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by Kathy Henderson

A NOBLE QUEENIE Gretha Boston didn't have to look far for inspiration when cast as Queenie in Show Boat. "I took what I knew  from the women who raised me," says Boston, a native of tiny Crossett, Arkansas.

"I watched the people in my neighborhood who'd go to work cleaning the white folks' houses and come home with the same dignity that they left with."

Boston's powerful performance, including a newly restored song, "Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun'," has been credited with stripping the Queenie character of any stereotypical "Aunt Jemima" qualities.

"Show Boat is a period piece, and we can't change history," Boston says simply. "The only thing we can do is try not to repeat it. Hal [director Harold Prince] told me he wanted to treat this piece as respectfully as he could, and I always felt that I was in good hands."

A classically trained singer, Boston had lived in New York for ten years working in real estate (as a condo/co-op conversion specialist) and publishing (working on pro sports souvenir programs) before Prince gave her this breakthrough role. "Show Boat has provided me the means to say, 'Okay, for once in your life, you can know what it feel like to do your craft [full time],' " notes Boston, who is single. "Where it will lead me, I don't know. I haven't decided about doing more musical theatre-it would have to be the classic pieces. But I love the fact that I don't have to go to the office anymore."

[[image - photograph by Michael Cooper]]
[[caption]] Boston (above) brings a quiet dignity to Show Boat's Queenie [[/caption]]

[[image - photograph by Joan Marcus]]
[[caption]] Brennan gets a nightly workout in Crazy for You [[/caption]]

HOME FROM THE ROAD Before settling in to play leading man Bobby Child in the Broadway company of Crazy for You, James Brennan starred in the touring production for 13 months. "I was away for most of my son's senior year in high school, and my wife, Kathel, and I talked a lot about how that might affect him," says Brennan.
"Early in the tour, Kathel called me and said: 'Jim! Jim! It's about Matt!' I said, 'What's wrong?' and she said, 'He just mowed the lawn without being asked!'" Laughing, Brennan adds, "Creative parenting usually doesn't include the option of going away for a year so your son can gain a sense of reponsibility."

Now that Matt is away at college, Brennan and Kathel, an actress who has appeared in more than 700 television commercials, are "empty-nesting" in New Jersey. Returning home on show days around midnight, the actor eats a meal to keep his weight up and gets to bed around 2 A.M. "You have to be careful about getting enough rest, but with a show like this, you can suspend your gym membership," he says of the strenuous workout provided by Susan Stroman's choreography.

Known for his ability to step into demanding, high-energy roles (including 42nd Street and Me and My Girl), Brennan says he doesn't mind being known as a star-quality replacement. "There isn't the onus there used to be because the business is very different now," he says. "The only goal I ever set for myself was to be able to make a living, so I've been quite content."


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