Landing one of Broadway’s most coveted roles straight out of high school, award winning actress and recording artist Michelle Dowdy became an instant star of the scene. And starting this week, this longtime ally finally gets a weekly stage all her own.
Thotyssey: Howdy Miss Dowdy! How is summer treating you so far?
Michelle Dowdy: You know, suddenly, it feels like 2019 again: busy, busy, lol!
Yes! I fill in for Ben when he’s out of town being famous! We’ve been doing that for the past few years.
You’ve been a presence on the Island for several years now.
I’ve been a regular out there since 2006! It’s a magical place, and I love it so much. A home away from home.
Truly! So, 2020 was an absolute shit show that we’re just now climbing out of. You were partaking in the Les Misérables U.S. Tour when the national lockdowns were issued. As someone who clearly loves live performance and being around people, how did you make it through that year?
Honestly, once Les Miz closed, I was not in a good place. But, I am the luckiest girl in the world to have the greatest man in my life; without Jordan (Wolfe), I would’ve probably been a mess. He was supportive, motivating, and thoughtful, which saved me. He’s my man, my partner in crime and the love of my life–we’ve been together for four years, but we’ve known each other for eight. Husband. Material. Honey… #swoon.
He’s very project-oriented and has zero vices, so we did a lot during the pandemic! We taught virtual master classes to kids, wrote and starred in a short film, released a Christmas single, competed in a vocal competition… just to name a few.
Despite that short film’s title, I just watched Do Not Watch! So cute… I bet we’ll see that song from the movie show up in a future project!
Oh, I love that you watched it! Jordan wrote it and the song, too. He penned the off-Broadway hit Night of the Living Dead! The Musical! So he can write a catchy fucking tune!
So, where are you from originally? And were you destined to be a performer from day one, do you think?
Born in Dallas, grew up in St. Petersburg FL, and moved to NYC right when I booked Hairspray–the day I graduated high school. I think I knew I’d be doing this from a very young age. I could sing before I could talk, and my family was extremely aware of me being a ham.
Oh my, I didn’t know you got Tracy Turnblad so young! That’s considered one of the hardest roles to cast! What was that audition process like?
Well, I went to an open call while in New York auditioning for colleges. I was in there for 20 minutes, basically doing all the sides. Three months later, they called to have me come back up for finals. Then it was down to seven girls, and they called me while I was boarding my plane that I had booked Broadway.
Incredible! I’m guessing your time as Tracy, both on Broadway and on tour, was a life changing experience that taught you so much of the ins and outs of the biz.
Very much so. A hands on learning experience… and no student loans, so, party, lol!
I have always thought Equity needed to make it easier for new membership. The more of us we have, the less producers can make shifty contracts for non-Eq productions to pay actors less. If they can pay all the other unions a normal rate for a non-Eq tour, why pay the actors less? So, I think we’re moving in the right direction.
I will say that they need to get it together with answering the demands of creating actual inclusiveness and diversity for our union. This open portal is using “inclusiveness” as the reasoning for this, but in truth–they’re broke. There’s a lot of policies and such that need addressing, that I think will eventually get fixed. I am more than happy for everyone to join. But, if the initiation fee stays the same (which is very high) and you expect to diversify the playing field, I think they’re dreaming. Just my two cents. *Walks off soap box*
Preach! So here are just a handful of quick questions that all inquiring gay minds want to know the answers to.
The hard hitting questions!
Surely! What’s your all-time favorite… musical?
“Don’t Rain On My Parade.”
Role that you’ve played?
Dream role you have yet to play?
Mama Rose / Mrs. Lovett / Audrey 2.
All-Time Broadway Diva?
You’re also a recording artist, having contributed to the Night of the Living Dead! The Musical! cast album and your own cover album from 2014, A Brass Act, among other things. How do you like the recording process, versus live performing?
Well, each time I’ve recorded it’s been a completely different process. But I will say, each time was a wonderful learning experience. Obviously I love to be live more, lol, but recording something means you preserve it forever… that one moment in time. Which is special.
Indeed! So I guess the worlds of musical theater and queer nightlife have just always been intertwined, and you’ve been a regular presence at bars filling in for drag queens and guest starring in their shows. When did that all start for you?
I think when I moved to New York, I was 18 and pretended like I knew what I was doing! I just went to every concert, every open mic, etc., they would let me in. You meet people, do a lot of work for free, and get around town. That was my beginnings: working hard, and keeping my head up.
Are you watching this season of Drag Race All-Stars, by the way? And are you a Jan Stan?
OMG yes! And yes, I’ve been a Jan Stan from jump. I knew Charlie when he was in college; he’s an angel, and deserves everything. I’ve also known Ginger for a long time, so I’m hoping a big girl may finally get a crown.
Now let’s talk about the newest hotspot in the Gayborhood: The Q! With multiple floors and celebrity management (including NYC nightlife Svengali Frankie Sharp), the brand new venue already offers a huge variety of programming from drag to jazz to standup to circuit parties. And this coming Wednesday will see the premiere of “The Rowdy Dowdy Hour” (11pm), starring yourself alongside Drew Wutke. Tell us about how this night came about!
It has been a dream of mine to always have my own weekly show somewhere. “Rowdy Dowdy Hour” has been in the back of my mind for years! Drew and I were talking one day about how we should do a show, and I mentioned this idea. We said, “okay, who do I have to call!?” So I texted Tim Young, my good Judy, who put me in touch with Frankie! Bam… show! I couldn’t be more excited or grateful to be joining The Q family.
Can’t wait for the premiere! We should also discuss your involvement with Broadway Bares, the sexy /fun, very important fundraising event care of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS, an organization which you’ve done much great work for.
Can’t wait for the premiere! Also, you’re one of many Broadway performers still fundraising for this year’s Broadway Bares, the sexy /fun, very important campaign for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS, an organization which you’ve done much great work for.
This is my fifteenth Bares… it’s my favorite thing to do. Be sure to donate to my Broadway Cares Stripathon Page. The virtual show happened last month, and we’re fundraising until July 31! I believe next year we’ll be back [as a live show].
Excellent! So lastly: what is a notable onstage mishap that you’ve experienced?
Hmm… I definitely fell down on Broadway… slipped and fell flat on my face, lol! I almost broke my nose. But I caught myself, spun in my butt, and got right back up. It was in the middle of the “Tracy” Break in “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
And The Beat Goes On! Thanks, Tracy!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Michelle Dowdy’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also, check out her website and donate to her Broadway Cares campaign.