Songs, a side of comedy

Kathy Najimy: Actress-activist a perfect choice to join show featuring issues of interest to women

February 18, 2011 

Actress and activist Kathy Najimy was surprised when the Seattle Women's Chorus asked her to be a guest star with the group.

“I’m not a singer,” she said. “I don’t have an act. I kept saying to them, ‘Are you sure?’ People know me as a singer because I sing in some movies, but I’m a character who sings. I’ve never done a nightclub act, like ‘Kathy Najimy does Gershwin.’ It was a little bit of a challenge to come up with numbers that are familiar and organic and me — where there is a reason that Kathy is doing this and not someone else.”

But if she doesn’t see herself as a singer, Najimy is otherwise a good fit with the chorus, said Dennis Coleman, artistic director of the Seattle Men’s Chorus and the Seattle Women’s Chorus. Both groups work to increase awareness and acceptance of gays and lesbians in American culture, in addition to performing.

“I’ve been a fan of hers for a number of years,” Coleman said. “When we wanted to do a comedy show, I thought she was a perfect choice. She is not only a great actress and comedian, but she is well known as a speaker on some of the issues we deal with, like women’s rights and GLBT rights. Her entertainment value is very high, and her work in social justice is quite impressive.”

While she’s probably best known for roles in TV’s “King of the Hill” and the film “Sister Act,” Najimy has won awards for her AIDS activism. In 2005 she was named Ms. Magazine’s Woman of the Year.

When she and the chorus team up Sunday in Olympia, Najimy will sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” from “Sister Act”; do a couple of songs from the musical “Working,” based on Studs Terkel’s book; perform an original song called “Don’t Take My Food Away” (to the tune of “Don’t Rain on My Parade”); and do a monologue about women and weight.

“All of my pieces have a point of view that’s a through line in the work that I do,” she said. “I’m a feminist and a human-rights activist.”

Najimy also will perform a sketch about gay marriage in the character of Aunt Maddie – a character created for “The Kathy and Mo Show,” which started out off Broadway and moved to HBO. Aunt Maddie appears in “Parallel Lives,” which Najimy co-authored and is playing through Sunday at the Midnight Sun in downtown Olympia.

“Maddie can say things other people can’t,” Najimy said. “You explore with her as she learns. Her reaction could be my mom’s reaction. That’s why people can relate. It’s not coming from a schooled politician or an activist who wants to sway opinion.”

The concert is themed around issues of interest to women and around Najimy’s career, including a segment on Catholic girls, featuring music from “Sister Act” and “The Sound of Music,” and another Texas-flavored segment in honor of her role as Peggy on “King of the Hill.”

“We’ll have music from various musicals; some contemporary songs that are very funny; songs by James Taylor, Bette Midler and Dolly Parton — all kinds of things,” Coleman said.

Seattle Women’s Chorus with Kathy Najimy

What: Actress, comedian and activist Kathy Najimy joins the 200-voice chorus for a show debuting in Olympia before moving to Seattle next week.

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia

Tickets: $19.50-$31.50 for adults; $17.50-$28 for students, seniors and military; $9.75-$15.75 for youths

Information: 360-753-8586, www.washingtoncenter.org

Meet Aunt Maddie: As part of the evening, Najimy will perform “Outlaw Marriage,” a sketch about gay marriage. Her character, Aunt Maddie, was first seen in a “Kathy and Mo Show” sketch in which she tells about her nephew’s coming out. See it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4dZX1eoDwU

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