Diva Overload

Debbie Allen & Jenifer Lewis on the magic of Dolly Parton, and the beauty of a Christmas musical

DOLLY PARTONÕS CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE (L to R) JENIFER LEWIS as MARGELINE in DOLLY PARTONÕS CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

Sometimes, this job gets to us.

Case in point: after interviewing the incomparable Dolly Parton and Christine Baranski, we got to sit down with two more mega divas, Jenifer Lewis and Debbie Allen. The four ladies collaborated on their new musical, Christmas on the Square, streaming on Netflix November 22.

Allen directs the film, based on an off-Broadway show with music and lyrics by Parton. Baranski plays Regina, a wealthy real estate developer who decides to bulldoze her tiny hometown to clear the way for a new development. Parton plays Angel, a mysterious woman committed to showing Regina the true spirit of Christmas. But Regina hides deep pain from her past, including the loss of her high school sweetheart Carl (Treat Williams), and a longtime rivalry with town resident Margeline (Lewis). Can Angel help Regina melt Regina’s heart to save the town?

Related: What to Watch: Dolly Parton is an angel, Dan Levy does Christmas & Paul Bettany goes gay for pay

Debbie Allen, of course, cut her teeth on the Broadway stage, appearing in such musicals as Raisin, West Side Story and Ain’t Misbehavin’. She snagged two Tony Award nominations in the process. Allen also scored a hit appearing in the musical film Fame and the subsequent TV series. She won two Emmy Awards for choreographing dance in the show. These days, she focuses more on directing, having helmed episodes of That’s So Raven and Empire, as well as an all-black stage version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Terrence Howard and James Earl Jones.

Jenifer Lewis earned her due as an actress, landing roles in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sister Act and Black-ish, just to name a few. She also gained notoriety for her powerful voice, having sung on stage with the Boston Pops and appeared as Motormouth Maybelle on Broadway in Hairspray.

We sat down with the two divas to chat about Christmas on the Square and their intriguing careers. What we didn’t expect was for the conversation to take an emotional turn. Christmas on the Square streams on Netflix November 22.

 

Video Editor: David Beerman