On Stage Profile: Kathleen Turner conquers caberet

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Kathleen Turner

In the entertainment realm, there is not much that Kathleen Turner hasn’t conquered.

She starred on Broadway in “High, Indiscretions,” “The Graduate,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” She was brilliant in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and received Tony nominations for Best Actress.

On screen, she garnered critical acclaim for her performances in “Body Heat,” for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe; “Romancing The Stone” and “Prizzi’s Honor,” each of which earned her a Golden Globe Award; “Peggy Sue Got Married,” which brought both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations; and “War of the Roses,” for another Golden Globe nomination. 

On television, Turner recently appeared on Showtime’s hit series, “Californication.”

Recently, Turner has turned her attention to directing with such productions as “Would You Still Love Me If…,” “The Killing of Sister George,” and “Crimes of the Heart.”

She also reached the New York Times Best-Seller List as an author for her 2008 autobiography titled “Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on my Life, Love, and Leading Roles.”

One entertainment realm that she hasn’t conquered is live cabaret. But, that’s about to change very soon.

On September 25, Turner will make her cabaret debut in “Finding My Voice,” which will be performed at Philadelphia Theatre Company’s home, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre (Broad and Lombard Streets, Philadelphia, 215-985-0420, PhiladelphiaTheatreCompany.org.)

“I like a challenge,” said Turner, during a phone interview last week from her home in New York City.

In “Finding My Voice,” Turner brings her trademark husky voice to the American songbook. She performs classic songs with her band (led by Mark Janas) and interweaves with the songs.

The show, which is directed by Andy Gale and designed by Ed McCarthy, situates the audience at cafe tables, as the PTC stage becomes an intimate setting for the launch of Ms. Turner’s cabaret career.

“Working with these wonderful men – Andy Gale and Mark Janas, is great,” said Turner. “We worked on songs and got my singing under control.

“When I first came to New York 40 years ago, every female lead for actresses 21 or 22 was soprano. Obviously, that was never going to be me. So, I told them – I don’t sing, I act.

“For this show, we went back to the songs that I love – songs that felt great in my body. I’m surprised how organically this groove came along.

“This show is cabaret but it is also theatrical pieces as well as cabaret. I love to tell stories and I love to be funny. Also, there are fears and regrets on found songs that I do.

“It covers the very broad arc of my life – and it’s solid. I hate musicals. I never understood why people stopped talking and started singing.”

In her show in Philly, Turner will be both singing and talking.

“I am very excited to venture into the world of cabaret and look forward to returning to PTC where I have a history of introducing new work,” said Turner, an activist who has worked with Planned Parenthood of America since age 19.

Turner appeared at Philadelphia Theatre Company creating the title role in “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” one of the most popular productions in PTC history.

Like Ivins, Turner is feisty – and a person determined to overcome obstacles.

Several years ago, Turner was suffering as she battled with rheumatoid arthritis. When she was told by a physician that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, she “fired that doctor immediately.”

“My health is pretty good now since they created a biologic,” said Turner.
In the last decade, there have been significant advances in treating rheumatoid arthritis, especially for patients whose arthritis does not respond to traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The most important advance has been the development of a group of drugs called biologic response modifiers or biologics.

“It’s great because people diagnosed today will never have to go through what I had to go through,” said Turner, who has worked to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis.
Video link for Kathleen Turner in PTC’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins” — https://youtu.be/qJmylG7QoLE.

The shows on September 25 at PTC will be at 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $56.

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