Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Debra Wagoner, AKA Topeka Abotelli Sings in the Key of Q" or Debra Meets Lipton or Debra Wagoner Fills Out "The Questionnaire"

Posted by Billy Christopher Maupin

Tomorrow night at 8PM the smash Off-Broadway hit Swingtime Canteen opens at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern. I have my tickets; do you have yours? It has already been mentioned that one could hear/watch these five dynamic performers rehearse from the marketing department at the Empire Theatre. I cannot tell a lie: I watched and listened on more than one occasion. These women (Debra Wagoner, Katrinah Carol Lewis, Vilma Gil, Audra Honaker, and Jan Guarino) sound AMAZING!!!

There are so many great shows opening this month!
Swingtime on Friday, Moonlight and Magnolias next Friday at Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn, and Theatre IV's production of A Christmas Story next Friday (yes, it's adapted from the movie!!!). Ooh...also Spinning Into Butter is playing at the Firehouse Theatre Project through this Saturday. It's pretty incredible: beautiful set (Edwin Slipek, Jr.), very interesting, thought-provoking play, and all of the actors really bring it to the table...or to speak (Katie McCall, Melissa Johnston Price, Fred Iocovo, Tony Santiago, Matt Polson, and our very own Robert Albertia). Oh, and A Lesson Before Dying is playing at the African American Repertory Theatre through this Sunday. From what I hear, it's a really fantastic production. Essie Simms in particular was very adamant about how great the show is. Plus, it features Darius T. Epps, another Barksdale Theatre employee!

So...back to the subject at hand...I get a bit excited about good theatre...and there's so much of it here! It's so exciting to live in this community! Debra's questionnaire...

I must point out that I found it rather amusing that Debra shares many of the same answers as Joy Williams (whose questionnaire you can see two posts below). And she hadn't read Joy's before answering. Just a fun little thing. "The Questionnaire"!

1. What is your favorite word?

2. What is your least favorite word?
Big surprise, huh?

3. What turns you on [creatively, spiritually or emotionally]?
Getting it right. I’m a terrible perfectionist.
A live audience….and knowing when you “hav
e them.” I’ve often been asked why I don’t do more cabaret type gigs…get myself a little band together, etc. And I guess it’s because I like telling stories. And musicals to me are the best of both those worlds. You get to tell a story to the audience with words and music. Some people turn their noses up at musical theatre. But it IS most definitely an art form. And when it’s done well, it can be very transporting.

4. What turns you off?
People who hate musical theatre, HA HA!

But seriously, folks, I’m turned off by willful ignorance. Deliberate cruelty. Intolerance.

And little things like people who don’t use their turn signals……

5. What sound or noise do you love?
Laughter. Applause.
Can’t pick just one sound.

6. What sound or noise do you hate?
Hmmmmm……microphone feedback. I would swear that I’ve sustained some hearing loss over the many years of dealing with microphones. I’ve never really enjoyed using them. But they are a necessary evil, I guess.

7. What is your favorite curse word?
F***. I have a potty mouth...It might be because out of pure contrariness; I started cursing when someone told me: “You have such a sweet face I can’t imagine you ever saying dirty words”. Well, f*** that s***.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Costume design. But, gee, I need to learn how to sew. The only other job I ever enjoyed was being a patient advocate of sorts for the elderly. Walking them through the insurance red tape, etc. I got some nice thank you letters, and some great homemade cookies doing that job! It felt really great knowing that I was helping these folks out. That was many years ago, and the healthcare/insurance system is even worse than it was then. Geez!

9. What profession would you not like to do?
Anything to do with politics.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Come on in and sit right down and make yourself at home.

You can read more about Debra and her goings on and her debut album,
The Hopeful Romantic, which features a really stellar interpretation of "No One Is Alone" from Into the Woods, among others, at

Be sure to check out Debra and all the ladies in Swingtime Canteen at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern, running November 23 - January 20. Opening weekend is already sold out so be sure to purchase your tickets soon!


Anonymous said...

Debra's powerful voice can be heard as far as Broadway, yet she chooses to make Richmond her home. How very lucky we are. Regardless of what the show title is, I'm a Wagoner fan who goes wherever she goes. Thanks, Debra. And thanks for sharing a little more about yourself through Billy's (Lipton's) questions.

Jacquie O. said...

I always tell Debra if I had to do it all over again, I would have been her manager. I would have made her go to NY, then LA and we would have toured all over the world in our gi-normous bus with the words “DEBRA” painted on the side (no last name needed of course) and we would have made a zillion dollars and spent our lives eating bon bons and drinking dirty martinis by the ocean (in-between all her appearances on the stage and screen.) Sigh…

Anonymous said...

Debra's not even 40 so it's not too late! However, here in Richmond she's working and entertaining many families over Thanksgiving. On Broadway, she'd be filing unemployment because of the union strike. Let's keep her.