By FRANK RIZZO, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
January 24, 2014
An agent once asked actress Didi Conn, "Do you really talk that way?"
It was a voice that sounded like a Brooklyn pixie and the young woman fresh from American Musical Dramatic Academy landed a root beer commercial, one of scores she made over the years, not to mention cartoon voices for many Hanna Barbera animated series, including "The Jetsons."
But she showed she could be more than a voice with plenty of guest starring roles on television shows and featured roles in films, the most well known as "Frenchy" in the films "Grease" and "Grease 2."
Now the actress is exercising her stage chops in "The Underpants," as a noisy neighbor (aka "the mouth who lives upstairs"). The show, which Steve Martin adapted from a German farce by Carl Sternheim, is playing at Hartford Stage through Feb. 9, a co-production with New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre where it played earlier in the season.
"Grease" became one of the most successful musicals in its day. "When we were making the film we were already talking about making the sequel," she says. "It was to take place during summer school but Paramount passed on it because they didn't think 'Grease' would be a success."
When the the box office went through the roof in 1978 so did the salaries of stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton John made an immediate sequel impossible.
But eventually Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield starred in a 1982 sequel with Conn, but it was not a hit with the critics and ended any hope of a "Grease" franchise.
Conn, who is married to composer David Shire, says she never knows which project her fans feel a special connection with wither it be TV series such as "Benson" or "The Practice" or the animated feature film "Raggedy Ann and Andy." "Cute men in their 20s connect with me [as Stacy Jones] from "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" and the children's series "Shining Time Station" [which ran from 1989 to 1992]. "
She is currently developing a children's series but in the meantime, is delighted to be in the 'Underpants' farce. "Steve Martin gives the play a very fresh, smart and silly spin," she says. "And people who are Steve Martin fans really get the humor. There's even a banjo joke in the show."
'UNDERPANTS' continues through Feb. 9 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St.. For ticket information: www.hartfordstage.org or 860-527-5151.
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