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Monday, November 22, 2010

Deeper Dish with Sally Mayes

I first became a fan of actress Sally Mayes back in May of 1993 during a trip to New York.  My partner and I went our separate ways on a Sunday afternoon - he to a matinee of Forbidden Broadway, while I decided to see the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of the 1963 musical, She Loves Me. It was choreographed by Rob Marshall and starred Boyd Gaines, Judy Kuhn, Howard McGillin and Ms. Mayes, whom I wasn't familiar with. I quickly realized I'd made the right choice as I fell in love with the delightful production and the terrific score. And Sally stole the show as the amusing Ilona, whose second act number, "A Trip to the Library", I will fondly remember forever. Later when I delivered my glowing review, my partner was extremely jealous. However, the following November, he finally got to see the show himself as it transferred to Broadway - and I enjoyed it and Sally just as much the second time around.

Born and raised in Texas, Sally made her Broadway debut as Winona Shook in Cy Coleman's 1989 musical, Welcome to the Club. Frank Rich of The New York Times described her as "the most charming surprise" in the show, and she won a Theatre World Award for her performance. She then appeared in the hit 1989 Off-Broadway production of Maltby and Shire's Closer Than Ever, in which she got to croon the fabulous tune, "Miss Byrd". After being nominated for a Tony Award for She Loves Me, the actress went on to star in other musicals, including Das Barbecü (1994), Pete 'n' Keely (2000) and Urban Cowboy (2003). She also played Mrs. MacAfee opposite George Wendt in the 1995 TV adaptation of the musical, Bye Bye Birdie, and a nurse in a 2001 episode of Sex and the City.

I've also been lucky enough to see Sally perform in an intimate cabaret setting twice.  She's been nominated for 12 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs) awards, won two Back Stage Bistros for excellence in cabaret and recording, and released six solo albums (my personal favorite is Our Private World, on which she sings the songs of Comden & Green). Sally's latest theatrical project is the musical, Woody Guthrie's American Song, which she'll be performing in Tucson (Nov. 27-Dec. 18) and Phoenix (Dec. 30-Jan. 16). I am so thrilled to have the fabulous Ms. Mayes here on the Dish to discuss her career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let’s begin with Woody Guthrie. What are a few of your favorite songs of his?
I guess my favorite Woody songs are "Bound for Glory" and "900 Miles". They are all so poignant and really resound with what is going on in our country now.

Did you always want to be an actress/singer?
I was a child performer and my dad was a jazz guitarist, so it is what I have always known.

You began your career in Houston, Texas, where you were a rock and jazz singer.
I was. It's how I made money while I was in college studying theatre.

How did you go from there to making your Broadway debut in Welcome to the Club?
I moved to New York, went to an audition, and bam!

Welcome to the Club only ran for 12 performances. When did you realize that the show wasn’t going to be a hit?
Pretty much from the start - although I was totally thrilled and starstruck to have the job. Working for Cy Coleman was a dream come true!

What is your fondest memory of performing in She Loves Me?
Every day and every performance was a treat. It was the best ensemble on Broadway [click here to see Sally in the show].

Is there a role in any musical or play that you would love to do someday?
Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rose in Gypsy, Mame - you name it, I wanna try it!

How was your Sex and the City experience?
Brief - but those gals are so lovely. Sarah Jessica told me she and her husband, Matthew Broderick, saw She Loves Me twice as romantic dates.

If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't take it all so seriously - and move to New York sooner.

In high school I was:
Drill Team Captain.

My favorite comfort food is:
Black-eyed peas and cornbread.

The last good book I read was:
I am reading George Martin's A Game of Thrones. It's a fantasy - and I'm loving it!

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
M*A*S*H and The Carol Burnett Show.

Today I never miss a television episode of:
True Blood and Boardwalk Empire.

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Eva Cassidy, The Avett Brothers, Nanci Griffith, all Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Tormé and Vaughan recordings - and Eydie Gorme!

Three of my favorite movies are:
The Godfather, Singin' in the Rain and Die Hard.

If I was asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, it would be:
Michael McDonald (for his voice), Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy.

If I could have anyone in the world – living or dead – be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following people:
George Clooney, Johnny Carson, Katharine Hepburn and Johnny Mercer - oh, and Jim Caruso 'cause he is the perfect dinner companion.

[Below is an audio recording of Sally and Kaye Ballard singing "There's Always a Woman", which was cut from the 1964 Sondheim musical, Anyone Can Whistle.]

What's next for Sally Mayes?
Singing anywhere and everywhere I can - and playing every role that challenges me.

Thank you, Sally, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Ms. Mayes, check out her website at And to purchase tickets to Woody Guthrie's American Song in Tucson and Phoenix, click here.

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