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Diana DeGarmo fills Dolly Parton's ... shoes in '9 to 5'
by Jerry Nunn

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Diana DeGarmo broke into the spotlight with the third season of American Idol. The American Idol alumna performs on the national tour with the role of Doralee Rhodes working "9 to 5" on the musical version of the hit.

Windy City Times: I find it interesting that you and Fantasia—from your season of American Idol—have both done Broadway shows.

Diana DeGarmo:It was funny because I was the first Idol contestant that they brought into theater. It was a big controversy because they thought it was stunt casting or they just wanted tickets sales when I did Hairspray. I don't want to toot my own horn but I feel that I paved the way for the rest of the fellow Idol alums who decided to join Broadway because I actually did a good job at my job!

WCT: That is really important.

Diana DeGarmo:Now you can see Constantin, Fantasia and Tamyra Gray, all sorts of Idols are out there.

WCT: What do you think the new season of American Idol will be like with new judges?

Diana DeGarmo:It will be interesting [laughs] for the most part, if nothing else. I believe in if ain't broke don't fix it, but I understand that the show is going into a tenth season and needs something to really bring in the crowds.

American people get bored so easily, unfortunately. We have the attention span of a gnat. I think it will be fun. I hate to see Paula and Simon gone because they were the originals and had great chemistry. When they had the first three judges they really captured something great. I think that made the show really take off as well as the fantastic talent that came from it. Toot toot, hey!

WCT: Toot that horn. [Laughs]

Diana DeGarmo:Lots of great people in general have come from the show. I hope they have captured something just as special with J. Lo and Steven Tyler, along with Randy Jackson. I hope the viewer ship stays up, positive and they don't have to resort to crazy controversies to keep people watching this year.

WCT: I am hearing great things from Indiana about 9 to 5 playing down there.

Diana DeGarmo:Oh, thank you. I think we have been very lucky and know what kind of show we are. We are not Next to Normal. We are not the kind of show that you will feel your life is changed when you come out. We are very traditional musical theatre. We are here to entertain you. We will give you two and half hours of fun and laughter. It is a good show with amazingly talented people. I share the stage with some of the best in the business. We have a great time genuinely every night. We are proud of the product we have. Everyone is up there working their tails off and having a good time while we are at it!

WCT: Has this role been intimidating for you?

Diana DeGarmo:It really was at first. I definitely had a moment of what have I gotten myself into? Now that the show has settled into itself, we have a great rhythm between the three ladies. We have something special on stage.

I also came to the realization that I am not a Dolly Parton impersonator and never will be. No matter how much I try, I can't be Dolly Parton! It has been great to have her blessing. That was really important to me. Even before I got the job she had to sign off on me being cast. So I knew I was one step in the right direction when I started. Eventually getting to hang out with her in Nashville when we opened the show, she likes to randomly pop in to cities. A little birdie told me that she might be coming to Chicago.

WCT: That little birdie told me the same thing!

Diana DeGarmo:It's great to know that she really supports us, including myself. She has said some wonderful things to me and been so nice. She is how you picture her. It makes the role a little bit easier.

WCT: Does being from the South help you with your accent?

Diana DeGarmo:I do believe being a true Southerner does help. That is the sensibility of it all. I like to say that I am a sugar n' spice and everything nice Texan gal in the show. I am a little of that as a person.

I grew up my entire life truly idolizing Dolly and worked at Dollywood when I was kid. I got to sing at the opening of the park and they did a big shindig when they reopen every year. I walked right up to her when they told everyone not to go talk to her, as a precocious 10 year old and said, "Hi, my name is Diana DeGarmo and I am going to be singing here today!" and she said, "My, that's a mighty big name for a little bitty girl." I just fell in love with her.

WCT: Do you have to pad your bra?

Diana DeGarmo:Oh, heck yeah! God did not bless me with the boobs that Dolly Parton has, even though she has had God and few other people bless her. If people saw what I am wearing underneath the costume, I think that would be half of the show! There is lots of spandex and padding.

WCT: What are your projects for the new year?

Diana DeGarmo:I am currently in the studio. We have some downtime here and there, which is the beauty of how this tour is set up. I am flying back and forth to L.A. and Nashville. I am writing and recording. I am looking to have a project out soon and you know Miss Dolly Parton is going out on the road with her own tour this summer. If she needs an opening act I am putting in my bid now.

WCT: What style is the album going to be?

Diana DeGarmo:It's country. I grew up singing country, worked at Opryland, Dollywood and sang on the Grand Ole Opry when I was 12. I opened from everyone from Diamond Rio to Toby Keith. I hit a little bump in the road with it; then came Idol, being strictly pop. Even though I tried to convince them to do a country/pop album they thought I was crazy. When Carrie Underwood came next season, I said, "Well, lookee there!"

The four-time Tony-nominated musical is in town for two weeks at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. For tickets, call 800-775-2000 or purchase online at .

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