FELICIA FINLEY: Growing up in New Orleans really opened my eyes to the arts. Ellis Marsalis had seven boys (including Branford and Wynton), and I went to high school with them and Harry Connick, Jr. Ellis taught at the school, which was the kind of atmosphere where they begged you not to go to college because it would ruin you. It was more like a basic training for the arts. Anyway, I was a dancer with the New Orleans City Ballet, but I only sang in church and in the shower. So I went to L.A. to be a dancer. But one day, my friend Simone Kelly encouraged me to go with her to the audition for the 25th anniversary of Jesus Christ Superstar and I booked it. I had never done a musical in my life, but I was ready to leave L.A. I didn't plan on doing Broadway in a million years. I actually wanted to eventually become a judge or a lawyer, and I got accepted to law school. And then I ended up getting the Broadway show Smokey Joe's Café.
TM: What do you enjoy most about working in regional theater?
FF: You have more of an opportunity to meet the people in the town. I love how in Northport, they've made this beautiful theater such a focal point of their lives. It's comparable to the Broadway experience, but you're getting the backdrop of water, and you don't have taxis running you over and you don't have tourists knocking you down.
TM: How do you overcome the challenge of making your Lola different from all other Lolas, especially its originator, Gwen Verdon?
FF: Bob Fosse [the show's original choreographer] brought this sexual aspect to the stage that was forbidden back then. So I just go from the text, but I also have a little bit more freedom than other people did years ago. It's almost voyeuristic -- the audience can see a little bit more sex now -- but not too much. You want to feel a little uncomfortable with Lola. Also, there's so much comedy with Lola, and I don't think it has been excavated as much in other productions. She's goofy sexy.
TM: If the song "Whatever Lola Wants" was actually called "Whatever Felicia Wants," what would the song be about?
FF: My husband. I also love rescuing animals. I want to adopt pit bulls. My husband is always like "No, no more animals." It's like a farm in the house.
TM: What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
FF: I'm a science buff, specifically quantum physics. My favorite people in history are Frederick Douglass and Neil Armstrong. And I can cook like nobody's business.