The Guillotine

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Interview with Carolee Carmello

This was the first time I had a chance to really talk with Carolee and it was such a thrill for me. She's an amazingly talented actress and I had heard so many wonderful things about her. We spoke late one night after a performance while she was waiting for her husband, Gregg Edelman, to finish up for the night as Javert in Les Miz. We were both tired so we ended up sitting on the floor while she signed posters for Broadway Cares.

NR: Can you tell me a little bit about where you grew up?

CC: I grew up in Albany, New York, not too far from you guys. I even stayed there for college. I went to State University of New York in Albany and got my degree in Business Administration.

NR: Really? What were you planning to do with your life?

CC: I think I was planning to be some sort of corporate personnel manager. I always thought I'd work for some large corporation and do some sort of "people-related" thing. I never wanted to be a computer engineer, although I had to take stuff like that in school. I thought I'd be in the corporate world somewhere or go to law school.

NR: So what happened?

CC: I was a senior in college and someone offered me a job in a local dinner theater. Do you know where Lake George is?

NR: Sure. (Lake George is a resort community outside of Albany.)

CC: There was a dinner theater and a guy offered me a job, having seen me do a community theater thing in Albany. It was an Equity theater and I said, "What's Equity?" I didn't even know what it was and he explained it to me. I had been doing community theater while I was in college, and he said, "If you want to ever do this professionally, then you need to join this union. If you don't want to be a professional actor, then you shouldn't, because it will prevent you from doing other things." So, I kind of stood there and said, "Oh. Let me think about this." I thought I would try it for the summer and see how I felt. I decided that it would be the kind of thing that I would always regret if I didn't try it and get it out of my system for a year. I really never thought I'd be doing it this long. I just thought I'd move to New York, find out it was too hard, and then go home and go to law school.

NR: (laughing) And you didn't.

CC: No, I didn't. I just kept being fortunate enough to get jobs, and work with really good people. One thing would lead to another. I was just sort of waiting for that time when I would say, "This isn't working out." I always told myself that if I made a living I would keep doing it and so I kept making a living.

NR: Do you know Bob Cuccioli?

CC: Just socially.

NR: I went to college with him and he was a business major also.

CC: Was he? I didn't know that.

NR: He was a finance major who worked on Wall Street for three years.

CC: Really? I didn't know that about him.

NR: He did community theater and the same thing happened to him. It's a very similar story to yours. Someone kind of talked him into it and he said the same thing, that he would regret it if he didn't try.

CC: I always envisioned myself at 55 thinking, "If I had moved to New York that summer, I would have been a big star!"

NR: You did Marguerite in the early readings.

CC: I did, yes. I did all of the pre-Broadway presentations.

NR: How has Marguerite changed since then?

CC: Not a whole lot actually. Not too much. The character itself has remained pretty much the same. It's just the arrangement of material that has been different - what's sung where. When I did it, it was the older version - the first version with "Guillotine" and "Vivez" and all the material that was in there before. I never sang "I'll Forget You." There were things that were different about the show but the character was pretty much the same.

NR: What attracted you to come back to it?

CC: I think some sense of completion. I was just coming off of Parade and I was offered this job. It was really good timing and I thought, "This would be a nice way to complete my experience with the show" because I had always felt that I had been a part of the early stages and the creation of it, and yet had never been able to do it in production. I thought it would be fun. I always loved the music. I loved singing those songs. I'm glad I did it. It's really been a fun experience.

NR: You're actually the third Marguerite I've interviewed, after Jessica (Phillips) and Rachel (York.) How do you describe your Marguerite?

CC: Oh....old.

NR: (laughing) Nobody ever said that before!

CC: (laughing) I'm feeling very old tonight. I have a four year old daughter and she wore me out today and I'm trying to be glamourous and a "French actress/star" and I'm thinking, "I'm too old for this." (seriously) Let's see - how would I describe her? I guess I would hope she's smart and feisty and gritty. That's the only thing that I really feel like...if it's at all different from the other two women who I thought were wonderful. (I never saw Jessica do it but I bet she was great too). I did see Christine (Andreas) and Rachel do it and they were both wonderful. People have their own attacks on things. I've always felt like Marguerite's a little more from the gutter. She clawed her way up and then she was this big star. She married this aristocrat, but really underneath she was this middle to lower class girl who's got a lot of grit.

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Interview conducted and photographs by Nancy Rosati.

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