BY CARY GINELL
It’s not often when a person is able to develop their own stage show about their idol, but for the past four years, actor/singer Scott Dreier has done that very thing, when, in 2011, he started paying tribute to former actress/singer Doris Day. Dreier has toured all over the U.S. with Doris and Me, playing on the West Coast, where he makes his home, to venues on the East Coast. For many years before Doris and Me, the Southern California native was a performer in voiceovers, in theater, and on television, focusing mainly on family shows on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Scott has also been a featured vocalist with the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, has accompanied Barbra Streisand in concert, and has numerous television appearances to his credit. Devoted to charitable causes, Dreier designated the proceeds from his first CD, Scott Dreier, to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. On the album, he sang a duet on “Suddenly, Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors with actress Katy Sagal (Married With Children). Dreier has performed in twelve productions of that show. One of his latest efforts, whose proceeds benefit the Doris Day Animal Foundation, is a duet with jazz singer Jane Monheit on Doris Day’s hit, “Everybody Loves a Lover.” Dreier is appearing in Doris and Me at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center this weekend, and we got a chance to visit with him and talk about his idol, who at 91, is living in comfortable retirement in Carmel-By-the-Sea near Monterey, California.
VCOS: So how did this obsession with Doris Day start?
SCOTT: I come from kind of a strict family and, as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of movies or TV or listen to music so a lot of my pop culture education didn’t start until high school. The only thing I was allowed to watch as a kid was something called The Saturday Afternoon Film Festival, hosted by Tom Hatten. So that’s where my obsession with Doris Day began. Her film career ended before I was even born, but because of that show, I became a fan. She represented everything “good” to me, everything that was “Americana.” She was the perfect mom, the perfect sister, the perfect friend, and she was certainly the inspiration that led me to become a performer.
VCOS: Many people idolize performers in the entertainment world but end up having their myths exploded when they find out all the hidden details of a person’s life. As you got to be familiar with Doris Day’s career as opposed to her personally, did that live up to your expectations?
SCOTT: Yes, it did. I do a little bit of this in my show so I won’t give everything away, but I have gotten a chance to meet Doris Day on two occasions and she is exactly who you want and need her to be. What you see is what you get and I think that’s why so many people identify with her – it’s that true warmth of her personality that comes shining through in everything she did. But she exceeded my expectations when I met her. She was just so genuine and real.
VCOS: You said that she represents “all things normal” and “Americana.” Doris Day represented the fabricated, domestic tranquility of the 1950s, but is there more to it than that?
SCOTT: I think so. I think that the thing that is so wonderful about her work is that she was really ahead of her time, whether it was her TV show or in films like Pillow Talk where she played a successful business woman, she always had values and she always maintained who she was. The joke of those films, of course, was that she was the constant virgin, freshly scrubbed, and apple pie, but she was definitely ahead of her time, too. So, for me, she has always been an escape and someone whose work continues to make me happy. She’s the cure for whatever ails me.
VCOS: There has to have been an inner toughness somewhere for her because she was one of the few survivors of the big band era and remained a top performer until her retirement. In your show, do you go much into her years as a big band singer in the 1940s with people like Les Brown?
SCOTT: I do. I talk about that and I also talk about her marriages. She always said that for someone who was always in love in her movies, she was very unlucky in love. So I talk about that. I talk about how she got her start with the Barney Rapp band and Les Brown, certainly, which resulted in her audition that led to Romance on the High Seas that changed the course of her life. I sort of interweave her biography and her life with my own life and what she meant to me growing up. So the show is aptly named Doris and Me because every moment and step of my life has been guided and shaped by her and her work.
VCOS: Did she have a particularly keen business sense that enable her to always shift gears and move to whatever was the next popular idiom?
SCOTT: I think so. I also think that she was lucky enough to have those opportunities open up to her and have people looking out for her along the way. She always envisioned her life as getting married, having kids, and being a housewife. She always believed that our destinies are born to us, and her destiny led her along the path that she went on.
VCOS: How did you go about developing the show?
SCOTT: I was performing at the Lawrence Welk Resort Theatre in San Diego and I had mentioned to the artistic director that I had this fascination with Doris and that I’ve always dreamed of creating a show about her. So he said, “Well, let’s do it here.” To be truthful, when he said that, it was very daunting and a little scary, only because I love her so much that I wanted to make sure I told the right story, sang the right songs, and honor and celebrate her as best as I could. So I did a two-day workshop of the show in Palm Springs at a friend’s theater, just to kind of figure out what needed to be changed and how it needed to be shaped. I was continually adding and changing things. We added something to the show last year, because no matter how many songs I sing in the show – and I sing quite a few – someone will always come up afterwards and say, “Hey, I wish you could have sung this song.” So I started collecting those songs and in every single show, I do something called “Pick of the Day” where I will literally, at sound check, go through a song with my piano player and we’ll add it to the show. So there’s always a new element. I’m really just trying to find wonderful new ways to visit her story and celebrate her.
VCOS: I find it unusual for a man to doing a tribute to a woman. It doesn’t really happen that way, and it makes me wonder about gender-specific songs Doris Day sang in her career, such as “A Guy Is a Guy.” What do you do about that?
SCOTT: I don’t sing “A Guy Is a Guy” in the show. That’s one thing I haven’t been able to figure out without changing the lyric to “a girl is a girl.” It would then be a completely different song. But that’s probably the only song of hers that I haven’t been able to make work. But with things like “Little Girl Blue,” I sing it to her or I sing it about her, so what I think makes the show interesting is that nobody can compare me to Doris because I’m a man. And that makes it different from your usual tribute show. When you see someone doing a Frank Sinatra show or a Judy Garland show, we immediately judge the show on how much they sound like that singer. For me, my show is just about celebrating her and the profound impact she’s had on my life. The greatest thing about getting to do the show is discovering just how beloved she is. I meet so many people after the show and hear about their favorite movies or their favorite songs.
VCOS: Where did you get the stories that you use in the show?
SCOTT: The “holy grail,” as I joke, is Doris’ autobiography. Her stories have morphed over the years by so many different people, but I go to the source and my show is based mostly on that.
VCOS: Have you gotten any input from her personally?
SCOTT: She knows about the show, which is surreal and more humbling than I will ever be able to tell you. This may sound like Pollyanna, or Doris Day, for that matter, but I truly wrote the show to celebrate her because I think she needs to be celebrated. The end. And I never, in a million years, would think that she would know who I am or what I’m doing. But she is very well aware of it. One thing that I try to do at a lot of the venues is to do a benefit for animals or sold CDs and collected money for animals. All in all, I’ve probably raised ten thousand dollars for animals, local charities, and, of course, the Doris Day Animal Foundation. I’m a huge animal person and, as you know, that’s Doris Day’s biggest cause.
VCOS: Is there any chance that she’ll ever see your show herself?
SCOTT: Well, we’re doing this show here at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. Then, I’ll be doing it at the El Portal in North Hollywood in March. On her birthday weekend each year, the Doris Day Animal Foundation does a huge benefit for Doris and I’ve been invited to do the show at her 92nd birthday celebration. Her birthday is April 3rd. There is no guarantee of her appearance. When she turned 90, she made her first public appearance in two decades, and we’ve been told not to expect her to attend, but in the smallest part of my heart, I hope that she’ll be there. If she isn’t, then it’s enough to know that she’s aware of the show and knows that she’s being honored and celebrated.
Doris and Me plays through this weekend at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. For dates and showtimes, see the VC On Stage Calendar.