Catherine Elizabeth “Cady” Huffman is a Tony Award-winning American actress. Huffman first came to Broadway as a replacement cast member in the hit musical La Cage aux Folles (1985), and was quickly cast in Bob Fosse’s Big Deal, to be followed by a Tony-Award nomination for her performance in The Will Rogers Follies (1991).
In 2001, she played the role of Ulla in the Broadway musical The Producers, by Mel Brooks.
Huffman received the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for the role.
Cady also played Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly at Theater by the Sea in 2010. Amiee Turner, producing artistic director at Theatre by the Sea was the spirit behind it. She is a great artist and director. Aimee and Cady had worked together for years and have the highest respect for each other. After three years she finally succeeded in getting Cady there. Cady saw a high school production when she was a teenager. That is the ONLY production Cady has seen to date.
She hasn’t even seen the movie other than musical highlights. She loved the choreography but has never sat through a full showing. It wasn’t something that was really on her radar to do. Amy insisted that Cady do it. Cady was reluctant because she hates those two week rehearsal period summer stock gigs when she has so much to learn. However, at the time, Cady was going through a divorce with no professional prospects and decided to do it. Perhaps Aimee knew that Cady needed to do it because of what she was going through.
Her only regret is that she wishes she had had a longer rehearsal period. She began working on it, personally, a month prior to starting rehearsals just to get the music down. She was shocked at how she knew almost every song already. They worked on the keys. The keys were definitely too low for her. Being a soprano, the keys tended to be a little low for her. They had to redo everything. The creative team also includes musical director Bob Bray, as of this writing, musical director for Mamma Mia on Broadway. He re orchestrated everything for Cady.
The “ghosts” of previous Dollys did not hang over her head. She already knew she could not compete with that. Carol Channing is so unique and “odd” and beloved. There was certainly no point in Cady trying to do what Carol did.
Cady went back to the source of The Matchmaker.
She did that to find the core of the character. She is not an old lady. She really is about Cady’s age (late forties as of this writing). She is not Jewish. She is Irish. Cady just loves that rebellious part of her. At that time in history, she would probably have been shunned by her friends and family because of her antics. She was much more “political” than Cady thought she would be.
Cady was also very familiar wild Thornton Wilder, having done the musical version of The Skin of Our Teeth.
The Matchmaker is so much more linear than The Skin of Our Teeth. On the outside, they both may seem like a lot of “fluff”, but there are layers and layers that the audience may get or not. There is much more than she thinks he gets credit for. What she loves about Dolly, in addition to her rebellious attitude, are her survival instincts. That show can say so much more than what the Legend has become. Cady didn’t want to make her “heavy”. Some people take her in that direction.
What surprised Cady the most about playing Dolly is that she really falls in love with Horace!
Cady really fell in love with Horace. There is a reason to fall in love with Horace. Al Bundonis was Horace opposite Cady. He is a handsome leading man. “There you go, I’m easy that way!” Looking at the material, that manipulating aspect is a survival tool, but she actually falls in love. One of Cady’s favorite moment’s was her talk with Ephraim, “Let me go…” It was very easy to get that emotion up every single time.
This production was done in a un air conditioned barn.
It was one hundred degrees some nights. All of those clothes, underwear, wigs, hats, stockings, feet! One kid had heatstroke because he was rehearsing another show during the day and was doing Dolly every night. The pounds just came off. The hats made by Cady’s dear friend Rodney Gordon were a huge boon to a small budget. As was the loaning of her beautiful wigs from her friend, Robert-Charles Vallance. They had to improvise every night in the hat shop scene. She was supposed to take off her jacket and gloves.
They would stick to her because she is so sweaty. She would fan herself and comment to Irene how hot her hat shop was as she tried to remove those. She would try to cool off during intermission. It was a three week run. One of the dancers had done the revival with Carol Channing with the original choreography. They had a much smaller ensemble. Girls played waiters. The level of taste that Aimee Turner and her partner, Joel Kipper, managing producer, brought to Theater by the Sea was astounding. They got everything out of the production that they desired. It was a shame to Cady that she never got to see it!
The music is a huge part of Dolly’s lasting legacy. Every single song is so catchy and memorable. It captures a very romantic part of our history, the hair, the costumes; the fun, colorful aspects make it a fun representation of musical comedy.
It has young love. It has middle-age/old love. Cady loves Irene Molloy, a widow, falling in love with Cornelius. There is something about him being a virgin and her having been married. She is the wiser of the two. Cady loves that dynamic that one hardly ever sees. It is not the traditional boy gets girl story.
Cady also brought sexiness to Dolly. It is not always an element attached to Dolly. Vicki Lewis and Betty Grable come to mind. At that time in history, “feminine wiles” pretty much was her ammunition.
Lee Roy Reams touched upon this as well. Cady desires everyone to live happily ever after. Dolly wants the same thing.
Cady also has a history with Jerry Herman. She was in the original La Cage Aux Folles. She appreciates Jerry Herman more and more, the older she gets. She was eighteen years old when she did La Cage. It was her first Broadway show and everything was spectacular.
She was a Cagelle and actually didn’t pay that much attention to the show, overall.
She was a “teenage drag queen” and really didn’t think beyond the scope of that. She considers herself “dumb” at that time and should have paid more attention. She loved the last revival. She loves his music much more as an older woman. She did not remain in touch. Looking at his body of work is just crazy! Mame is another role Cady would love to take on. His style is very personal and very heartfelt. There are so many beautiful melodies.
Cady would LOVE to do Hello, Dolly again. NOW, she knows it. She would love a shot at I Put My Hand In again. That was a difficult scene.
Cady was really hearing a lot of the songs for the first time AS Dolly. She is not a “musical theater geek.” Dreamgirls, Ragtime, and A Chorus Line are among the few cast recordings that she listens to over and over.
She has been lucky enough to be a part of the shows that have sunk into our consciousness.
The most difficult part, no surprise was the eating scene, but it was hilarious! She came to enjoy it because that scene always delivered the pay off, no matter what. The key is not to freak out. Cady is not a freak out kind of girl.
She would just keep talking. There were safety nets but she never paid attention to them. Her Horace would go to the next “safety” and she would barrel past it. For the dumplings, it was the Carol Channing trick of tissue paper. That scene is so ridiculous and so crowd pleasing. The audience would just howl. She is used to playing the “straight” man. In The Producers, all of the insanity was going on around her. She is a dancer and loves physical humor.
The survival part of Dolly is very much a part of Cady.
Kevin Hill was the director for this production. They had not worked together before, but they both share a background in dance and Cady loved working with him. He was extraordinarily well organized which a great director should be. He brought amazing things out of a summer stock ensemble. There were a lot of company frustrations because there was so much to learn, but it all came together. He pushed everyone to do their best and it paid off. He expected a lot and Cady loves that. Cady had a few challenges with some of the ensemble members who were not as committed; their energies were being divided between Dolly and the next show they were working on. Some of them thought they were “stars, which was fine. She explained that they were part of “team Dolly” and not to insult her personally by not giving their all.
There was a little drama there. She is “old school.”
Cady absolutely feels that she has an obligation to the next generation of artists to impart the knowledge of a theater tradition that she was a part of. A few of the next generation are getting it.
The biggest change that Cady has seen since making her Broadway debut in 1985 is this sense of entitlement. This new crop of artists is very proficient in every area, acting, dancing, and singing. They are all “experts”. Unfortunately, shows are now being cast that way, as well. Individuality is being erased, that vaudevillian sense of standing out. Everybody is the same.
Recently, a production number was put together of Beat me Daddy, Eight to the Bar from Big Deal, which Cady was in. They had a group of dancers from nineteen to thirty. This group of dancers was really hungry to soak it in.
It was great. Cady has been with some dancers who roll their eyes and say, “I have a Masters in dance.” Cady’s thought? “So go teach it!”
There aren’t a lot of shows that Cady has carried. Playing Dolly gave her a whole new confidence. She loved walking down the three steps into the audience and playing directly to the audience. There was no passarelle.
Cady loved the breaking of the fourth wall aspect of Dolly. She got really great at that in The Will Rogers Follies.
She reached a point where she practically had conversations with people in the audience. She got so comfortable with that and brought that to Dolly.
She loves that aspect of the show more than anything. She desires to be one with the audience; to slap their wrists when they need to be slapped and to celebrate them when they need to be celebrated.
She would love to revisit Dolly, not that she feels she did anything wrong, she just didn’t have the time! She would LOVE to have the opportunity to do an “original” new take on it. The original choreography is great, but would love to be part of a re-imagining. It could be a “very modern” story with a whole new take. It would be fun to be creating today’s history. Because she doesn’t want to offend, she will not say who that dream team would be! There are so many choices!
Dolly was hard to let go of and is the type of role she could do for a long period of time.
Cady is a big old softie.
When she came down those stairs, “those three little stairs”, for the last time on closing night, she looked at her waiters, and began to sing; “Hello…” and her eyes welled up, got choked up and could not continue singing. The quick thinking waiters jumped in to sing to her. She just linked in their eyes and continued to cry! It was a love in and she hated to say goodbye to this family.
Hello, Dolly came a long at a time in Cady Huffman’s life when she was going through a divorce. Thornton Wilder’s story of new and older love gave Cady a sense that there is hope for her as well. That is a story that is relevant to all people. Dolly is a go getter and a strong woman. Most matchmakers don’t have a match for themselves. That is not the case with Dolly. That generosity of spirit and the fact that Dolly is enamored with the world are aspects that Cady desires to keep close to her heart.
Cady, like Dolly, is a warm giving soul.