- CHARITY BENEFIT
by Sandi Durell
Melanie Stace hails from England, is a singer/actress introduced to television audiences on the BBC’s “The Generation Game.” She’s played leading roles in musical theatre: Louise in Gypsy; was seen in Follies; played Lola in Copacabana and Polly Baker in Gerswhin’s Crazy For You. She’s worked at The Plush Room, The RRazz Room and starred regularly at Teatro Zinzanni and is about to make her debut at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency.
SD – You’ve had quite a career – TV, musical theatre, cabaret, Teatro Zinzanni – the many incarnations of Melanie!
MS – Incarnations of Melanie – a name for my next show!
SD – What are you looking for at this stage of your career?
MS – I’m looking to be exactly where I am. I started out as a dancer, my Mom’s an opera singer and I just wanted to be in the back row of a chorus of a musical. Watch out what you wish for because I was in the back row and worked my way to the front row and became the leading lady in many musicals. Then I got a job on television and became a lady on television and then made a couple of movies, and a CD. You see you’ve got to be careful of what you wish for. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. Then when I did all of that I thought, well, I’d really like to try and work in America and everyone was saying “you can’t just go, you have to get a Green Card; so I did and was working with Teatro Zinzanni in San Francisco. But what I really wanted to do was go to New York; so I made my debut last year at the Metropolitan Room, then had lots of good words put in for me and . . . I’m here. (at Feinstein’s)
SD – Quite a journey and you don’t look old enough.
MS – I celebrate 25 years actually next year in our wonderful business.
SD – Do you think of yourself as an actress or a singer?
MS – A singing actress but I am a triple threat because I still dance.
SD – What’s your view of the cabaret genre?
MS – When I’m Melanie in musical theatre, I’m assuming a role. Melanie in cabaret is with a 100 people or less; it’s me being able to choose the songs I want to sing, it’s a joy and also to speak about anything you really want to speak about. It’s me letting my hair down and I love it. I know it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do and in your City, in New York, you have so many really, really good people doing it, and I have been to their shows. It’s just a pleasure to see Marilyn Maye and Barbara Cook. I just bow at their feet and think “that’s how you do it; that’s what it’s supposed to be about.” I’ve learned, I’ve studied and try to find my way ‘round it. The way that Melanie would do it.
SD – Anything you would want to incorporate?
MS – I would never want to copy. But Marilyn Maye said “Dear, do you use a bar stool in your act?” Actually, I do. She said “the only place for bar stools, is in bars. When you sit on a bar stool the energy goes down, everything goes down, all down.”
SD – Who’s been your greatest influence?
MS – My Mom; she’s a wonderful singer and now a coach. I sat under her piano when I was 2 listening to her singing. She’s so beautiful and a lovely person.
SD- When was your first public performance; how old were you?
MS – I was about 5 and it was a festival in Sussex, where I was born, and then went on to theatre to play a role in “Sound of Music,” “The King and I,” in Hastings where I was brought up. Worked really hard at dancing but was told I’d be too tall to ever do anything because there would be no one tall enough to partner with me, and decided I’d go to professional college to become a dancer and actor. Told my Mom I’d do 100 auditions and if I don’t get any of them, I’ll give up.
SD – And . . .
MS – Went to the first audition, got the job and went off to Italy.
SD – What have you found to be the most rewarding for you?
MS – Most rewarding is always my live work. I had a wonderful time on television, and did some amazing shows but looking down a camera just doesn’t do it for me. It’s not 2-way and you can’t do what we’re doing now. For me it’s theatre, the live thing. Working in a beautiful room like Feinstein’s where you can see how you’re affecting people.
SD – You’ll be doing a show called “Sirens of the Silver Screen” – tell us about that.
MS – I just thought it would be great to do a show of songs sung by those amazing women who were not only movie stars, but wonderful singers as well – the singer/actresses. They were the beautiful ones, of course. It was difficult to pick, it’s songs I just love; it’s not impersonations of them but a celebration of them. In some ways it’s a love letter from me to them.
SD – Talk a little about your personal life – are you married, children, do you have a dog?
MS – I’m married for 18 years, I don’t have children, he does. I inherited them when they were quite little and I now have stepchildren who are in their 20s which is glorious. One is running a theatre in England and one is a struggling actor in what we call profit-share. It’s a great joy. No, I don’t have a dog because I’m never home, I travel so much.
SD – You’re also a songwriter. Your new CD “The Key to Me” features your own songs. What kind of music do you write?
MS – Well, that’s another version of me, it’s very strange. Somebody said to me “you should really write;” my brother writes, he’s John Wesley Harding, and so does my sister. And they said “I’m going to put you together with this great guy, Wayne Brown, just go to his studio.” So I did but I didn’t have an idea and he said “we’ll just put some chords together and think of a theme.” And we did and by the end of the day I’d written my first song. It came out because of his influence; he’s very Stevie Wonder-ish and West Coast.
I write music and lyrics and wrote one for the Sirens show because I thought I must do an original. The one I’ve written for the Feinstein’s show is called “Here’s to the Ladies.”
SD – If you had one thing you’d want to let people know about you, that’s really important to you, what would it be?
MS – That’s a good one! The one thing is . . . hmmm . . . I don’t take myself too seriously! Just trying to be here in this amazing City, where I’ve wanted to be all my life, and do good work; to be nice and be around nice people.
SD – We look forward to seeing you at Feinstein’s June 3 and 4 and then back September 16 & 17!
* Video – Magda Katz