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Meet girl group that gets back together to once again entertain as 'The Bikinis'

Four actresses share their lives and reveal tidbits about upcoming Broadway Rose show


by: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER FOR THE BROADWAY ROSE THEATRE COMPANY - STILL HAVING FUN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS - Laurie Campbell-Leslie (left), Sharon Maroney, Emily Sahler and Lisamarie Harrison actually could have been a girl group called the Bikinis a couple of decades ago as their voices blend beautifully.Just because the newest Broadway Rose Theatre Company production is called "The Bikinis," audience members shouldn't expect to see any actual bikinis on the four actresses, much to their relief.

When asked if they will wear bikinis, Sharon Maroney's response was, "No!" Emily Sahler's was "Gawd no!" Laurie Campbell-Leslie is "doubly happy" she's not wearing a bikini, and Lisamarie Harrison agrees with them.

As the plot unfolds, four members of a hit '60s girl group long since disbanded - two sisters, a cousin and their best friend - are called out of retirement for one last performance as they try to raise money to save the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort from development.

Sharon Maroney

Sharon Maroney, co-founder and producing artistic director of Broadway Rose who plays Karla, the slightly manipulative cousin of two sisters in the rock group, said of the group, "All these actresses are funny. And it's great to sing with singers who are stellar heavyweights.

"I can relate to the music. I have never performed in a group, but I would love to! I would love to sing with a big band!"

The "Bikinis" songs are done in four-part harmony, "and the arrangements will sound familiar to the audience," Maroney said. "It's girl-group stuff. The first time we sang together, it sounded great!”

According to Maroney, Broadway Rose holds annual auditions in March, "but I didn't cast this show until the end of the summer. Lots of talented people auditioned, but I decided to wait a while to cast the show. In the end I cast these women over the phone. I had seen them perform before, and I knew they would make a good group.”

Maroney and her husband, Dan Murphy, who is co-founder and general manager of Broadway Rose, are now producing their 23rd season. The couple met doing summer stock in Pennsylvania in 1984 and married in 1987. Living and working in New York, they wanted to start their own theater and incorporated Broadway Rose in 1991; they had a friend from Tigard, so they took a huge leap of faith and came to Tigard in the summer of 1992.

After putting on six shows that summer, they went back to New York but moved here permanently the next year.

They primarily produced summer shows until opening their New Stage and offices in 2009 in the former C.F. Tigard Elementary cafetorium following a multi-million-dollar fundraising campaign to pay for extensive remodeling and now produce six shows a year.

Emily Sahler

"It's such a hoot to sing with these crazy broads," said Emily Sahler, who plays Barbara, the sisters' best friend, and added, "Of course, we're way too young to play these roles! But all of us are having a blast.”

She started singing and acting lessons at age 11 and appeared in high school shows before starting college at the University of Oklahoma-Norman and finishing up a degree in theater at Portland State University.

Now Sahler has a part-time day job, is raising a third-grader and performs in a variety of venues around the area although the number varies each year. "Some years are fuller than others," she said.

Sahler has appeared on the Broadway Rose stage before, as Mrs. Tottendale in "The Drowsy Chaperone" and Bernice in "Bingo," and she also has worked for other metro theater companies, including Artists Repertory Theatre, Lakewood Theatre and Portland Civic Theatre.

Her television credits include "Portlandia" and "Leverage," and she directs interactive murder mysteries for Wild Bill's and performs jazz and cabaret at Tony Starlight's. She also plays Lizzie as part of Portland Center Stage's ongoing series, "Sounds Like Portland."

Laurie

Campbell-Leslie

Laurie Campbell-Leslie, who plays Annie, one of the sisters, is new to the Broadway Rose stage.

"I've auditioned before, but it hasn't worked out," she said. "I'm very excited to be working with the others. I've worked with each of them but never had the privilege to work at the Broadway Rose."

However, Campbell-Leslie has appeared in many other metro-area productions, playing such iconic roles as Dolly in 'Hello, Dolly!" plus Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeny Todd," Marian (the librarian) in "The Music Man" and Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady."

Growing up in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Campbell-Leslie did "lots of high school theater, didn't study much but did great in school and was involved in everything."

However, after high school, she buckled down, earned her education degree and teaching credential, taught high school and got married. After Campbell-Leslie's parents moved to the Portland-Vancouver area, she and her husband followed and settled in east Vancouver.

"I stopped teaching when I had my son and then started working at my family's business fulltime, which is selling veterinary supplies," Campbell-Leslie said.

"This is my first show this year, and I did one show last year," she added. "I did a cabaret series and also do singing gigs, and I have a one-woman show. I could never do one show right after another - I would miss my children's bedtime stories - but I have had some great roles."

Campbell-Leslie said she likes venturing into new territory to "meet new people and try new things."

And she loves being in “The Bikinis.” "As soon as we sang the first song together, it felt like home," she said. "It is so great to work with these funny ladies."

Lisamarie Harrison

Lisamarie Harrison, who plays Jodi, the other sister, has been a singer/actress/choreographer in the Portland area for more than 30 years and points out with pride that she was in Broadway Rose's first show during its first season, which was "Grease."

"I came back in 2005 for 'Nunsense,' and now they can't get rid of me," she said. "I keep showing up like a bad penny."

Harrison also has appeared in the Broadway Rose shows "Pump Boys & Dinettes," "Honky Tonk Angels," "Sisters of Swing" and "Christmas of Swing."

"I love these ladies in the show," she said. "We all know each other and are all friends. Each one of us has a distinctive vocal quality. This cast is made up of powerhouses, and everyone is so great to work with.”

Like most working actors, Harrison appeared in high school plays, and then she spent one year in college studying dance and theater, and has been performing ever since.

"This is my job," she said. "I average three to five shows a year - usually it's four. And I perform in cabaret shows and films, and I'll be shooting a film next year. It's a locally produced, independent film called 'Senseless Confidential.'

"Last year I did a film called 'Future Perfect' - it was my first lead role - and I've done a number of short films. I'm so blessed. I've had no shortage of opportunities - I'm amazed - there are so many opportunities to work in Portland. I try to take a few weeks off in between projects."

Harrison also is the managing director for her own company, Circle Theatre Project, and she did an episode of the second season of "Leverage."

As for "The Bikinis," "it is fun, fun, fun," she said.