Carolee Carmello is a Broadway star and a three-time Tony Award nominee. Monday evening (August 3), she headlines Theatre Aspen’s Celebrity Concert Series. It’s her first time back in front of a live audience since COVID-19 shut down performances around the country, including her tour of “Hello, Dolly!” She spoke to Aspen Public Radio about Monday's show.
The last time most people saw you on stage was during the “Hello, Dolly!” tour, and I read that “Hello, Dolly!” was the first song you ever performed as a child. Is that true?
That’s what my parents tell me. I supposedly sang it when I was a year and a half old. There’s no actual proof, but that’s the story they tell, and they were telling it for years even before I had that job in the “Hello, Dolly!” tour, so I have a tendency to believe them.
And the “Hello, Dolly!” tour was ongoing up until the COVID-19 shutdowns. For a lot of people, the image of Broadway going dark was a really emotional one as this pandemic started to set in. As a performer, what have the last few months been like for you?
Frustrating, of course, and sad because I’m a big believer that the arts are so important to our communities ,and they’re so helpful at times like this. I remember back when I was on Broadway when the attacks happened on September 11th, and although it was a very different kind of an emergency, we also were shut down for a couple of days. And when we came back to work, it felt really important that people had a place to gather, and a way to connect to each other, and a way to process things that were going on, you know? And I think that’s really missing right now—all over the country.
As far as Theatre Aspen’s Concert Series, will that be the first time since the shutdowns since you’ve been in front of a live audience?
What are you most looking forward to when you come back?
Oh my gosh! I’ve been doing a little bit of this online stuff and performances on Zoom meetings, and that kind of thing, and I guess what I’m really looking forward to is having actual human beings that are watching and responding in live time. And having my musical director Phil Reno there to play for me, and it’s not a recorded track—it’s an actual live piano! You know, it’s going to feel like the first time. We closed the “Hello, Dolly!” tour in March, so it’s been a while.
Are you performing some of the songs from “Hello, Dolly!,” or what can people expect?
I am going to sing one song from “Hello, Dolly!” Actually, I added that to the repertoire because I really feel like the show itself was so joyful, and I thought that it would be a nice thing to add to my list of songs. But lots of things from my career, things that I’ve performed on Broadway, like a song from “Mamma Mia!,” a song from “City of Angels,” which was my Broadway debut. Lots of things from my career that I’ve done and enjoyed, and little stories from things that happened during those performances.
This is the theater company’s first-ever Concert Series, and, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is your first time at Theatre Aspen, too?
Yes, it’s my first time performing there. I was out in Aspen a couple of years ago, and I did get to see the production that was playing at the time at Theatre Aspen, which was “Ragtime.” It was great, and I loved the vibe of the whole theatrical community there. So, I’m very excited to come out there. And I saw the lineup of the other women that are coming out—I mean, it’s a very impressive group. With all the precautions that I know the theater is taking, I hope people will come out and enjoy a live performance. They probably haven’t had that many opportunities in the last few months. So, I think it’s important for all of us to gather in a safe way and enjoy each other’s company.