While growing up in University Heights, Laura Theodore loved listening to her mother’s Peggy Lee albums. A child actress at the Heights Youth Theatre, she later dreamt of one day portraying her idol on stage.
But her career in entertainment took her down other avenues: singing television jingles for Jordache jeans and winning critical acclaim for her role as Janis Joplin in Denver’s world-premiere production of “Love, Janis.” It wasn’t until she read New York Daily News columnist Liz Smith’s review of her voice (“Her fans seem to think she is Streisand, Joplin, Lee and Midler combined”) that the jazz singer thought about returning to her love for Peggy Lee.
Having already channeled Joplin and Mae West in other productions, Theodore felt up to the task.
“I try to get the essence of whatever the person is about without completely copying what they do,” she explains.
Recruting the help of longtime collaborator Joe Beck, who played guitar for Miles Davis’ band, Theodore created a musical featuring Lee’s songs. The result, “Reflections: Peggy Sings Leiber & Stoller,” premieres this month at Lakewood’s Beck Center for the Arts.
The show features songs that were written for Lee by the renowned songwriting duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who also wrote the music for the Broadway classic “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Theodore is guarded about giving too much away about “Reflections,” revealing only that it comprises an eight-person ensemble backed by a live orchestra. Secrets aside, she promises a heartwarming, professional musical: “It will be an evening of pure entertainment and involvement and happiness.”
“Reflections: Peggy Sings Leiber & Stoller,” Sept. 14-Oct. 7. For more information, call (216) 521-2540 or visit www.beckcenter.org