Theater News

Beth Leavel Welcomes Back the ’60s

The Tony Award-winning star of Baby It’s You discusses her on-stage and off-stage fashion choices.

Beth Leavel in Baby It's You
(© Ari Mintz)
Beth Leavel in Baby It’s You
(© Ari Mintz)

In the new musical Baby It’s You, which officially opens at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theater on April 27, Tony Award winner Beth Leavel plays Florence Greenberg, the New Jersey-housewife-turned-music-mogul who discovered the Shirelles in 1958 and then formed the successful independent label Scepter Records. TheaterMania recently spoke to Leavel about sporting 1960s fashions, her own fashion sense, and what she’ll be wearing on opening night.

THEATERMANIA: Your many, many costumes are really fun! Which one is your favorite?
BETH LEAVEL: I have several. I love that emerald green dress that I wear at the top of Act 2. It has circles on it that kind of represent albums. And I would love to do a whole photo shoot of nothing but my accessories. Our costume designer, Lizz Wolf, has gone above and beyond to layer Florence’s life in her accessories and clothes and how they inform her success and who she is emotionally at the time. I also really love the black dress at the end that has the asymmetrical fur around my hips. One thing I learned about Florence is that she had very good taste, and she never left a hair out of place. She was very meticulous about her appearance.

TM: Are you enjoying wearing all these 1960s-style outfits?
BL: I was really surprised how much I love my costumes, because the 1960s are like the 1980s, where sometimes you’re like, “Really?” But I love how I look in the clothes, and I love the clothes themselves. We all have to wear these politically correct undergarments from the 1960s, and there’s this girdle-wannabe thing that I have such great biceps from pulling it on over my butt eight shows a week; but once you get that on under your clothes you feel like, “Alright, I’m in the 60s!”


Is there anything you wear in the show that is really outrageous?
BL: I wear a Martha Stewart cake hat for a quick scene, and I have to hold for a laugh, because the women in the audience recognize that hat from either their childhood or their mother’s childhood. It’s like a universal, “I remember that big hat!” And I’m like, “Yes I have a cake on my head.”

TM: Is there a style from the 1960s that you wish would come back?
BL: I love flipped hair. I’m actually so in love with it that I’m letting my hair grow out so I can wear it like that — but make it 2011.

TM: Are you as meticulous as Florence about your own appearance?
BL: I have moments. I go from one end of the extreme to the other. Growing up down South, I’ve been trained by my mother. Every time I left the house she would look at me and say, “Do you have lipstick on?” So I feel like I don’t go to the bathroom without lipstick and mascara on. In fact, I will be in my pajamas to pick up my children, but I will have lipstick and mascara on.

Christina Sajous, Erica Ash, Kyra DaCosta, Crystal Starr, Brandon Uranowitz, and Beth Leavel in Baby It's You
(© Ari Mintz)
Christina Sajous, Erica Ash, Kyra DaCosta,
Crystal Starr, Brandon Uranowitz, and Beth Leavel
in Baby It’s You
(© Ari Mintz)

TM: What are you going to wear for opening night? Are you going to try to reflect the time period at all?
BL: No. I bought this dress on a whim. It’s black and splays out right above my knees — and I feel like a Barbie doll in it. It’s really beautiful and comfortable and I can eat and not have to hold my stomach in. I didn’t know where to go, so I just stopped at Lord and Taylor with my coupon and I saw the dress on the mannequin and I was like, “I want that.” It fit and the rest is history. And I got 20 percent off!

TM: What is it like when you finish the opening night show and then have to immediately get ready for the opening night party?
BL: It’s delicious chaos. Everyone is screaming at you, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” but you have to take a wig off and you’ve had your hair in pin curls under the wig so your hair looks awful and then you look at your makeup and you’re like, “Alright I look like a prostitute, I have to wipe this down,” but then if you wipe it all down, it takes too long and then you have a room full of your family and friends going, “Hurry up, hurry up.” This year, I actually hired someone who I absolutely love and he’s going to do my face really fast, so I don’t have to worry about it. As for my hair, I’ll just put a lot of product in it and go.