She has performed the show nationwide for about six years. But a bit of Quinn Lemley’s heart, and her latest audience chatter, connects to her Columbus hometown and the family food business these days.

So it is for her “Burlesque to Broadway” revue slated for a stop Friday at the 1,700-seat Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKyPAC) in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. It marks the closest that the presentation will get to south-central Indiana.

A group of Columbus area residents plans to attend.

“People think I’m making up some of these stories,” said Lemley, speaking from a New York City rehearsal space for the show.

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She referred to the colorful characters and happenings from The Buffy chicken-and-ribs restaurant that her parents, Max and Christine Lemley, once operated in Columbus.

“I rewrote the lyrics to ‘Hey Big Spender,’ (as a commercial jingle while a pre-teen),” said the daughter, quickly vamping into her tasty tune with the line, “I can show you a thigh, thigh, thigh.”

She stopped and laughed. It never quite caught on.

“I think people were outraged at the double entendre,” she said. “But I was talking about thighs and breasts for chicken.”

Her newest version of “Burlesque to Broadway” celebrates the wit and winking humor of stage and film legends from Gypsy Rose Lee to Sally Rand to Fanny Brice.

“Nobody is taking their clothes off,” Lemley said, repeating what she has stated ever since she researched and pieced together the shimmying and sequined performance. “This is about the tease.”

Vaudeville jokes are wrapped in good-natured corniness, surrounded by a nine-piece big band.

“It’s an exciting, high-energy and sexy show that is modern in its sensibilities,” said music director Daniel Lincoln in an online promotional video clip.

The performance aims to do more than resurrect a piece of the past.

“The burlesque performers really shape-shifted our culture,” Lemley said. “Lady Gaga, I believe, takes some of her outrageous costuming and dancing from that era.”

Lemley, a former Columbus North High School student, understands a bit of change and shape-shifting herself. The woman who has appeared in everything from commercials to films gradually has begun to move behind the scenes.

She and longtime producer and friend Paul Horton co-directed and co-produced “Rebel Rebel: The Many Lives of David Bowie” in the fall. And the two also recently have co-produced the nationally touring “The Ultimate Queen Celebration” to salute Freddy Mercury’s opera-style rock band.

“My mother has become a (rock) groupie now,” the younger Lemley said of her mom, who has seen those shows multiple times. “But she didn’t exactly want me to listen to that music (in my teen years). Ideally, she wanted me to listen to opera and Broadway and Barbra Streisand.”

She did follow much of that musically refined path, including even studying opera as a 16-year-old in France with star veteran vocalist Christiane Castelli.

“But,” she said, “then I got my jazz vibe and my Broadway vibe.”

A flash of history

What: Columbus native Quinn Lemley’s jazzy-pop-Broadway-style show, “Burlesque to Broadway,” including tunes such as “Hey Big Spender” and “She’s a Lady.” Presented with a nine-piece big band.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKyPAC) in Bowling Green, Kentucky, near Nashville, Tennessee.

Tickets: $27.50 to $70.

Information: theskypac.com.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.