As the crown jewel in Newcastle’s vibrant gay scene, Boulevard has seen cast members come and go over the years. But, no exit was more of a shock than that the recent departure of Betty Legs Diamond, the cabaret venue’s star turn. Announcing he would be returning to Blackpool’s Funny Girls, Simon Green, the man behind Miss Diamond, left fans of Boulevard wondering who would fill Betty’s heels. Step forward Miss Danni Dee.
Danni was unveiled as the new leading lady of the venue and she and her Broadway dancers premiered their summer show this past weekend to packed audiences. They say behind every great woman is a great man (or something to that effect), so we grabbed the creator of ‘the bitchy showgirl’, 31-year-old Lancashire-born performer Danny Molloy, for a chat about her crowning as the new queen of the scene.
So first things first: Who is Danni Dee?
“Oh my god, Danni Dee is over-the-top, leggy, very goofy at times and always up for laugh. But like any diva she has an opposite side which can be a bit intimidating at times,” he says with a laugh. Unlike his alter ego, Danny seems anything but.
Born in Preston, Danny attended the Northern Ballet School. After graduating, he toured the world dancing professionally in theatre productions and on cruise ships before landing in Blackpool, where he danced at Funny Girls, the famous cabaret venue.
“Shortly after moving to London after two years with Betty at Funny Girls, I found myself joining a corporate dance/drag troupe doing big events all over the UK and abroad,” he tells me. “After that I decided to branch out and create Danni, and set up The Danni Dee Show at Freedom Bar Soho, which is now in its 7th year of residency.”
His residency at said London bar is extremely popular, attracting a following of celebrities and West End performers. “This is really cringe, but I admire all my West End friends so much,” he says genuinely. “They are all extremely talented people and supported me from the get go. I doubt I would be where I am with out them, I’ve learnt a lot from them over the years, and can’t thank them enough!”
Thanks to the popularity of The Danni Dee Show, he was approached earlier this year with an opportunity to join Boulevard. A phone call from the show’s host and compere, Dan Cunningham AKA Miss Rory initially left Danny feeling nervous.
“I’d been to Boulevard a couple of times to visit Betty, who I’ve known and worked with for about 10 years now and I met Miss Rory through her.
Funnily enough Rory was in London watching my show and then called me the next day to tell me the goings on (Betty’s departure) and when I got the voicemail I honestly thought I’d upset her or embarrassed her at the show.”
You can tell that there is a firm friendship between the three performers.
“From that initial phone call, me and Betty met up for lunch in London and put a show together…it all happened so fast it is still a little bit of a blur, even more so with still touring the UK with my solo show whilst putting a show together and rehearsing it in Newcastle.”
I ask him about Newcastle. It must be a change from Soho, the famous gay quarter of London. “Newcastle seems great. I haven’t ventured around much yet though because of a hectic schedule.” He recounts a story about already being recognised in a Newcastle Starbucks (“which made me giggle!”) but alludes to one particular cast mate as a bad influence. “I’m going have to get the cast to show me the sights. I would ask Rory but she’d just take me to the gay bars…”
In the past Boulevard has been known as an all-singing, all-dancing classic musical theatre revue. Everything from Fosse to Wicked and Les Miserables to Liza have been performed on the stage of the venue, which was last year named Newcastle’s Best Bar by the Chronicle. What can we expect from this new era?
“In the summer show we take you from where Betty left off, with a great traditional musical theatre opener. Then the pace and energy of the show takes you on a journey of different genres, ranging from musical theatre to a full arena concert-style diva routine, which people have been going crazy for. I love to see the audience up on their feet dancing with us!
My dream number to perform is actually in this show so if you wanna know what that is then get your booties to come see us!”
Danny seems cool, calm and collected – the exact opposite of what one would expect someone with a show of this stature in his control to be. He must have some fears. “LOTS! The main one is a costume change which happens on stage in the finale where I have less than 10 seconds to change,” he tells me. “It’s tight as it is and any slip ups and everything could go badly wrong! But if it does I’ll just blame (fellow dancer) Candy!”
The Boulevard Summer Show runs until September 17. For tickets, visit the box office in person, call 0191 250 7068 or click here