Big or small, whatever show she’s in, M. Denise Lee manages to make it feel like an event. The Dallas theater and cabaret star is known as one of the area’s top “divas,” but only because she can belt a song like nobody’s business. There’s nothing diva-esque about Lee’s personality (humble) or her work ethic (tireless). Theater professionals love sharing a stage with her. Theatergoers love watching her.
You may have seen her onstage last month as Mrs. Fezziwig in Dallas Theater Center’s sold-out run of A Christmas Carol. She was featured last year in a series of funny Texas Lottery commercials. And if you’ve sat through Mad Money, she’s one of the brighter spots in it, playing the cynical interviewer telling Diane Keaton that her job qualifications are lousy. (Actually, even Lee’s sharp performance isn’t enough to justify going to that tepid caper-comedy co-starring Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes. So here’s a shortcut to Lee’s scene with Keaton: Go to the movie’s Web site, click on “Character profiles,” click on Keaton’s face, then click on “clip.” That’s Lee scowling across the desk at the Oscar-winner.)
Next up for Denise Lee is the one-woman bio-musical Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas; of course, it's about legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday, and it opens tonight. After the jump, exclusive video from dress rehearsals.
Her director for the show is an old friend, Phyllis Cicero. Twelve years ago Lee served as Cicero’s Lamaze coach for the birth of Cicero’s son, Dorian Levi. Now together Lee and Cicero are pushing toward tonight’s opening performance of the show about one night in the last sad year in the life of Billie Holiday. We dropped in to Contemporary Theatre of Dallas for the final dress rehearsal of Lady Day. And we took along our camera. --Elaine Liner