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DeLaria, Lea (b. 1958)  
page: 1  2  

The part that first brought DeLaria to the attention of mainstream critics and audiences was that of feisty cab driver Hildy Esterhazy in a 1997 revival of On The Town (book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Leonard Bernstein) directed by George C. Wolfe at the Public Theater in New York. DeLaria was grateful to Wolfe for casting her even though she was then much better known for her stand-up comedy than for her acting. The director's instincts were right on the mark, however: DeLaria won an Obie Award, a Theater World Award, and a Drama Desk nomination. She continued to receive enthusiastic notices when the show moved to Broadway.

DeLaria's other theatrical successes have included the off-Broadway hit The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (1998) in a role that Paul Rudnick wrote especially for her; a 1999 production of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's The Boys from Syracuse in Los Angeles; a turn as Big Mama Morton in the national touring company of Chicago (1999; book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse; music by John Kander; lyrics by Ebb); an appearance on Broadway (2000-2002) playing Eddie and Dr. Scott in Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Picture Show; and a starring role in a San Francisco revival of Once Upon a Mattress (2004; book by Dean Fuller, Jay Thompson, and Marshall Barer; music by Mary Rodgers; lyrics by Barer). Of the last, critic Robert Hurwitt declared, "Lea DeLaria doesn't just light up the Eureka Theatre stage. She owns it."

Because of her numerous acting jobs DeLaria has had to cut back on her appearances in stand-up but remains a popular performer on the club scene. In the course of her career she has taken her act to many cities in North America and also toured in Australia, New Zealand, and England. She has produced two comedy CDs, Bull Dyke in a China Shop (1992) and Box Lunch (1997), featuring material from her shows.

DeLaria's club performances include not only her brash and topical humor but also music. Her singing talent earned her a contract from Warner Brothers. Play It Cool (2001), on which she sings jazz versions of Broadway tunes including Stephen Sondheim's "Losing My Mind" and Kander and Ebb's "All That Jazz," was enthusiastically received.

Since then, she has issued three more jazz albums: Double Standards (2005), The Very Best of Lea DeLaria (2006), and Lee DeLaria--The Live Smoke Sessions (2008).

DeLaria has written (with Maggie Cassella) Lea's Book of Rules for the World (2000), a funny, frank, and irreverent compendium of her thoughts. She has also written a screenplay of Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues but has yet to find a producer for it.

While DeLaria relishes the diverse roles that she has been able to play, she said in a 2004 interview that she is still waiting for the perfect part. "There is a fantastic musical for me, but nobody has written it yet," she commented.

As DeLaria searches for that role she continues to delight audiences with her talent, energy, and wit. She has a special place in the hearts of many glbtq spectators, who prize her honesty, openness, and pride in herself.

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

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arts >> Crisp, Quentin

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arts >> DeCaro, Frank

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literature >> Feinberg, Leslie

Political organizer, grassroots historian, and accomplished writer, Leslie Feinberg is a pioneer of transgender activism and culture.

arts >> Kander, John (b. 1927) and Fred Ebb (1932?-2004)

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb are the musical poets of the poymorphous perverse; their works glorify the creativity inherent in sexual ambivalence and celebrate unorthodox forms of political activism.

arts >> LaChiusa, Michael John

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arts >> Mapa, Alec

Alec Mapa has enjoyed success as an actor and on the comedy circuit. He is also an activist for glbtq rights.

arts >> Rudnick, Paul

Out American playwright, novelist, and screenwriter Paul Rudnick brings a gently subversive wit to all of his projects.

arts >> Sondheim, Stephen

One of the most innovative talents of the musical theater in the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim has only indirectly reflected his homosexuality in his work.

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arts >> Wolfe, George C.

Tony Award-winning director, writer, and producer George C. Wolfe is known for his abiding commitment to bringing cultural diversity to the stage and a culturally diverse audience to the theater.


Craig, Pat. "DeLaria: Large and in Charge and Loving It Onstage." Contra Costa Times (December 3, 2004):

Finkle, David. "Mamma Lea!: Lea DeLaria Jazzes It up with Her New Warner Bros. CD, Play It Cool." Theater (June 4, 2001):

Guthmann, Edward. "The Parker Posey of Queer Cinema; Stand-up Comic Lea DeLaria Is All over the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival." San Francisco Chronicle (June 14, 1998): 38.

Harris, Lynn. "You & A Guest: Interview with Lea DeLaria." breakup girl (July 15, 1999):

Holden, Stephen. "A Tough Comic Comes Out As a Musical Comedy Star." New York Times (August 20, 1997): C11.

Hurwitt, Robert. "Lea DeLaria Brings Down the House in 'Mattress' Revival." San Francisco Chronicle (December 13, 2004): E2.

Isaacson, Mike. "Standup Gal: Comedienne Lea DeLaria Brings Her Renowned Cabaret Act Home to St. Louis." Riverfront Times (November 17, 1999):


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: DeLaria, Lea  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated January 31, 2010  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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