Interview

Wendy R. Williams Talks To
Acclaimed Judy Garland Impersonator
Tommy Femia

Photo
The Fabulous Tommy Femia as Judy
www.tommyfemia.com


Written and photographed by Wendy R. Williams
(See the review below)

I went to Don't Tell Mama on a hot Saturday night in July to interview Tommy Femia and also to see his show, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli Together Again. Sidney Meyer, the booking agent for Don't Tell Mama, had agreed to let me talk to Tommy while he was getting dressed for the 11PM show. They were doing NewYorkCool.com a huge favor because the time just before a show is horrifically hectic.

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Sidney Meyer in his den at Don't Tell Mama

Don't Tell Mama is a part of New York City's unique cabaret world. All over the city there are small cabaret spaces which present singers, comedians and small Off-Off-Broadway shows. Mamas is the best known of these spaces and with a Times Square location at 343 West 46th Street, Mamas attracts a large crowd to both their cabaret shows and their lively piano bar.


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Don't Tell Mama | 343 West 46th Street


I met with Tommy in his dressing room, where he was in the process of changing himself from a guy into a fabulous gal. This transformation process involves lots of make up and lots of glitz. As Tommy says, a hundred nuns lost their eye sight making his costumes.

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Tommy Femia and his glitz

I asked Tommy why Judy and he said he has loved Judy Garland ever since he was a little boy and first saw her in The Wizard of Oz. He followed her career from then on and has been impersonating her for the last twenty years. During that time he has played Judy at Don't Tell Mama, Davenports in Chicago, The Plush Room in San Francisco, Theater Works in Sarasota and many more venues. Tommy does not have a day job, he supports himself totally by impersonating Judy. I asked him if it ever got old and he said no it does not. He has done extensive research into Judy's life and is always finding new things he can use to keep his act fresh.

Tommy's favorite Garland era is the Judy of the early sixties television shows. He likes that time because things appeared simpler then, a quieter happier time for Judy.

We then talked about how he transforms himself. Everything he uses can be found over the counter at beauty supply stores. The only additional make up item he uses is a Bob Kelly make up kit. Tommy has the following items in his bag: Max Factor Panstick #6, Spirit Gum (to hold the make up that obliterate his own eyebrows), false eyelashes, and various lip sticks and rouges. Tommy does not shave his legs, arms or chest. He uses double layers of hose and long gloves to hide his body hair. I did not see how Tommy transformed his body (girls need some privacy), but after seeing him in the show, I can report that the girl was wearing a 1960's style girdle and a merry widow with her falsies.

Tommy also told me that he never goes out as Judy. That he is not a drag queen, but an actor who plays a part and leads an ordinary life away from the stage. Well, OK!

He also told me that though he knows Liza Minelli and she has been extremely kind to him, Liza has never seen his show. He thinks it is because his show is heel click too close to home.

Tommy then introduced me to his musical director/pianist, David Maiocco (see review below).

Photo
David Maiocco, trapped in the bathroom by
the aggressive NewYorkCool.com camera

Tommy likes to invite guest artist to perform with him. The night I was there Tommy was going to perform with his "daughter", Christine Pedi as Liza Minelli. Christine is a real girl and does not need a couple of hours to transform, so she arrived in her dressing room a half hour before the show.


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Christine Pedi as Liza Minelli

And then Tommy was finally ready to go on, so he stuck a pose, clicked his heels and flew on stage as Judy. And as they said in The Wizard of Oz, "No Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore."

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Tommy just before he walked on stage


You can see Tommy at 11PM on Saturday nights at Don't Tell Mama. There is a $20 cover and a 2 drink minimum. Reservations can be made at at (212)757-0788. For more information: www.tommyfemia.com or www.donttellmama.com.

 

Don't Tell Mama


Cabaret Show Review by Wendy R. Williams
for www.in-nyc.com

There are some shows in New York that are simply charming. They have charming performers, perform in a charming setting and attract audiences of charming people who love the performers. Tommy Femia's show at Don't Tell Mama, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli Together Again, is one such show. There is a reason this man has been playing Mamas for the last twenty years.

Mr. Femia (Judy), with the talented help of Christine Pedi's (Liza) great pipes, has created a wonderful show, one that is both nostalgic and marvelously whacky. It is a show where his 1960's version of Judy Garland sixties shares the stage with a present day Liza Minnelli. Mr. Femia and Ms. Pedi sing both period songs and present day Broadway favorites, the songs that Judy might have sung had she lived and the songs that Liza could sing now if she were performing. Here is a sampling of their songs: "I Believe"; The Greatest Love of All"; and "Life is a Cabaret."

The music is great and the show is very funny, filled with loads of self deprecating wit. Both of the "ladies" exhibited amazing comic timing and had me in stitches. Mr. Femia and Ms. Pedi also showed great love for their characters. What could have been merely broad characterizations is instead a love fest - a charming evening spent with two twentieth century icons and an audience filled with their admirers.

There were many charming touches throughout the evening, but some were unexpected. David Maiocco, the musical director, was amazing. Mr. Maiocco can really talk to a piano, but he also has a wonderfully quiet stage presence, lending charm to the evening while letting the spotlight fall only on the ladies. And at the first table from stage left were Felix and Roy, long time fans, who attend all of Tommy's shows. Felix brings a bell which he rings at the appropriate times. The show would be worth seeing just to see Felix sitting at that first table, an off-stage conductor quietly marking his time, waiting for his moment, the moment when he finally gets to ring his bell. I loved it.

 

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