DEBUT OF THE MONTH: Jessie Mueller of ON A CLEAR DAY
Jessie Mueller is currently making her Broadway debut in ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER alongside Grammy and Emmy Award winner and multi-platinum recording artist Harry Connick, Jr. The production opened on December 11, 2011 at the St. James Theatre. The show tells the story of psychiatrist Dr. Mark Bruckner (Harry Connick, Jr.) who is still mourning the death of his wife. He unknowingly takes on the case of a lifetime with David Gamble (David Turner), a quirky young florists' assistant. While putting David under hypnosis to help him quit smoking, the doctor stumbles upon what he believes to be David's former self, a dazzling and self-possessed 1940's jazz singer Melinda Wells, played by Mueller. Dr. Bruckner finds himself swept up in the pursuit of an irresistible love affair with this woman from another time and place. With a new book by Peter Parnell, based on the original book by Alan Jay Lerner, the musical is reconceived and directed by Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer.
Jessie Mueller comes from a well-known family of performers in her hometown of Chicago. Her breakout role came this year when she starred as 'Miss Adelaide' in director Matt Raftery's production of "Guys and Dolls" at Chicago's Marriott Theatre. She followed that critically acclaimed performance in June with another musical playing at the Marriott, "Shout". This year, Ms. Mueller was the recipient of the 43rd Annual Equity Jeff Award and was named 'Chicagoan of the Year' in theater by the Chicago Tribune. What seemed like a fairytale year for the mega-talented actress was only the beginning when she was cast in the starring role of a Broadway musical opposite a major star.
Mueller took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with BWW about what it was like to have a true Cinderella story unfold as she made her debut on the Great White Way.
Well, I must start by noting that it’s one thing to have a Broadway debut, but it’s quite another to debut in a lead role opposite a major star like Harry Connick Jr. Talk about pressure! What was that like?
Well, the great thing about Harry is that, even from the very first time I met him, which was at the final audition, I was so nervous to go in there. I’d been a big fan of his for a long time. When I walked into the room, he was sitting in a chair with his back to me and I was like ‘Hi. I’m Jessie’ and he turned around and said, ‘Hi, I’m Harry.' And from that point on, he’s just been that kind of person. He’s just got such a great vibe about him. And he makes everyone feel so comfortable and just gets to work.
I read that on a recent appearance on 'The View', he referred to your talent as well, I think he actually called you a ‘super freak’, but in the most positive sense!
(Laughing) Yeah, I mean he has been amazing. He’s been so supportive and I’m even a bigger fan now, you know. He’s a great guy.
I know that you come from a well-known acting family in Chicago.
Yeah my whole family is in the business. My parents moved out to Chicago and that’s how we all got there. That’s where I started my career, in Chicago.
Was there ever a time when you thought you might possibly go into a different field or did you always know you wanted to be in theater?
Well I definitely went through a period when I was little, I thought ‘ooh, this is strange, this isn’t what I want to do’. And then I defintely went through a period when I was applying for college when I was thinking ‘I don’t know about this’. Because growing up with parents in the business, you kind of learn all sides of the business and you learn that you just never know what’s coming next. The highs are so high and the lows can be so low. I definitely knew I wanted to go to college but I felt a lot of stress about choosing what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if I wanted to go into visual art or performing art. I definitely had that doubting period.