Never mind that she’s best known as a dramatic TV actress — dubbed “the First Lady of Knots Landing” for her portrayal as Karen on that long-running prime-time CBS soap from the ’80s — Michele Lee styles herself as a funny lady.
“I wish I could be half-comedian, but I’m probably 10-percent comedian,” Lee cracks during a phone interview from New York, one she wishes could have been face-to-face, over lunch — or better yet, cocktails. “Oh yeah, let’s go to cocktails,” she says. “Forget that lunch thing.”
Lee is a hoot, an all-around, honest-to-goodness entertainer, the likes of which you don’t often see these days. Born Michele Lee Dusick, Lee got her start on Broadway at the age of 19 with small roles in plays and musicals, including How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. She recently returned to Broadway, as Madame Morrible in the long-running Wicked.
This Friday, Nov. 6, Lee performs a one-woman show as part of Barbara Cook’s Spotlight cabaret series at the Kennedy Center. The focus is on the music of Broadway composer Cy Coleman, whose 1973 musical See Saw earned Lee her first Tony nod. “Cy Coleman was an incredible artist,” she says. “The songs that I’ve chosen tell just a wonderful story about all his music…and my personal stories with him.”
Lee was going to perform a cabaret focused more on her varied career, but the brand-new Coleman show got such “fabulous reviews in New York,” she opted to go with it instead. Lee says she’d be delighted to come back to the Kennedy Center to perform her more personal cabaret, which includes a salute to Knots Landing. Asked if that cabaret also includes reference to another role in particular, from the hit 1968 Disney movie featuring a cognizant car, Lee just laughs. “There’s no song in The Love Bug that I would sing. But I do tell some funny stories about it.”
Michele Lee performs Friday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Tickets are $50. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
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