Carson Kressley couldn’t imagine a nicer place than the Ogunquit Playhouse to make his stage debut.

Kressley, a TV star and celebrity stylist best known for his work on the Bravo network hit “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” makes his theater debut in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” the season-opening title in the summer season at Ogunquit Playhouse.

Kressley stars with another TV celeb, Georgia Engel, in the play, which opens tonight and runs through June 26.

“I’ve done a few Broadway benefits, one-night Broadway things, and I did a couple of plays in college. But I have never done a professional theatrical thing. So this is my debut,” Kressley said.

It’s not his first time at the Ogunquit theater, though. “I was here a few years ago to see a friend in ‘La Cage aux Folles.’ I fell in love with the theater then,” he said. “It’s so charming, so quaint. I love the green awning and the flags. I love everything about it. When they asked me to come back and do a show here, I was quite flattered.”

He said yes because, “I prescribe to the William Shatner theory of work: I do everything. People say, ‘Do you want to do this commercial? Do you want to do this reality show?’ Unless it’s awful, I say yes. Taking on a variety of projects leads to bigger projects.”

Kressley calls the live-theater experience a little daunting. He’s used to the camera rolling and saying whatever comes to mind. That’s the nature of reality TV.

But live theater is a different game.

“I have to say a specific word at a specific time, so the other actors know to say their words and then the orchestra starts to play, and then a lot of choreography happens,” he says.

So far, so good.

Kressley has been in Maine for two weeks preparing for the show. He’s buckled down during rehearsals, and feels good about his abilities.

“It’s like anything else,” he said. “The more you work, the more you invest, the better you become. It’s like studying for an exam. You go over the material and go over the material. Once you know it and it is in you, then you can add the nuance.”

Kressley is playing a character known as the Man in Chair. He’s an obsessive fan of old musicals, who imagines performers coming to life in his shabby apartment whenever he plays the music from a favorite cast recording.

Engel reprises the role of Mrs. Tottendale, which she created for the Broadway debut of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” She’s a TV star of the highest order, best known as Georgette Baxter from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” She also starred in “Coach” and appeared with Ethel Merman in “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway.

Casey Hushion directs the show. She has directed extensively on Broadway, and works as artistic director of the North Carolina Theatre.

Kressley has had a grand time in Ogunquit. He’s been given the red-carpet treatment by the folks at the theater, as well as at hot spots in town.

He’s in Maine at an interesting time in his life and career.

A new show of his, a summer reality TV program called “True Beauty,” is showing on ABC. He’s got a few other things in the works, and has spent some of his time in Ogunquit checking out locations for other potential projects.

His only regret about “The Drowsy Chaperone” is that his character is a bit frumpy — hardly the fashion pro that Kressley plays in real life.

“I guess you could say that the Man in Chair is a different, older version of me in a bad cardigan,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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