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An Audience with a Pope

As she opens her new show at Arci's Place, Stephanie Pope takes a little time out for some quality Q&A.

By New York City
"Happy Days are Here Again" and "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries" are only two of the wonderful cuts on Stephanie Pope's breakout CD from Jerome Records, Now's the Time to Fall in Love, and the kind of optimism reflected in the titles of those songs seems to come naturally to this daughter of Harlem. Backed by some terrific arrangements, she offers scintillating, persuasive renditions of these and other standards. What the disc can't demonstrate is that she is also an excellent dancer--excellent enough to have worked directly with Bob Fosse in not one, but two of his shows.

Stephanie has been very busy of late, opening a cabaret act based on her CD at Arci's Place. Still, she was able to find the time to participate in a little Q&A.

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THEATERMANIA: Where did you grow up?

STEPHANIE POPE: Harlem, New York.

TM: What kind of music did you listen to as a young girl?

STEPHANIE: We listened to everything in my house. Everything! From the Beatles to Richie Havens to the Jackson Five to religious music.

TM: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

STEPHANIE: Wow! Do you know what? I'm just really thinking about this now; I feel like I started dancing so young, and that's all you think about after you start. But I do remember that, at one point, I actually wanted to be a photographer. My Dad used to take pictures all the time with his different lenses and whatnot, and I was really fascinated with that. But he didn't think there was any money in it, so he let me dance. Now, does that make any sense?!

TM: What's the first musical you ever saw?

STEPHANIE: Scott Joplin's Treemonisha. Much later on, the musical that let me know that this was what I wanted to do was Sophisticated Ladies.

TM: What show do you want to see that you haven't already seen?

STEPHANIE: Well, it's a show that they haven't done yet: Mahogany!

TM: What do you remember most about working with Bob Fosse on Big Deal?

STEPHANIE: Technically, that was my first Broadway show; I'd started out in Sweet Charity, but we were on a hiatus. When Bob had auditions for Big Deal, I showed up, and he hired me. So I had the best of both worlds: I was working with him on a show that he had recreated as well as one that he was creating for the first time. I remember hurting a lot, because he worked us like crazy. But he was sensitive enough to always come over and say "So, how are you feeling?" We'd say, "We're dying Bob, but we love it!" That show meant so much to him. I don't think people realize that he had worked on it for six years and it had finally come to life. That's why it was so deeply devastating to him that it wasn't received in the way that he had hoped it would be. But we loved it, and people who saw it say they loved it. There are so many dancers from that show who are no longer with us, so it holds even more special memories for me.

TM: Do you have a favorite role that you want to play?

STEPHANIE: That ties into the whole Mahogany thing! Also, I loved playing Velma Kelley in Chicago on the road for two years and I would love to do it on Broadway, because you get a chance to do EVERYTHING in that part. It was a joy. And who wouldn't want to play Deena Jones in Dreamgirls?

TM: What singers have influenced you the most?

STEPHANIE: I'm very "old school" in what I like. I love Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Believe it or not, I also love Beyonce and Destiny's Child, because I think they're truly talented. It's not just "studio sound."

TM: Who took that fabulous picture of you for the Now's The Time To Fall In Love CD booklet cover? [see photo above]

STEPHANIE: A crazy, crazy man by the name of Jerry Metellus. He's out of Las Vegas. I met him when I was out there doing Chicago at Mandalay Bay.

TM: Now, I have a few preference questions for you. City or country?

STEPHANIE: I like both. Every now and then, it's nice to get out of town. My dad has a place up in the Poconos, and it's always fun to go up there.

TM: Morning or evening?

STEPHANIE: Afternoon!

TM: Spicy or sweet?

STEPHANIE: Well, I think I'm sweet; but if people who know me were to answer for me, I think they'd say I'm spicy.

TM: I was talking about food! What's your favorite food that you KNOW you shouldn't eat?

STEPHANIE: There's a place right around the corner from where I live called The Famous Fish Market. They have fried fish and shrimp to die for. There you have it--I've confessed!

THEATERMANIA: Your favorite color is...?

STEPHANIE POPE: Lavender, and the reason is that it's very calming. It's in the purple family and it's royal, yet serene. There's just something elegant about it.

TM: Your favorite season of the year?

STEPHANIE: Spring. It's not too hot and not too cold. It's just right!

TM: Where would you like to go on vacation that you've never been to yet?

STEPHANIE: I have never been to Paris. Isn't that a sin and a shame? I kept thinking that work was going to take me there, but work has NOT taken me there. So I think I'd better just call up my travel agent and book a flight!


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