Diva Friday: Carolee Carmello

Let’s turn our attention to the fabulous Carolee Carmello this Diva Friday.


Carolee, along with Rachel York and Marin Mazzie, is part of a trifecta of Brodway divas who can play any role and do anything. They are all stunning women with leading lady presence, strong dramatic and comedic chops, and power voices.

It’s no wonder their careers often cross paths, as was most evident in the 2001 revival of Kiss Me, Kate. All three ladies played Lilli Vanessi/Katharine at some point:

The Ladies of "Kiss Me, Kate": Upper Left: Marin Mazzie; Bottom Left: Carmello; Right: Rachel York

Marin Mazzie originated the role on Broadway and was Tony nommed; Carolee replaced Mazzie on Broadway; York toured in the role and later played it in London, replacing both Marin and Carolee who already played their stint in the West End production. For whatever reason, York’s wonderful performance in London was preserved on DVD in leu of the other ladies.

I wonder what Carolee and Marin think about that?

Carolee also got her start on Broadway in City of Angels in 1989 — just like Rachel York.

In addition, she and York both played Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernell on Broadway — a troubled show that would open and close every other week, it seemed, to revamp and reopen with a new set of stars.

Her breakout role, in my eyes, was as Lucille Frank in Parade, an ambitious musical directed by Harold Prince, with book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.

Parade concerns the true story of the 1913 trial of a Brooklyn-born Jewish factory manager Leo Frank who was accused of raping and murdering a 13 year old employee, Mary Phagan. The trial, sensationalized by the media, aroused anti-Semitic tensions in Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Helped by his loving wife (Carmello) and principled governor, Frank’s sentence was commuted due to possible problems with the trial and transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia. [source].

Theatre lovers still talk about that production. Carmello won a Drama Desk and was Tony nommed for her work. Here is a lovely duet between Leo and Lucille from Parade:

She’s certainly got a powerbelt. I love vibrato — she at times has a just bit too much for me, if there’s such a thing as too much vibrato:

That performance is from William Finn’s Elegies.

Carmello’s also done her time suffering through one of the various vampire musicals.

Musicals about vampires never work. Just like Dance of the Vampires, Lestat was a critical and financial failure.

I suspect Carolee knew this. After all, in a backstage video interview I saw when she was in Lestat, her dressing room was barren — ready to go at a moment’s notice.

She’s a smart woman.

From Lestat — Carolee’s segment starts about 1:20 in.

And, representing the quintessential Diva quality of turning shit into gold, Carolee was Tony nommed for her efforts in Lestat.

Sadly, there’s no cast recording of Lestat, or Dance of the Vampires for that matter. Why do all the vampire musicals get passed over for preservation on disc? As Jamie once noted, “Because they suck.” yukyukyuk.

Carolee’s done a ton of other stuff to, including a musical by Kathie Lee Gifford, who LOVES Carolee.

Not sure if that association is exactly a feather in Carolee’s cap. For the record, I like Kathie Lee — an unpopular opinion, I’m well aware.

Carolee’s currently playing Donna (the Streep role) in Mamma Mia! on Broadway for going on seven years now. Well, not really that long, but certainly seems like it. She actually was in MM! before heading into Lestat, and then they took her back after that show closed. I don’t judge her wanting a steady gig.

As for her personal life, she has two lovely children with Broadway actor Gregg Edelman.

Carmello and Gregg Edelman
Carmello and Gregg Edelman

Up next for this belty babe is The Addams Family musical, debuting in Chicago this fall. She’s playing the wife of a “normal couple” — the Beinekes — whose son begins dating Wednesday Addams. Can’t wait to see her in it, along with Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane.

Visit previous Diva Friday columns.

One thought on “Diva Friday: Carolee Carmello

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