Laura Benanti On THE MOST HAPPY FELLA & GYPSY Memories
In a revealing new interview, Laura Benanti shares her enthusiasm for participating in the new Encores! production of Frank Loesser's classic musical THE MOST HAPPY FELLA as well as shares memories from her Tony Award-winning role in the most recent Broadway revival of GYPSY.
Commenting on her current run in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, Benanti shares of the difficult score for the piece, "It's tricky music. It's all over the place. You have to manage to be sort of warm in your lower process and bring that into your upper process. You're sort of shot out of the cannon in the first five minutes of the play."
Benenti adds, "As an actress, what I find tricky about her is that she spends a great deal of time reacting to people. That can put you in a sort of "victim" position, which I find extremely boring. It's not of our time, so how do you honor the piece but make sure that she is an entirely "real" human being? How do you spend so much reacting to what has been "done" to you? In those moments where she is taking matters into her own hands, I really try to sink into it."
Furthermore, reflecting on her GYPSY experience working with director Arthur Laurents, Benanti reveals, "Arthur Laurents helped me navigate the openness of the child and the longing of the child and then the anger and the sex of the woman. He really helped me in the beginning with Louise, because I was twenty-seven, I think, and I was concerned that I was too old and I was trying to play a kid. He said, 'Stop doing that - just be available so we can see how you are feeling.' So that's what I started to do - to think of her as a completely empty canvas and start the play clean every night and wipe away everything I've ever known. All she knows is that she loves her mom and her sister and that she's not good at anything. And she loves animals. That's all she knows. And I had to let every thing happening on the way inform her. The important transition is in the script - the final insult to injury after Herbie leaves, and it's just her and her mother. She's never worn anything other than boy clothes and how to transition from the fear of that into "Everyone is looking at me the way I've wanted to be looked at" and how through the script, she devoured that energy and it sort of masticated itself and turned into anger. Arthur told me to think less about the sex and more about the anger. She deals in humor - that's her whole schtick."
Benanti concludes, "She knows she doesn't have any 'talent.' So that was the key for me, and Arthur helped me a lot with that. We had one tricky bit where he wanted me to use a lower voice in that last scene with Rose, and it didn't seem real. I have a sort of naturally high speaking voice."
Check out the original article on the matter here.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride