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The Gifts of Carole Demas

Carole Demas was the original wife of Stephen Schwartz's The Baker's Wife

By Carol de Giere

Carole Demas - first "wife" of The Baker's WifeBy the time she created the role of "Sandy Dumbrowski" for the opening of Grease on Broadway on Valentine's Day in 1972, Carole Demas had been carefully coached by her voice teacher how to sing in the newly popular Broadway sound for the romantic lead. Her training as a lyric-coloratura soprano would hardly have worked for the teen romance musical set in the 50s. "The Broadway musical was changing, and I knew I had to adapt," Demas once explained. "My voice teacher Felix Knight, decided that he would help me find a high chest voice without destroying the line of my lyric-coloratura training. He taught me to sing high chest voice like a tenor. It worked and has continued to work for me. That was a true gift in my life."

Since then she has generously offered her gifts as a performer and show creator. She spent a full two years playing the ingénue "Luisa" in The Fantasticks at New York's Sullivan Street Playhouse—another multifaceted role supported by her innocent essence, cultured upbringing, and stellar vocal skills.

Carole's low moments could have scared her away from show business altogether. She describes her No No Nannette experience as "dreadful." She had been cast as Nannette in the revival headed to Broadway in 1971. "The director had been hospitalized at the time and when he finally came to rehearsals and got started, he wanted someone who was dancer," she recalls. "He wanted someone who wasn't singing it in the keys the musical director had decided he wanted in, and that kind of stuff. And that was [supposed to be] my first big break, so that was pretty heartbreaking."

Her experience playing the title role in the original Broadway-bound production of Stephen Schwartz's The Baker's Wife was no less traumatic. Impresario David Merrick launched a firing binge during the pre-Broadway tryout and she was the first casualty. But it did mean that she was the first to learn Schwartz's "Gifts of Love," "Meadowlark," and "Where is the Warmth," singing them for the composer and for audiences.

Carole has enjoyed long periods in her life when things really seemed to be going right, like when she and her childhood friend Paula Janis created and co-starred in The Magic Garden, the most successful regional show in the history of children's television. It ran for 12 ˝ years and still has a loyal fan base for concerts and recordings as well as an active Facebook following.

Since her early days as Miss Vermont in The Miss Universe Pageant, she has always remained active as a performer, not only on stage, but in TV commercials and voice-overs for radio. She contributes to concerts for charity causes and plays a starring role in the life of her husband, audio engineer/producer Stuart Allyn. They share their secluded Westchester County home with two dogs, two cats and a turtle.

Some Comments from Carole Demas about "Meadowlark" and The Baker's Wife

In my interview with Carole for the Stephen Schwartz biography, Defying Gravity, she shared her views on Schwartz's "Meadowlark," among other topics. "It's very magic. It's a marathon and it's a real acting piece, and it's not only beautiful music but it weaves such a tale and there's so much that it reveals about the person whose singing it at the same time the story is being told."

David Merrick never liked "Meadowlark" and kept trying to get Schwartz to drop it from the show because he didn't think it was a suitable theatre song. Carole remembers having Merrick come to an early rehearsal and praising her performance. "He said you might even convince me that we should keep that damn bird song."

Read more about Carole Demas, Patti LuPone (the second person to play the title role), Kurt Peterson, Topol, Stephen Schwartz, and the whole making of The Baker's Wife in Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked Chapter 9; and EXTRAS chapter "Updates and New Projects"

[story copyrighted by Carol de Giere]

You can hear Carole on the original Grease recording and on the CD and DVD

Magic Garden Cast album/DVD

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