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by Michael Portantiere

Rachel York: Busting Out All Over in Little Me

  • Rachel-York-edit.jpgIt's not always easy to be funny and sexy on stage (or off) at the same time, but Rachel York has managed that feat very well in several roles, perhaps most famously as Norma "Paris Makes Me Horny" Cassidy in Victor/Victoria. And now she's preparing to do so again, as the younger incarnation of the indomitable, seriously stacked Belle Poitrine in the New York City Center Encores! presentation of the hilarious Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh/Neil Simon musical Little Me (February 5-9).

    I last spoke with Rachel a few months ago in D.C., following a performance of the hit tour of Anything Goes in which she starred as Reno Sweeney. It was fun to catch up with her at City Center during her lunch break on the second day of Little Me rehearsals.


    BROADWAYSTARS: Welcome back to New York. Your Anything Goes tour was quite a long one, wasn't it?

    RACHEL YORK: Fourteen months. It was wonderful, and the company was amazing. If I had to pick a tour of a show to go out on with a two-year-old, that was the one. I really had to think about whether I wanted to do a tour, but then I realized that would be the last one I could do, because soon my daughter is going to be in school and it's not going to be possible to take her along. She loved the experience, but it was hard to be away from daddy, even though he came to visit quite often.

    STARS: Based on the shows I've seen you in, I didn't know you were a dancer.

    RACHEL: I didn't, either!

    STARS: But there you were, doing Anything Goes around the country in a version of the show that has Reno doing a whole lot of tap and jazz. And, very recently, you played Mona Kent in a workshop presentation of Dames At Sea which, I'm told, involved some heavy dancing -- specifically tap. I guess you must have had training at some point.

    RACHEL: Okay, so I started dancing when I was eight. Jazz, tap, and ballet. Tap was actually my forte. But I didn't have a dancing mentor when I was growing up -- we moved around a lot -- so I sabotaged myself as a dancer. In middle school, I discovered that I had a voice, and I started to focus more on singing and acting.

    STARS: Still, when you needed to draw on the dance training, it came back to you?

    RACHEL: Yeah, it's always been there. But I hadn't tapped in years, so I really did have to dust off my tap shoes. When I first went back to it, I was a little bit rusty on the pickup. But I've got the technique, and the sounds are there.

    STARS: At any rate, as far as I know, there's little or no dancing for your character in Little Me.

    RACHEL: No, it's all about the "T and A." Just kidding!

    STARS: Well, Belle Poitrine is French for "beautiful chest." If this isn't too personal a question, are you going to, um....

    RACHEL: Enhance? I think so, a little bit. It's that kind of a show: Over the top. And I think it's going to be great. Christian Borle is such a pro. The wonderful thing about him is that he's not just a comedian; he's an actor who's great at comedy.

    STARS: I know you've just started rehearsals, but so far, which of the many characters he's playing would you say is your favorite?

    RACHEL: Hmmm, I don't know. They're all pretty funny! I can't pick one.

    STARS: What did you know of Little Me before you were cast in this production? Did you see the 1998 Broadway revisal with Faith Prince and Martin Short?

    RACHEL: No, but I did a table read of the show with Martin Short before that production happened. Oddly enough, I have very little memory of it.

    STARS: That must have been several years after you did City of Angels, so I guess it was something of a reunion for you and Cy Coleman.

    RACHEL: He was such a sweetheart. I always felt welcomed by him. I remember the first rehearsal for City of Angels, when he and David Zippel performed "Lost and Found." It was one of the most exciting moments in my life, to think that I was going to be the first person to sing that song in front of an audience. Cy was just fabulous. Sometimes I wonder if he's up there looking down on me, because I always end up singing his songs; I did The Best Is Yet To Come [a Coleman revue] a couple of years ago, and I've done a lot of his songs in concerts and other shows.

    STARS: You've had the Encores! experience before, as Dorothy Shaw in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, so you know there's only one run-through with any kind of an audience before the first performance. Little Me is such an hysterically funny show, I hope you're all set to wait for the laughs to die down so you can go on to the next line.

    RACHEL: I'm going to have to keep myself from laughing at Christian. I've heard that he likes to make people laugh onstage, so I've got to be prepared. I'm also such a huge fan of [director] John Rando and [musical director] Rob Berman; I've had the pleasure of working with both of them a few times.

    STARS: The show owes a lot to old-time Broadway revues and to early TV comedy and variety shows. And yet, in a way, it has a very modern comic sensibility. Or maybe it's better to say a timeless comic sensibility.

    RACHEL: Yes, there's really nothing else quite like it out there. It's pure fun for the audience and the actors. And, boy, they've lined up some really great people: Christian, Judy Kaye....and Harriet Harris. I have to say, Harriet has a small part in this, but you will remember her.


    (For more information on Little Me, and to purchase tickets, visit click here)

    Published on Friday, January 31, 2014

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

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