm up to Heart when I sang Evita. And, I could do her eight shows a week and not flinch. I would love to play Dolly down the road. I would love to play Roxie. I starred at Atlantic City at Caesar's Palace. It was 90 minutes of me doing everything you can imagine from Broadway! It was Felicia Finley in Nights on Broadway in Caesar's Palace. It was amazing. It was a great job, and I had billboards all over Atlantic City, and I loved it. But I got a taste of doing Roxie, and that was really fun. And, plus I knew Gwen [Verdon]. I worked with Gwen. And, I've gotten to play Lola. I would love to do her again on Broadway. I got to play her opposite Andre De Shields! Andre and I got to play opposite each other two summers ago… It was amazing, and if you saw that show, you saw a show! I'm going to tell you something—he was born to do that role! Born to do that role, and I was born to be his Lola. Not kidding. There was something so magical… And, we both talk about it. We fell in love on stage. I mean, we fell in love behind stage. We fell in love with each other, and I would love to play that at a bigger venue because of the story… And also because I knew Gwen, and because I had worked with her. I got to shadow her for two weeks; I really got in her brain.


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