When someone encounters people who are naturally funny, you wonder how early in life they became aware of their gift, something Noel Coward called “a talent to amuse.” Not surprisingly, Leavel said she was quite young.
“I remember teachers would send me out in the hall when I was in grade school,” Leavel said. “I was constantly reprimanded. And while I wasn't a class clown, I certainly knew how to make people laugh.”
Leavel's Broadway resume includes an impressive list of shows in which she played comedic characters: Anytime Annie and Maggie Jones in “42nd Street,” Tess in “Crazy for You,” Ellie in “Show Boat” and Frau Blucher in “Young Frankenstein.”
“I honed that (comedic) skill because it kept getting me work,” Leavel said. “Experience teaches you the language of timing and the technical aspects of comedy. Your audience lets you know what's funny.”
“Call Me Madam” has been inextricably linked to Ethel Merman since its Broadway premiere in 1950. It was one of only two stage musicals Merman got to recreate her starring roles in for film, the other being “Anything Goes.”
“Irving Berlin wrote ‘Call Me Madam' for Ethel Merman and it was certainly a star vehicle,” Leavel said. “It's a real privilege to be given permission to personalize this role for my strengths, to give birth to this woman through Beth Leavel.
“Once you tune into the language of this musical, you enjoy how it celebrates the comedy of this period. We have a more sophisticated comedy ear today but it's nice to revisit a show like this. It's a fun musical that's a delicious wink to the audience.”