“I have to go and get my lashes put on. I need lashes for the gig!,” Ellen Foley said towards the end of this interview. The gig she’s referencing is Club Dada/Kabaret Kaput, a two person performance Foley conceived with Robert I Rubinsky, an actor best known for starring in the original Broadway musical Hair. The two will appear this Wednesday and Thursday, May 24th and 25th at downtown arts space Dixon Place. Tom Aulino directs, Musical direction is by Charly Roth and Robin Carregan will choreograph. Jonathan Freeman (the voice of Jafar in Aladdin), provides special voice over work.
Foley is a multi-hyphenate film and stage actor-rock singer-recording artist, best known for her collaboration with the late Meatloaf in the hit song, “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” The song is widely considered one of the best rock duets of all time and climbed the music charts, particularly in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Although Foley has a lengthy string of credits, including having originated the Witch in an early workshop of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, she is beloved primarily for the rock staple. “I love being remembered for it,” she said. “It’s like my moon landing. You do one thing in your life and people remember it forever. I can be a horny teenager ad infinitum! Even younger people know the song!”
Foley met the song’s composer, the late Jim Steinman, and Meatloaf when the three of them toured in a National Lampoon Musical Revue. “I was around the whole time Jim was creating the song and I was just in awe of what was coming out of him musically, “ she recalls. “There are so many things I can’t watch or listen to, but I’m proud of the way I sound on ‘Paradise’.”
Even from a young age, the St. Louis native set her sights on a career in rock ‘n roll. “I had a boyfriend in Webster College and we sang in a rock band. I did theater there, but we moved to New York and did rock gigs. At the same time, I was in a musical revue called Tuxedo Junction which was the squarest thing in the whole world!”
She made her Broadway debut in the musical Hair, and went on to pursue the “rock and roll thing.” By the mid-eighties, she was workshopping a musical with adult themes set against the backdrop of fairy tales. Although Bernadette Peters played the Witch in the opening cast of Into the Woods on Broadway, Foley later assumed the role and was there for the final performance. “On the final night, Sondheim gave everyone a copy of the score and in mine, he wrote ‘You are my alpha and omega’, because I was there at the beginning and the end.
After appearing in several films, including Cocktail and Fatal Attraction, Foley met her husband Doug Bernstein and had two boys. “I put all of that energy into my kids and was class mother. I got called to audition but I didn’t because I was invested in parenting.”
Lately, she’s been hard at work on Club Dada/Kabaret Kaput with her long-time friend Rubinsky. “It’s about two nameless characters who are old vaudevillians. They come on stage as though they were doing a traditional show but are stopped by this masterful voice (Freeman). Ultimately, they are forced to keep performing by this nameless, faceless voice. It’s a lot about age and it’s gonna be a hoot.
The pair performed the piece at Downtown’s LaMama in March 2020, but were forced to close due to the pandemic. “Years later, we’re bringing it back. We’ve worked so hard, and it’s taken great shape.” The 75-minute piece includes well known covers and an original tune called “I Want to Spank You in the Moonlight.” “Hopefully people will come and we’ll keep it going as a residency,’ Foley said.
At least we know the lashes will be on point.
Club Dada/Kabaret Kaput plays Dixon Place (161A Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side) on Wed May 24th and Thurs. May 25. Tickets are priced at $25.00 and can be purchased on www.dixonplace.org or www.ovationtickets.com