Queens Yahna, who was Gwendolyn Dennison of Philadephia "before I complete life and was renamed by a Yoruba priest," adored playing Bloody Mary at Wolf Trap - despite the heat.
"I even enjoyed the perspiring," she laughed, following Monday night's opening of "South Pacific."
Of all the places I've played, Wolf Trap is the most artistic - not even theatrical but artistic. And like I said, Bloody Mary is so big she's supposed to be sweating all the time and, honey let me tell you, mother was really drippin' tonight. I was totally in character."
Fortunately the temperature was cooler at the post-performance dinner at Georgetown's Orchid 7, hosted by Wolf Trappers (donors of $5,000 or more) Robert and Cecil Eidson - though even the promise of an exotic sit-down dinner didn't bring out the show's Nellie Forbush, Jane Powell, who pleaded fatigue.
However, Powell's co-star, Howard Keel, came and reminised that if there was one thing he had learned since last working with Powell in 1954 in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," it was that one should "play young and work old. Work you can do anytime - but play, ah, now that takes real energy."
Work for Keel nowadays - at least the stage work he wants - is a tricky business, said his wife, Judy. "For a singer like Howard there're only three stage shows around - this one, "Shenandoah" and "Man of La Mancha." And how many times in your life can you do "South Pacific.'"
The affable 58-year-old Keel, however, seemed quite content, with his lot that includes his second wife - "I'm old enough to be her father . . . Her father's only 13 days older than I am" - and their 3-year-old daughter.
"We had lived together for two years and were so happy we were petrified to get married and ruin it," Judy Keel said. "And you can imagine what my parents thought when I brought home somebody twice my age, who already had three children."
Kay Shouse, Wolf Trap's founder, seemed pretty happy herself, reporting that this year's attendance at Wolf Trap would "probably equal last year's." But no, she would not reveal plans for next year's gala she said, adding it would be tough to top this year's. "That Elizabeth Taylor (who chaired the last gala) is an extraodinarly efficient woman."
Also on hand was Kay Shouse's daughter, Joan Dodd, who astonishe Judy Keel by annoucing that she had nine grandchildren.
"Being an only child, I guess I was in a hurry," she said, glancing at her mother."You know, I never realized what it was to be Kay Shouse's daughter unitl just recently when I was reading an article on how it was for Dina Merrill to be the daughter of Marjorie (Merriweather) Post. I remember thinking, 'My God, it must be extraordinary to be the daughter of such a famous, exceptional woman.' And then it hit me. I was the daughter of a woman just like that. And I'never realized it before. Isn't that amazing?"