Kelly Kay Brock|
November 23, 1959
Connie Champagne, née Kelly Kay Brock, born November 23, 1959 is an American singer, song-writer and actor. She won the SF Weekly Wammie Award for Outstanding Cabaret/Lounge Performer. She is known for performing the character of actress, Judy Garland including Christmas With the Crawfords in 2001 and Imagine Judy Garland: An Evening With Connie Champagne in 2003. She won a 2007 San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award (BACTC) for her role in Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Specializing in numerous styles of music and theater including cabaret, swing, jazz, rock and roll, and musical theater, Champagne performed in numerous venues throughout the US and Europe.
Champagne was born and raised in Roseville, California. She got her start at 9 years old singing with Bob Ringwald (father of film star Molly Ringwald) at the Placer County Fair. Despite a chaotic and sometimes painful childhood, her grandfather, former Detroit Lions football star Ernie Caddel encouraged her to pursue singing and acting as a career. After early attempts at singing with local rock bands, including 'The Innocents' with Ric Walz-Smith and featuring then boyfriend, Eric Martin, vocalist of the band, Mr. Big. In Sacramento, Connie starred in a summer music workshop production of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' with Eric Martin. She starred in the role of Mary Magdalene as Kelly Brock. Champagne spent the early 80s as a vocalist for avant garde rock group Clocks of Paradise which featured Michael Belfer of The Sleepers, Mark Isham, Brian MacLeod, and Benjamin Bossi from Romeo Void, which led her to a stint is as a back-up for singer for Debora Iyall, and eventually Romeo Void. She toured extensively with Iyall, including tours with Cyndi Lauper and Jim Carroll. Champagne switched gears and decided to study acting, landing her first role at the San Francisco’s Magic Theater, in a play "Love In the 3rd Degree”, written by noted actress O-Lan Jones. After performances at Theater on the Square, Climate Theater, and Theater Artaud, Champagne decided to study acting formally and earned her MFA from the American Conservatory Theater, where she also taught acting to youth for a number of years. During this time met former Cockette Scrumbly Koldewyn and the 2 formed the neo-cabaret group “Connie Champagne and her Tiny Bubbles,” which won numerous accolades include the SF Wammie Award for Outstanding Cabaret Performer. She also graduated from Mills College with a BA in Theater Arts. Champagne was originally named “Kelly Brock,” but the nickname “Champagne” stuck and is now her legal name. Prior to Champagne’s irreverent approach to the “Great American Songbook,” cabaret artists primarily stuck to one genre, and Champagne “broke the rules.” Champagne’s unique repertoire incorporated more modern songs written by artists such as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Patti Smith and has since been emulated by many artists who came later including Justin Bond and Paula West. In the 1990s she recorded and toured with swing pioneers The New Morty Show, featuring band leader Morty Okin and singer Vise Grip including a 1-year engagement at the New York New York Hotel in Las Vegas, celebrating the music of Keely Smith and Louis Prima, Anita O’Day, and Louis Jordan. She still sings occasionally with the group.
In 1992, Champagne starred as Neely O’Hara in Phillip R. Ford’s adaptation of ”Valley of the Dolls,” which ran for 4 months. She was spotted by director F. Allen Sawyer, who cast her as the legendary Judy Garland in a holiday spoof “Christmas With The Crawfords,” which ran each holiday season for 12 years, playing in both LA and NYC. Working with drag performers Joey Arias and Doris Fish, was an inspiration to Champagne, and she credits them for helping develop vivid characters, and began her interest in the work of Charles Ludlam’s Theater of the Ridiculous. Champagne then performed at many night clubs as Judy, using her same eclectic approach singing Garland classics along with contemporary songs, produced by Harry Lit and the late Dan Kryston. Sawyer, along with musical director Joe Wicht developed “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” at New Conservatory Theater which garnered several awards including the Bay Area Theater Critic’s Circle Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Musical. She then was cast in 2 Los Angeles productions of “Judy’s Scary Little Christmas” directed by Broadway legend Kay Cole. For this performance Champagne won the Ovation Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. She often appears in clubs as Garland, and when asked if she is bored with being type cast in the Garland role, she answered “No—the character is always complex & interesting—plus I’m a performer and I like to work!”
Champagne has done numerous voiceover projects including the voice of Budgie in the animated feature FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue, voice-directed by Jack Fletcher and work with Nik Phelps and the Sprocket Ensemble.
Champagne has also performed in 2008 Dusty Springfield tribute show Brand New Me. In 2009, Champagne reunited with Musical Director Scrumbly Koldewyn and began working with the award-winning underground theater group the Thrillpeddlers, and most recently appeared in Marat/Sade, directed by Russell Blackwood and produced by impresario Marc Huestis. In 2012, Champagne appeared in Trevor Anderson’s Award winning independent film The Man That Got Away, which was featured internationally, including Berlinale Berlin, LA’s OutFest and Toronto’s HotDocs Film Festivals.
In the spring of 2016, Champagne appeared as Judy Garland in Landmark Musical Theatre's Bay area premiere production of The Boy From Oz.
She is currently based in San Francisco.
Involvement with Mark Eitzel
- "Swing! The New-Retro Renaissance" V.Vale, V/Search Publications, (1998)
- "Hardcore California A History of Punk and New Wave", Peter Belsito and Bob Davis, Last Gasp Publications, (8th printing, October 2004)
- "Ferngully 2-The Magical Rescue” IMBD, Fox Video 1998
- Whiting, Sam (June 17, 2010). "Connie Champagne almost a born Garland". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- Lovendusky, Eugene (July 14, 2007), "Connie Champagne in 'Yellow Brick Road' at NCTC Opens 7/14", Broadway World, retrieved January 25, 2010
- Genzlinger, Neil (November 27, 2001), "THEATER REVIEW; Dragging Out Essentials of a Holiday Perennial", The New York Times, retrieved January 25, 2010
- Guthmann, Edward (June 26, 2003), "Singer Connie Champagne brings Judy Garland to life -- as she might have been today", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved January 25, 2010
- Lipton, Brian (March 7, 2008), "Hines, Lumbly, Payne, Ruta, Woods, et al. Win 2007 BACCA Awards", Theater Mania, retrieved January 25, 2010
- Dodds, Richard (July 17, 2008), "Echoes of the Dusty Springfield songbook", Bay Area Reporter, retrieved January 25, 2010
- "Landmark Musical Theatre". Landmark Musical Theatre. Retrieved 4 February 2016.