Actor Spotlight

This popular Dallas actress plays to her strengths and loves a good scandal

This Dallas actress plays to her strengths and loves a good scandal

Denise Lee in Hot Mikado
M. Denise Lee as Katisha in Hot Mikado, playing through April 5 at Theatre Three. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three
Dallas actor Denise Lee
M. Denise Lee has performed on stages all over Dallas-Fort Worth. Photo courtesy of Denise Lee
Denise Lee in Rapunzel at Dallas Children's Theater
Lee as Lady Za Za in Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale at Dallas Children's Theater. Photo by Karen Almond
Denise Lee in Hot Mikado
Dallas actor Denise Lee
Denise Lee in Rapunzel at Dallas Children's Theater

When M. Denise Lee says she’s performed “everywhere,” she’s not exaggerating. The talented actor and singer is a staple on Dallas and Fort Worth stages, as well as a popular presence on the cabaret scene.

After reprising her role in The Last Session at Uptown Players’ Pride Festival, starring as Lady Za Za in Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale at Dallas Children’s Theater, and traveling through time in Dallas Theater Center’s Stagger Lee, Lee lands in 1940s Japan for Theatre Three’s Hot Mikado, playing through April 5.

Lee took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun and sometimes ridiculous questions.

Name: M. Denise Lee

Role in Hot Mikado: Katisha

Previous work in the DFW area: Everywhere

Hometown: Born in St. Louis

Where you currently reside: Dallas

First theater role: College: Kid in Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd. Professional: Lizbeth in Po.

First stage show you ever saw: Dreamgirls

Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: I’ve known I wanted to act since I was 7, but what confirmed it was seeing Shirley McFatter play Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the West End Theater.

Most challenging role you’ve played: There were two Billie Holidays and The Witch in Into The Woods.

Something you’re REALLY bad at: Nothing. Because once I realize I’m really bad at it, I stop it! LOL. I stay in my lane.

Current pop culture obsession: Probably binge watching the latest shows on Netflix or Hulu. I do believe I set a record for watching the entire season of House of Cards. That’s about as trendy as I get.

Last book you read: The Raw Pearl by Pearl Bailey. I would really love to do a show about her.

Favorite movie(s): The Color Purple, The Usual Suspects, Shawshank Redemption and Harlem Nights — all movies that no matter what I’m doing, if they’re on, I can’t stop watching.

Favorite musician(s): I love great singers. Singers who tell stories. Stevie Wonder would be a favorite. I also love India Arie.

Favorite song: That’s too hard. It depends on the day and my mood. Today’s song would probably be “Easy” by the Commodores.

Dream role: Wow. I’ve already played a few of my dream roles. I would love to be Dolly [in Hello, Dolly!]. Also Rose in Fences and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.

Favorite play(s): Anything August Wilson.

Favorite musical(s): The Lion King. It was the first Broadway show I took my daughters to, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Favorite actors/actresses: Merle, Audra, Ms. Tyson, Mr. Poitier. I’ve always been a fan of Paul Newman.

Favorite food: I love Mexican food. Maybe because that’s where you find the best margaritas. But I digress.

Must-see TV show(s): Like everyone else, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and, upcoming, The Catch.

Something most people don’t know about you: I cry REALLY easily.

Place in the world you’d most like to visit: Italy is high up on the list. Egypt as well.

Pre-show warm-up: Actually, nothing.

Favorite part about your current role: She’s big and boisterous and completely over the top! A lot of fun.

Most challenging part about your current role: To make her fun for the audience without being too hammy.

Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: I like mentoring. Working with youth.

Favorite post-show spot: Home!

Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: Our theater community. We truly are family. 

Most memorable theater moment: Sharing the stage with my daughter [Traci Lee] in Stagger Lee at the Dallas Theater Center.