Photo Credit: Rob Sutton
Richard Skipper Celebrates… Lenny Watts
Lennie Watts is a 15 time MAC, 5 time Backstage Bistro, 3 time Nightlife, and a 2014 Broadway World Award Winner. He is the only person to receive awards as an outstanding vocalist, director, producer, and booking manager. He has been active in the New York cabaret scene for over 25 years. In addition to directing in small cabaret venues, he has directed events at Symphony Space, Town Hall, and BB King Blues Club. He has toured nationally and internationally with productions of “The Music Man” (Marcellus) and “The Wizard Of Oz” (Lion). He has performed at Town Hall in several concerts, including “Broadway Unplugged” and “Broadway By The Year, 1949,” and can be heard on the cast recordings of both shows. As a theater director, he has directed productions of “How To Succeed In Business…”, “Godspell,” “Dames at Sea,” “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and “Phantom.” Watts is the creator of “cablab”, “Summer In The City, and The Arrangement Experience and Boot Camp, all critically acclaimed professional cabaret performance workshops. He has been teaching and conducting workshops in NYC and around the country for over 20 years. He is on the faculty of Marymount Manhattan College, and has been a Master Teacher at The Eugene O’Neill Cabaret Conference for the last 3 years, and will be returning in August. He created and produced the award winning “Under The Covers” series.”The Village Voice” calls him “A one man cabaret army!” He is the 2013 MAC Award Winner for Outstanding Major Artist for his critically acclaimed show, “Bloody Bloody Lennie Watts”. Lennie was recently named One of the 50 Most Influential People in Cabaret, and is currently the President of MAC, and the Artistic Director and CEO of Singnasium.
You are both a great comic AND singer. Which do you prefer?
Well, that depends on the day. I like to think that I combine the 2. Being funny is just a part of who I am. Being a singer is something I have to work at. I used to get offended when I would do a show and people would say “You are so funny!” What I heard was “You can’t sing!”. I’ve gotten better at understanding that singing and being funny aren’t mutually exclusive.
If you had to give yourself a moniker in cabaret, what would it be?
Driver of the Clown Car! Seriously, I love being a part of this community. I have met so many wonderful and lifelong friends through Cabaret.
Tell us about your younger years
Well, I was a little fat kid that dreamt of being a performer. I was very shy (outside of my comfort zone) and didn’t really start singing until high school. My senior year, I lost 100 pounds and when I started college, I decided to try to put all of that behind me and reinvent myself. It’s always a struggle, but I’ve come to grips with who I am and what I bring to the table.
Who are your musical influences?
I still love all of the Broadway music. I’m a big fan of Barry Manilow, but being the youngest of 5, I was exposed to all of my older siblings music. I love Kenny Loggins, the Beatles, Motown. My mom was a big band singer and my dad loved music. Their song was Irving Berlin’s ‘Always’. I was lucky to be exposed to so many different styles of music.
How much of your time is split between directing and performing?
Since deciding to open Singnasium, I’m finding myself directing and teaching much more than performing.
What drew you to music and comedy?
It’s just in my blood. I have always seen performing as a great outlet for me. I use my humor in my teaching, directing, and life in general. Even when I was young, I would put shows together of all of the different songs from all of my records ( yes, I said records) I also used comedy to deal with being bullied and also it helped get me out of trouble!
When it comes to your career, do you consider yourself a success?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Lets just say that for the first time in my life, I feel happy with where I am at and what I am doing.
What has been your most outrageous moment on stage?
I think it would have to be the time I was working on the Spirit of New York harbor cruise ship. We were doing our little Broadway/America revue and I was on one knee and one of the female performers was sitting on my other knee while someone sang “God Bless the USA” I started to tickle her and she proceeded to pee on my leg and run off stage.
If you could do anything else, what would it be?
What awards have you won?
I have a bowling trophy, 2 Muscular Dystrophy Carnival trophies, 15 MAC Awards, 5 Bistro Awards, 3 Nightlife Awards, and a Broadway World Award.I
If you could do anything else, what would it be?
I would have gone in to advertising. At this point, I’d sell turkey legs at Disney World.
Anything else you wish included?
I’m very excited about Singnasium, my 501(c)(3) organization that I just started. We will be offering a full lineup of classes and workshops. I’ve lined up a great roster of teachers and classes. I never dreamed that this is where life would lead me, but I couldn’t be happier! www.singnasium.org
For more info on Lennie Watts, please visit LennieWatts.com