Diana DeGarmo does Dolly in ‘9 to 5’

‘9 to 5:  The Musical’
Sept. 28 – Oct. 3 at the Fox Theatre
660 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308

One thing producers pointed out to DeGarmo is that Parton and the character she played — Doralee Rhodes — aren’t the same person.

“It was an iconic role for her, but they are definitely different,” says DeGarmo, who has met Parton a few times.

DeGarmo and Parton are nowhere near the same age when they played the role.

“The women in the movie were near the same age, but here they are spread out in their 20s, 30s and 40s,” DeGarmo says. Another slight change is that the character of Violet gets a love interest.

Born in Birmingham and raised in Snellville, Ga., DeGarmo currently lives in Nashville, Tenn., where the national tour of the musical will kick off. The performer finished as the runner-up to Fantasia in season three of “American Idol,” one of the closest “Idol” races ever. She was a mere 16 at the time. She still believes that she would be headed in the same direction, but acknowledges that the experience jumpstarted her career.

“‘Idol’ put me on the map,” she says. “I went from zero to hero, a household name.”

DeGarmo says that she still checks in with Fantasia and stays current with each season’s competitors, although she is too busy to watch the show fervently.  She does admit that “when you’re an ‘Idol’ alum, everyone wants to know your opinion” on each year’s singers.

Since “Idol” DeGarmo has appeared in a number of Broadway musicals. One was “Hairspray,” where she took on the role of Penny Pingleton, Tracy Turnblad’s sidekick.

“I was just a baby when I did that,” she says.  “I was 18 and I got to hide behind the wig and the glasses. It was a lot of fun — I got away with doing what I wanted to do.”

When she played Sheila in the recent revival of “Hair” it was a different experience.  It was a more adult role, one that required more range — and less clothing. DeGarmo had to strip down for the role.

“I had to break out of my shell and my clothes, but I grew as a person and a performer by doing it,” she says.

DeGarmo has attended the Fox Theatre as long as she can remember. One of her first roles was in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” where she was part of the chorus.

Years later after “Idol” she appeared in a national tour of “Brooklyn The Musical,” headlining with Melba Moore.  She loves playing here in her backyard where friends and family can come watch her. DeGarmo does note that while Broadway houses are elaborate, they don’t compare in size to the Fox, where thousands pour in every night.

DeGarmo has always been comfortable around gays and lesbians and is proud to be considered an LGBT icon.

“Put me in a room and I’m gay flypaper — the gays will find me,” she laughs. “With ‘Idol” and now musical theater, I feel like I’m a hit in the community.”


Top photo: Diana DeGarmo takes on the character made famous by Dolly Parton in the touring show of ‘9 to 5.’ (Photo courtesy Theatre of the Stars)