Season 3 American Idol runner-up Diana DeGarmo has moved on to a career in musical theater, playing roles on Broadway, Off Broadway, and in regional productions. She has been starring as Doralee Rhodes in a national tour of 9 to 5: The Musical, based on the Dolly Parton film, including several performances at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, Naples.
Diana DeGarmo as Doralee, Dee Hoty as Violet, and Mamie Parris as Judy in the National Touring Production of 9 to 5: The Musical. (Photo: Joan Marcus 2010)
You’ve been in big Broadway shows, like Hair, and smaller ones, such as Toxic Avenger. Do you prefer working large shows or small, intimate productions?
I love being on stage no matter which way I get it. Those were both two great Broadway shows. Toxic Avenger was so different. It was really zany and the audience was more intimate. I love when I’m on the road though, too, because you can reach a much bigger audience. I had already heard of 9 to 5 and knew the music, which was half the battle. Dolly’s music is great.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Warming up. Usually stretch a little. Just get into the mindset. With a role like Doralee, it’s the closest thing I’ve ever done to myself—but maybe turn up the dial 10 notches, physically and mentally.
Surely, the costuming must be extravagant?
Oh, Doralee gets the best costumes. The outfit for “Cowgirl’s Revenge” is [real] Dolly Parton. There are enough rhinestones to glitter half of New York City.
Who are your music idols?
Well, my top three, under Dolly, are Patsy Cline, Wynonna Judd and Celine Dion. They’re all such great businesswomen too. They never had to do anything outrageous to be respected. They always did and do everything as a class act.
How did your experience on American Idol contribute to your current success?
Originally, it helped with stamina. Theater is like American Idol on crack. It’s six days a week, eight shows a week. Idol was only two shows a week and we were always prepping. It taught me a lot about ethics and being professional.
What was your favorite aspect of American Idol?
The mentors. They were people you never thought you’d cross paths with. Dolly was on the season before last; I was so jealous. But I was so thankful to work with people like Barry Manilow and Gloria Estefan. The people that paved the way.
What was your experience like performing for U.S. troops in Asia?
Thirteen countries in seven days. We were everywhere from Iraq to Dubai to Djibouti. We performed [on a ship] in the middle of the Persian Sea. We were in crazy but fascinating places. Some were resort-like and others you realized you were in the middle of a war. We spent New Year’s Eve in Baghdad. There had been an attack right where we had been and we saw people that were injured. It was a very humbling experience and made us really appreciate our freedoms.
In your audition for American Idol, Ryan Seacrest noted that you always wear something black and pink. Do you still maintain your black and pink wardrobe?
I’ve matured my black and pink a little. Ford was nice enough to provide me with a black and pink Mustang after the show. Her name is Princess and she has pink Shelby racing stripes. She’s parked in my mother’s garage, being taken care of.
Do you have favorite designers you like to wear?
I’m a bargain hunter. I like to think if it looks good, who cares who made it? You don’t wear your tags on the outside of your clothes. I think it’s about confidence. But I can be dangerous on Overstock.com. I really like [finding bargains] at TJ Maxx or Marshalls. I like to spend more money on shoes. They’re a good investment.
Cast of the National Touring Production of 9 to 5: The Musical (Photo: Joan Marcus)