Make way for Mrs. Brice...Louisa lets loose!

Posted by: wbtpress on Friday, May 1, 2009 at 12:12:00 pm


Louisa Flaningam is brilliant on the WBT stage! She is a delight off stage too!  Read on!

I was born in a small town in South Carolina.  I’m actually a pre-baby boomer as I was born a few days before VE Day!  I lived the first few years of my life in that town in S.C where my grandmother was the county auditor.  My parents were trying to get set up in Washington, D.C. but it was hard after the war.  We didn’t really settle down as a family ‘til I was 6 in our new house in the suburb of Bethesda, Maryland.  I started dancing as a child and loved it.  However, when I started college at the University of Maryland I thought I had to study for a more “normal’ career.  Maryland had a modern dance department and it didn’t take long for my passion for dance to have me leaping about the stage and dream of New York!

 

I remember one day I was working on costumes for the dance company at university and the head of the department, Dorothy Madden, looked and me and said “you’re happy here, aren’t you?”  She had been a part of the early modern dance world of Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham and I thought she was a very wise woman.  I realized she was right…so as soon as I graduated I packed the U-Haul truck and headed to NYC.

I have been so fortunate to have worked with so many great people who were always willing to answer questions and give advice or just teach by example.  I got my first job and my union card by sneaking into an equity audition a couple months after I got to NY.  The next thing I knew I was at the Goodspeed Opera House in a revival of ALLEGRO.  The cast found out it was my first job and just took me under their collective wings.  They taught me how to sing harmony lines and not be afraid to ‘act’ even when I wasn’t dancing!  Years later Grover Dale who was the choreographer gave me my first Broadway job playing Charmin in the MAGIC SHOW with Doug Henning.  I learned there is the magic of the theatre but real magic can be very tricky, dangerous and make for a lot of bruises as you get sawed in half and transformed into a cougar!

 

I think I have been so blessed to have done such wonderful shows as COMPANY and have Elaine Stritch coach me on how to get a laugh….PIPPIN and knowing Bob Fosse

singing along side Georgio Tossi in the 1979 Broadway revival of THE MOST HAPPY FELLA and walking into Sardi’s opening night with my mother and father and having the whole place stand up and applaud.  To have Tony Randall tell you the most important thing an actor can do is….listen! Wow!  Traveling across this great country and playing all kind of theatres.   I particularly love the old theatres.  I remember that Penny Singleton once told me that in the vaudeville days they called each other “artists”.  How lucky to have spent the last 41 following in the footsteps of so many “artists and carrying on such a grand tradition!  So, I’ve done so many dream roles from Ma Joad in GRAPES OF WRATH to Daisy in DRIVING MISS DAISY to Bea in QUEEN OF THE STARDUST BALLROOM.  I just want to keep trying to do good work and who knows what the future holds!

 

FUNNY GIRL became a favorite show of mine ever since I worked as a dresser in a summer stock production on the Guber, Ford and Gross circuit in 1967 when I was still in college.  George Hamilton played Nick Arnstein and I actually did a play with him years later.  I wore the album out and Cornet Man was my up tempo audition song for probably 30 years!!!  So it is a real treat for me to play Mrs. Brice….particularly with such a glorious Fanny as portrayed by Jill!!!  And…sharing a dressing room with Karen McDonald and having her play my dear friend Mrs. Strakosh is just icing on the cake!!

My dear parents have passed on but were the best “stage” mom and dad.  They worried at first as all parents do when they think you’re crazy to try show biz but then relaxed and were great fans!! 

 

My husband, P.J. Benjamin, is not only a fabulous actor…he’s currently the Wizard in the Broadway show WICKED but he’s also a great guy.  It means so much to have such great understanding and support at home.   We first met on the National Tour of PIPPIN in 1975 and re –met on the national tour of TORCH SONG TRILOGY.  He was playing Arnold and I was playing Laurel.  It was September 5th, 1984 and the ‘first sneaked kiss in the elevator’ and we have been inseparable ever since.   And….that’s really the most important part of my life…home.  I love the theatre but as Fanny says…”you can’t take an audience home with you”.  I do work I love in order to enjoy my house and garden and trips and exploring and nights with candle light and a big white cat with a very loud meow and dreams of seeing Italy again and someday owning a boat and going out on the Chincoteague Bay on my beloved eastern shore of Virginia and watch the sun set with the man I love and enjoy all the beauty of this world for as long as I can.

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