Felicia Finley knows when she stars as Lola in the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport's production of "Damn Yankees," she'll have more than just "a little brains, a little talent" on her side. She'll also have inspiration from Broadway's original Lola.

"I knew Gwen Verdon," Finley says of doing "Hey, Big Spender" with the late Tony Award winner in a 1998 AMFAR benefit. "She was mesmerizing to watch. 'No' wasn't in her vocabulary. She believed fear doesn't exist; especially when you're creating, there's no time for fear. That holds back the creative process, and that was just not an option in her world."

Finley, a Broadway vet herself who's starred in "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Aida" and "The Wedding Singer," hopes to be just as fearless when "Damn Yankees," which also features Andre

De Shields as the devilish Mr. Applegate, comes up to bat first in the theater's season of great American musicals.

THE LADY IS A VAMP As much as Finley admires Verdon, she also plans to bring her own personality to Lola, which she says is "one of the top three roles you hope cross your path."

"I'm not as cutesy," she says. "On 'Who's Got the Pain,' I'm actually singing. It's always been such a patter song, but I'm actually able to excavate the vocals and get under the notes."

And she's also not afraid to vamp it so the audience really believes it when she sings "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets."

"The number is more sensual, but it's still got the funny in there. I'm not poking out of the lockers," Finley says. "That was cute for the time in 1955. When it came to sex then, you couldn't even say it out loud. So doing the number this way will probably be fresh for people to see."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

SHE ROCKS Finley, 38, still has a trace of her New Orleans accent and strong ties to the city ("Everything smells like oil," she says of her recent trip home. "It's heartbreaking.")

The girl from the Big Easy is also a hard rocker, who last year released an album, "Great Mood for a Tuesday," featuring music written by her husband, Paul Stancato, and performed with his band - known collectively as the Felicia Finley Project. "I feel like I married my husband plus five other guys," she says.

Even Lola never went that far.