Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tv, Broadway Vet Michele Lee Back Onstage for a 'Wicked' Time

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tv, Broadway Vet Michele Lee Back Onstage for a 'Wicked' Time

Article excerpt

Michele Lee is probably best-known for starring in "Knots Landing," the domestic-drama series that, remarkably, ran for 14 seasons on CBS, from 1979 to 1993. But she says the place she feels most at home is the theater.

"Being a stage performer is really who I am," said the 73-year- old actress, who joined the cast of the long-running Broadway musical "Wicked" last month, playing the headmistress, Madame Morrible.

"They'd asked me a few times, and I said no," she said in a phone interview. "But I finally thought, 'Oh, I'm just going to jump in and do it,' take a little excursion into the unknown."

Born and raised in Los Angeles (although, she noted, she was conceived in New York), Lee started singing with a band while still in high school. From that, she moved on to theater work.

"I didn't know what the hell I was doing, but I was good at auditioning," said Lee, known for her exuberant personality as well as girl-next-door good looks. "I had nerves of steel, no fear."

Along the way, she dropped her family name of Dusick.

"In those days, no one had an ethnic last name. I talked it over with my mother, and we decided to use Lee, which was my middle name. We 86'd Dusick."

Her early career was a roller-coaster ride of good and bad fortune.

At 18, she was appearing in a Los Angeles musical revue, "Vintage '60," when legendary producer David Merrick plucked it for Broadway, bringing the show's cast along. But ... the production closed after just eight performances.

A couple of years later, Lee was back on Broadway, co-starring in the musical "Bravo Giovanni." But ... that show lasted for only 76 performances.

Meanwhile, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" had begun what was to be a 3 1/2-year run when Bonnie Scott, who had the ingenue role of Rosemary Pilkington, became pregnant and had to leave the show. It happened that, with "Bravo Giovanni" closing, Lee was available, and she stepped into the part. That led to her biggest early break, playing Rosemary in the 1967 "How to Succeed" film. …

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