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UPDATE: Kay Cole Helms “Rose Queen” at The Lounge

February 26, 2010

Director and choreographer Kay Cole steps away from BROADS! The Musical at The El Portal to helm a “cuddly Valentine to country music and Small Town, USA.”

Rose Queen is a bowling alley musical, the product of two old friends, Barbara Hart (Grammy nomination for Little Sleepy Eyes) and Cheryl Gimbel. While both are now Angelenos, Hart has lived off and on in Nashville where country music and song writing seeped into her blood, Cole says. The musical, with about twenty original songs, highlights Rose (Asunta Fleming) of the Rose Queen Bowlers and J.D. (Jon Powell) of the, er, Tidy Bowlers.

The Lounge stage isn’t deep enough for a bowling lane. “But,” Cole says, “We can simulate it. That’s enough. Plus, the ladies needed a producer and I thought Racquel Lehrman would be the right person.”

The four women met over dinner in North Hollywood, Cole says, and felt like they’d known each other for years. Cole was able to cast and secure a few actors from some of her previous shows, including Judy Nesmith, Terry Olsen, and Meyer De Leeuw.

Directing and choreographing musicals is nothing new for Kay Cole, who started at age six as an actress. “I originated Lucy on Broadway in Snoopy, and the choreographer couldn’t go to London with the show. The director said I was a natural choreographer, so why don’t I go and do it in London?” Naturally, Cole agreed.

BROADS! is a musical about four retirement home ladies in Florida whose annual variety show is interrupted by a shocking announcement. I asked Cole about her first reading of Jennie Fahn’s book and what went through her mind: Substance? Character? Movement? “I always think from a visual point of view, like a painter, so I see colors and textures and story telling. When I hear something read it allows me a certain freedom to have a complete open mind to the creative aspect of what I’m doing, whether directing or choreographing.”

Cole’s resume is rich with directing jobs, including No Strings, BARK!, A Chorus Line, I’m Getting My Act Together, Robber Bridegroom, and many others. She’s also choreographed shows at the Geffen, Pasadena Playhouse, Antaeus Theatre, and others. Yet, to hear her talk, you sense she would rather direct than choreograph. “Frankly, I think I direct when I choreograph. I have that kind of mind. It’s a combination, a good marriage for me, and I’m lucky to work with many of the same directors because we have a meeting of the minds, so it’s quite exciting in that way.”

That sounds like a recipe for stepping on toes. I asked whether Cole can direct without choreographing, just completely give up control of all movement? “Yes!  I have done that. I did that in No Strings with Scott Bakula at Reprise, and my friend, Christine Kellogg choreographed.” Cole adds, with a hint of melancholy, “And when I direct a play, I am my own lonesome little person back there.”

Cole would like to return to New York or, at least, split her time between there and her home in Los Angeles. “I’d love to go back home to Broadway and direct more plays there. My heart is always in both places because my strongest memories growing up were in Hell’s Kitchen. I’d pass Tiffany’s every morning – I really was Holly Golightly! I’ve yet to buy anything there, but if I go back—.” I interrupted. “Look, if you can work in theatre and afford to buy what you want at Tiffany’s, you’re doing something right.”

“Yes!” she says, laughing. “I think LA is wonderful because it has so much theatre and I’m knocking on wood because I feel so sad about the Pasadena Playhouse; I hope no other theatres are ‘sleeping’ in the future.” Cole adds, “But I have my own personal challenges, and LA offers many opportunities. I haven’t done much film, so I’d like to direct more film or television. I’ve directed small independent films, so it would be great to direct a great big fabulous movie!”

And then have a leisurely breakfast before a stroll, then get a ring – not one from a Crackerjack box – engraved at Tiffany’s.

Kay Cole takes Rose Queen to The Lounge Theatre in Hollywood for a six-week run starting March 6.

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