American Idol runner up, Diana DeGarmo has been charming audiences with her take on Parton’s Doralee Rhodes and recently chatted with Vital VOICE about the tour, her gay fans and working “9 to 5”.
Colin Murphy: So how has the touring experience been for you?
Diana DeGarmo: It’s fun! The good thing about this is we’re in a different city every week—some cities we play for two weeks, like St. Louis—and we just played two weeks in Chicago. It’s fun to go to new places and explore and to meet new people. We have a great show and we’re proud of it. We’re really happy to show it off.
CM: I read that you were the first American Idol Alumni to do Broadway—you really paved the way for making that a viable career choice?
DD: I guess so [laughs.] I didn’t realize I was the first one when I first did it, but it’s nice to see how many Idol alumni have made their way into theater. I think there are so many people who come from the show who are so incredibly talented—it’s just that you have to find the right niche for you, and theater has worked out quite well for me.
CM: And of course the question you get from everybody: Have you had a chance to see any of the new season yet and what do you think of the new judging panel?
DD: Not an entire episode just yet because I’m very fortunate to have a job when it’s on [laughs]. But [I’ve been] paying attention online and reading a few things—thank goodness for the Internet—because, as you said, people always want to know. But I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the new judges and I think they’re a great breath of fresh air for the show and for the season—since it is their tenth season.
CM: 9 to 5 The Musical is getting great reviews. Why do you think it’s been received so well across the country?
DD: I think, particularly in the time we’re in, people are looking to go and just have a good time at a show and that’s exactly what we are. We are a great trip down memory lane for the people who lived through 1979. You can hear the funny jokes about how women are treated in the workplace—which we can laugh at it now because of how far we’ve come. But we can also laugh at things like answering machines and [at facts like] the thought of people working after 5p.m. was never heard of in 1979. So it’s a good-fun-show and you can’t help but smile when you see Dolly and that instantaneously puts you in a good mood. And people want to be entertained and that’s exactly what we do. We entertain you for 2-1/2 hours.
CM: Were you intimidated at all about taking the iconic Dolly Parton role?
DD: Oh definitely. I for sure had the moment of, Oh my God, what did I get myself into a few weeks into rehearsal. But after I got comfortable with the material and figured out who my version of Doralee was and then got Dolly’s seal of approval, I was ready to Rock n’ Roll. I’ve been very secure in my choices and so far so good—they’ve worked out well.
CM: I’ve read Dolly has had some very nice things to say about your performance—did she give you any advice?
DD: The best part was that she texted me and said, “Honey—you’re thinking of things I never would have thought of and you sound more like me than I do.” Which I took as a big complement and she’s very, very supportive of myself and the entire cast from day one. She’s been so hands on and so sweet and knows all of us by name and brings the cast and crew fudge when she comes to visit. She’s just like ourFairy God Mother in the show. It’s wonderful.
CM: And like Dolly—you have a large gay following. It seems like you’ve really developed a kinship with the gay community, why do you think that is?
DD: I do like to joke that I’m gay fly-paper. If you put me in a room and there’s one gay man, he’ll find me. I think the gay community does appreciate a good female singer and I think I fall under those lines. I’m one of those people with no judgments. I get judged all the time and I always have an open heart no matter who you are and I think that reflects in myself and in my music. I think that’s why all groups of different people like me.
CM: What other projects do you have coming up—you’re recording a new CD?
DD: I am—currently in-between all of the fun cities we get to go to—I’m rushing between Nashville and LA and recording and working on new stuff. I released an acoustic EP two years ago just trying to see what people thought of me going back to my musical roots and I got a great response from it. I sell it at the shows in case anyone wants a hard copy [laughs.] I got called away for a little bit but I’m looking forward to hunkering down and getting it finished soon.
9 to 5: The Musical takes the stage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre February 8-20, 2011. Performance times are Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2p.m. and Sunday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m. There is also a weekday matinee on Thursday, February 17 at 1p.m. Tickets are available at the Fox Theatre box office, online at metrotix.com, by phone at 314-534-1111 and MetroTix outlets.
BY: COLIN MURPHY – SENIOR WRITER