Dorothy Bishop of THE DOZEN DIVAS SHOW at the Triad Theater
Dorothy Bishop suffers from an identity crisis. You see, at all times, she has 12 Divas from the worlds of opera, pop, and musical theater swirling around in her head. When they do come out, there’s comedy, music and fun for any lucky audience member who takes a seat on The Dozen Divas Show!
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dorothy and discuss her long-running show, which enjoys a long residency at The Triad.
This interview has been edited for space and content.
Dorothy, thank you for talking with me and telling our readers about your fabulous show! Tell our readers how this long-running show started and how someone from the world of opera and musical theater ends up impersonating people?
It’s a long story. I had a small career in opera, I did great things. I sang at Carnegie Hall, I did the National Tour of Master Class with Faye Dunaway, but I was a little frustrated because there’s not a lot of work in opera here in the United States . It was declining – especially after 9/11. People told me I had to go to Europe if I wanted to work – but I didn’t want to go to Europe. I knew I could be funny. I’ve done a lot of comedic roles. Once directors found out I could be funny, comedy roles were all I did. I did a lot of Cosi Fan Tutte, Die Fledermaus, a lot of operettas. I really loved musical theater and my trainer asked me “Can you belt?” and I said “Yeah, I used to do it as a party trick.” I sang I Dreamed a Dream by Les Miz and he said, “What the hell are you doing? Get the hell out of opera. There’s no work here if you don’t go to Europe. There’s a lot of legitimate work on Broadway. Trying something new.” I auditioned for Broadway and was often called back, but I was not chosen. Then I did a cabaret show and really enjoyed doing my own show. In the end, I ended up doing my own show as a guest performer on cruise ships for 10 years. I would do this Sarah Brightman pop/opera show. I was still able to sing opera, which was really cool, but after about 10 years it started to die out. The work started to fade and I realized I was going to have to reinvent again, and noticed that the tribute shows were the big thing. On the sidelines, when I wasn’t doing pop/opera shows on cruise ships, I started headlining the biggest gay clubs here in New York – one of them was Splash, whose people of a certain age remember. They had a big stage, a dance floor, go-go boys. I would take my pop/opera show there, except I would make it funny. I would change the words.
So, what was your first impression?
Cher was my very first, but I really did it for fun. But I never did it professionally before Sarah Palin. Around 2008, Sarah Palin entered the scene. I started doing it and people were like “Oh my God!” I started working doing impersonator jobs and gigs for 4 or 5 years. I broke into the lookalike industry. When Palin’s time was up, my agent asked, “OK. What other impressions can you do?” So I started doing Cher and Barbra and a few others. Then I decided to put on a show where I would do a whole bunch of divas.
Where did the show, as we know it, begin?
We started in the basement of the Iguana club. They were really great with me. I did the show once a week for a year. I just did this tough show – no cover charge, people just had to buy stuff. Then I was picked up by The Metropolitan Room, and I stayed there for 5 years, and now I’m at the Triad. This is my 5th year there, if you don’t count the Covid year. Of course, I’m booking the show out of town.
How has the show changed since your days at Splash and The Iguana? Is there more structure?
There’s definitely more structure, much better costumes and wigs. I learned to make quick changes. I used to mess up the quick changes so much. Once at the Iguana, I forgot to remove Dolly’s breasts and walked out in Cher with huge Dolly’s breasts. People were like, “What?” I usually do wigs well. Changes should be simplified. They have to be quick and can’t be exhausting unless I have a video going or I have a guest, like Charles Osborne or Michael Musto come in and add a lot of fun to the show.
Who’s your favorite diva to play?
(Laughs) Everyone always asks me that! I really like doing Stevie Nicks. I kind of grew up with her. She’s the least like my voice, but she’s such a character and such a diva. Even though I make it funny, I can sing “Landslide”, which was my mom’s favorite pop song. Her costume is great. People still know who she is and she’s still out there doing it. She is easy for me to look like. My second favorite is Renee Fleming.
You always have 12 divas on your show – after all, it’s called the Dozen Divas Show. How do you decide who will appear since you are doing more than 12 divas?
I always watch pop culture and see if something big is going on, whatever I MUST address. I’ll throw it away if I can. Of course, the show can be multimedia, so during costume changes, I can add funny videos. If it’s something I don’t think I can do live, I’ll make a fun video about it. It’s really about who is current. Most of my divas are icons, so they’re classic. I can do Kim Kardashian. Sarah Palin is back in the news, so she might be back. I always do Meryl Streep whenever she’s nominated for an Oscar. I have a funny and clever parody of “The Winner Takes it All”, but I call it “Meryl Takes it All”. Some of them are still relevant because they are icons. I change door openers a lot. I used to do a lot of Shirley Bassey, but I changed it to Liza, because Liza is very relevant right now. I’ll do Patti LuPone – depending on what she does. New York audiences love to see this. I will always do the Judy/Barbra duo on Skype because people who come to my shows expect to see it. If I didn’t put that in, people would be pissed. My show in New York is very different from the show I’m going to shoot out of town. If I play in a gay club, I’ll do the New York show.
You played Spamilton Off-Broadway as Liza and Barbra (among others). Even though you did some of your familiar prints, did you find it to be a different animal than The Dozen Divas Show?
It was a completely different animal from Dozen Divas. It was really fun. The cast was extremely talented. Some of them are on Broadway right now. It was a lot of fun, because I got to do Patti LuPone, which I don’t do a lot in Dozen Divas. I have to do Carol Channing, Bette Midler…Barbra and Liza, which were really easy for me, but I have to face new divas. And it was fun being on a hit Off-Broadway show. The show was always packed and people were always laughing. It was great.
While filming Dozen Divas in Mexico, you ended up adopting a scene stealer: Luther the singing chihuahua. Has he become more famous than you?
He has more offers than me. The other day someone offered me $5,000 for him on the street. He was asked to be on America’s Got Talent. We were spotted by the show. But he stopped being a singing chihuahua on stage, but he will always sing off stage – especially with a bass or a baritone. He’ll be waiting backstage, but still coming out for the curtain call, but he’s back in the show with one of my new divas – Charo. He will be releasing for his second song. If you want to hear him sing, he will. Not for me.
Dorothy will appear on April 22 at The Triad with special guest Charles Osborne. For tickets visit www.triadnyc.com and for more information about Dorothy visit her website at www.DorothyBishop.com