InDepth InterView: Jane Krakowski On 30 ROCK Final Season, Town Hall Concert & A Career Retrospective
Today we are talking to one of the entertainment industry's most celebrated Broadway/Hollywood crossover stars, who has gone from memorable childhood cameo roles on the big screen in hit 1980s film properties such as NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION and FATAL ATTRACTION to big Broadway success with her stints in STARLIGHT EXPRESS and GRAND HOTEL later that decade, to small screen success with ALLY MCBEAL in the 90s all the way to Tony-winning and Olivier-winning glory post-millenium with the sensational revival of NINE in 2003 on Broadway, directed by David Leveaux, and GUYS & DOLLS in the West End, directed by Michael Grandage - as well as three Emmy nominations (so far) for her seven-year stint on NBC's richly awarded and highly celebrated Tina Fey single-camera comedy 30 ROCK - the precocious, alluring and all-around arousing Jane Krakowski. Sharing the details about her upcoming concert performance at The Town Hall on June 8, Krakowski opens up about the many lauded composers and creative talents she has collaborated with over the years - Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Maury Yeston, Tommy Tune, Steven Spielberg and many more - and what we can expect from her brassy and bawdy solo spotlight show, in addition to shedding some light on her Broadway days; whether atop roller skates in STARLIGHT EXPRESS and the workshop of XANADU or treading the boards in workshops and productions for master director Tommy Tune. Also, Krakowski clues us in on where her already classic 30 ROCK character Jenna Maroney will end up in the final, seventh season of the show that begins shooting in August and reveals her affection for her 30 ROCK and DAMN YANKEES co-star Cheyenne Jackson and recounts their experiences filming the recent live episode (and singing the hilarious theme song). Plus, potential future stage roles Jane would like to essay someday - KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, perhaps? Or, maybe, a reprise of her Adelaide in GUYS & DOLLS? Dot in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, potentially? - as well as Milliken Breakfast Show memories from the 1970s - with the original cast of A CHORUS LINE, no less - and much, much more!
More information on Jane Krakowski: LIVE AT THE TOWN HALL on June 8 is available here.
A Call From Jane
PC: I have to say that your "The Look Of Love" and "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" may be my favorite recordings of those songs ever - just sublime.
JK: Oh, you're so sweet, Pat!
PC: Do you have any memories of recording those two tracks in particular?
JK: Of course I do!
PC: What was the vibe of the "50 Ways" recording like? It's so cool.
JK: Oh, yeah - as I remember it, we put our own little touch on that one, too.
PC: You did - to say the least!
JK: I'm not sure how we were able to do it, but we were allowed to put our own little flair on that - I mean, didn't I break out into "Freedom" in the middle of it?!
PC: You did.
JK: [Laughs.] Random choice!
PC: But it works so brilliantly!
JK: It was a lot of fun to do - a really fun experience.
PC: Another showstopper of yours is "A Call From The Vatican" from NINE. BroadwayWorld featured your performance in my Tony Awards countdown the other day and people still sent e-mails about how much they loved it and how unbelievably sexy it is.
JK: Oh, that is so awesome! That's so, so great to hear.
PC: You are aware that your entire performance of that song is on YouTube, correct?
JK: Yes, I do know that - but, of course it was illegal to be filming that in the theatre, correct?
PC: Correct - more or less.
JK: Secretly, I'm glad someone really did that, then. [Laughs.]
PC: Aren't we all!
JK: I mean, there's no other real record of it out there, is there?
PC: No, there isn't - that's it as far as available to all. Is it true that on many occasions the audience got more than they bargained for at the end of the song as a result of the way it was staged? It happened when I saw it.
JK: [Big Laugh.] Yes - unfortunately, gravity won its way in that regard!
PC: Fortunately for us in the audience, though…
JK: It's like: what are you going to do? [Laughs.] Oh, well!
PC: Did you ever talk to Tommy Tune about NINE back in the day, when you did GRAND HOTEL with him, perhaps?
JK: Yes, I did.
PC: What transpired in those talks?
JK: Well, it's actually a very interesting story… you see, the reason I got into GRAND HOTEL with Tommy was because I had auditioned for NINE when I was about 12 or 13 years old.
PC: No way!
JK: I was about 12 years old and I remember they were doing the workshop of NINE at the time and I was asked to come in. They were already in the workshop by that point and I think that Tommy was having one of his crazy creative genius moments and he was toying with the idea of having The Lady Of The Spa played by someone who was, you know, burgeoning from girl into woman.
JK: Yeah - so, they wanted someone in that 12- to 13-year-old age-range.
PC: What was the reasoning behind that?
JK: I think it possibly had to do with The Lady Of The Spa representing The Fountain Of Youth. So, I went in and I met him at the 46th St. Theatre and we worked for about an hour or so on all of those white boxes that they had for the set - that was all already set up on the stage. And, ultimately, I ended up not getting the part and he ended up not using that idea - he decided instead to hire a beautiful adult woman for that role.
PC: As history would have it - yet, he didn't forget you.
JK: I think that when GRAND HOTEL came up and they were in the workshop of that, my agent - Eric Shepard; at the time - had said to Tommy, "Oh, do you remember that girl you auditioned for NINE? She would be great for GRAND HOTEL; and, she is older now, so she is the right age for the role and everything." So, Tommy said, "Yeah - bring her on in." So, I came in and met Tommy again and we worked for about an hour or so again, this time on the GRAND HOTEL material, and I will never, ever forget that day because he really changed the creative path of my career in that hour, I think.
PC: How magnificent.
JK: I think that what I remember most, though, is that I met him at 5 PM and by 7 PM Tommy handed me a glass of champagne and said, "Welcome to the company."
PC: Wow. What a memory.
JK: So, no, to answer your question, it was not lost on me when I was cast in NINE and I did the revival of NINE that I had had that experience with Tommy. [Pause.] You know, it seems that with a lot of my most creative experiences all roads lead back to Tommy Tune. [Laughs.]
PC: And what a wonderful road to return to! He was so hot during that period.
JK: Yes - he really was.
PC: What is your fondest memory of actually doing GRAND HOTEL with him after you had scored the role?
JK: Oh, GRAND HOTEL was truly the most creative experience I had worked on up until that point - especially considering starting out with what little we had on paper. You know, Tommy would send us home and say, "Read chapters 1 through 5 of the novel," and, then, the next day, we would come in and improvise along to the songs that were already written and dream our way into it all. Everyday when we came in there would be different configurations of chairs all over the room - we didn't know yet what Tommy had in his mind and what would be created.
PC: A modern masterpiece.
JK: It was - the vision he had. It was just absolutely one of the most creative processes I have ever been a part of in my career - still, to this day.
PC: The show was so wildly different in Boston - particularly the first preview - versus the show that ended up on Broadway. It's really almost like two separate shows, wouldn't you say?
JK: Oh, I know! Exactly! Tell me about it! We got terrible reviews. I remember that in Boston I had a different song every night - every single night!
PC: There were a lot of songs for that slot, it seems, judging by what Maury Yeston told me when he did this column.
JK: So many. I remember when I started out and I had a song called "The Girl In The Mirror" - one of the early versions - and they, literally, changed my number every single night after that.
PC: How did that process work?
JK: Well, I would come in every day and they would give me a new song and I would learn it and we would choreograph it all at like 2 PM, and, then, by 8 PM, I would be performing it in the show that night.
PC: Insanity - daily.
JK: Yeah - it was a great experience, though. I loved doing it.
PC: Having worked so extensively with Tommy Tune, I am curious if you ever got to meet his mentor Michael Bennett?
JK: Oh, I didn't, actually - but, the first job I was ever hired for Michael Bennett had started and then Graciela Daniele, who was his assistant, took it over. Obviously, she became her own great direction/choreography force later on.
PC: Indeed. What show was it?
JK: Well, this was way before your time so you wouldn't remember it, but the entire cast of A CHORUS LINE was in it - the Milliken Breakfast Shows.
PC: The big budget industrials - Bennett staged a few of them.
JK: Yeah, yeah, yeah - so you know what they were. He had started them and then Graciela had taken over by the first year I started them. The year I started, almost the entire original cast of A CHORUS LINE was in them.
PC: Were you a big fan of his work growing up - along with the other great director/choreographers of the era, like Fosse?
JK: Oh, every show I saw when I was a kid coming up were the Michael Bennett musicals and the Bob Fosse musicals - and, still, to this day, when I see one of their shows, I get the feelings all over again reminding me of why I wanted to do this in the first place.
PC: It reminds you of when you first fell in love with the art form.
JK: Yeah - like, for instance, I very clearly remember when I went to see the final dress of CHICAGO at Encores! - I was just so re-inspired, because I felt like, "Aww, these are the shows I saw when I just wanted to be in the business," - you know, back when I was just dreaming of doing this; and, now, here I am. So, it brought all those memories right back to me.
PC: How tremendous that must have been to be there for the final dress.
JK: Oh, that invited dress was one of the great nights of excitement in the theatre - it was so thrilling to see the electricity of that show recreated again, so brilliantly.
PC: Speaking of Kander & Ebb roles, would you like to play the lead in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN someday? You seem so perfect for it.
JK: Oh, that's so funny you say that - other people have suggested that to me as a show I should try and get done again.
PC: It's a great role and a multi-Tony-winning show.
JK: Yeah - it's very, very interesting you say that; you're not the first. It's a great role, though, of course - you're right.
PC: So, it's a role and a show you would definitely consider pursuing?
JK: Oh, yeah - definitely.
PC: Are there any scores in particular you are dying to tackle - some Sondheim; GYPSY or The Witch in INTO THE WOODS, perhaps? You seem well-suited to so many great roles.
JK: That's so nice of you. You know, it's very interesting to be a part of a generation that has a lot of revivals because you have to sort of wait for the cycle of revivals to come around again so that you can do your favorite part.
PC: So very true - unfortunately.
JK: So, it's like, when the show you want comes back around again, you just hope you are in the right age group still to get the role you want! [Laughs.]
PC: It's all in the timing!
JK: It is! That being said, I really loved playing Adelaide in GUYS & DOLLS in the production I did in the West End, directed by Michael Grandage.
PC: That you won a well-earned Olivier for, I might add.
JK: That was such a thrill. So, yeah - I would just love for that production to come to town. But, of course, it was just done a few years ago - not our production, of course - so, I don't know if GUYS & DOLLS will come back around again in time for me to get the opportunity to do it. We will have to wait and see.
PC: What other roles would you like to take on in the near future?
JK: I would love to play Dot in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.
PC: That would be spectacular.
JK: It's one of my dream roles - to play Dot. But, that was just here again recently, too - in a brilliant production.
PC: The Daniel Evans/Jenna Russell.
JK: Right. So, you know, I have my wish list, but I've realized that you kind of have to wait for the cycle to go around. So, I have to look at the ones that haven't been around recently, I guess.
PC: You sang "Anyone Can Whistle" so brilliantly on a Sondheim compilation album. What about taking on Fay Apple in ANYONE CAN WHISTLE?
JK: Oh, I'll tell you about "Anyone Can Whistle" - the lesson I learned with doing that record is that the simplest songs are the hardest to do.
PC: It's the truth. That's one of Sondheim's personal favorite songs, you know.
JK: Wow - I didn't know that! It's a very difficult song, I'll tell you that.
PC: You sang another one of his trickiest songs so effortlessly in COMPANY - "Barcelona".
JK: Yeah - that's true about "Barcelona"; that's a tough one, too! [Laughs.] I love it, though - that one is really like a whole three-act play in one song. That really is a great acting song - there is so much in it.
PC: Speaking of genius lyrics - Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's specialty song for you, "Tweet", is extraordinary.
JK: Oh, I am so, so thankful to Marc and Scott for that - and you are right, they are just geniuses! I am so lucky that, not only did they write me "Tweet" for the CD and for our live show, but, also, we have been traveling around the country doing the show and they have written me a new lyric for every single stop along the way.
PC: How fabulous!
JK: They are just the best - and every lyric is brilliant. We will have a new "Tweet" for Town Hall, as well. I am just so thankful for Marc and Scott - they are so delicious and ribald and just fantastically creative; that number is the highlight every single evening, every single time we do it.
PC: Would you like to cross over to their sister NBC show, SMASH, at some point?
JK: [Big Laugh.] Well, actually, I am going to be free very soon, as a matter of fact, so I would love if they asked me!
PC: Or, perhaps even a 30 ROCK crossover!
JK: Or, even that!
PC: Would you like to appear in character as Jenna Maroney on SMASH?
JK: [Laughs.] Could you even imagine - Jenna Maroney with the classy cast of SMASH?!
PC: Have you ever worked with SMASH executive producer Steven Spielberg before?
JK: Well, believe it or not, Steven Spielberg was one of the producers of FLINTSTONES 2. [Laughs.]
PC: I didn't know that - have you two gotten to meet, then?
JK: Well, I was actually at the Golden Globes for ALLY MCBEAL and I had just gotten cast in THE FLINTSTONES sequel, and, there I am - I think ALLY MCBEAL had just won and there we were in the press room, the whole cast, and Steven Spielberg comes up to me and says, "I am sure glad we are going to be working together. You're going to be my new Betty Rubble, right?" And I was like, "That was so nice!"
PC: It's a big moment.
JK: Yeah - it was a big moment.
PC: So, what can we expect from your show at The Town Hall coming up next week? Will you be doing some of the songs from your live album besides "Tweet" - the Ann-Margret material, perhaps?
JK: Oh, yes - we will be doing some Ann-Margret material. We are also doing some Eartha Kitt and some Marlene Dietrich... and some Marilyn Monroe.
PC: Speaking of SMASH…
JK: [Laughs.] Indeed. We are also going to be having some songs from our favorite Broadway shows. You know, the thing for me that I think will be most fun about Town Hall is that I have always wanted to expand this show - which is an homage to all the great women of the stage that I have loved in the past; like Ann-Margret and Mitzi Gaynor and all of those gals. We are going to be expanding the show a little bit for Town Hall and we are going to have boys - I have always wanted to do this show with back-up boys and now we are going to.
PC: Just as it should be.
JK: I am so excited! So, it's really going to be an homage and a throwback to those shows with a leading lady and dancing boys. I hope everyone will be as excited by that as I am.
PC: Unquestionably. Will there be any special guests?
JK: Yes - Cheyenne Jackson is going to stop by and make a guest appearance.
PC: Your frequent 30 ROCK co-star, of course.
JK: Of course, of course. So, yeah - it is going to be a really fun, fun experience. And, also, I have to say that I have always wanted to play Town Hall - growing up and being in New York, Town Hall has always been one of those great landmark theaters of the city and when they asked me to do my show I was just thrilled to be offered the opportunity to play there.
PC: It's a phenomenal space - with a lot of history.
JK: I am really, really looking forward to playing that venue.
PC: You and Cheyenne Jackson were absolutely resplendent together in DAMN YANKEES at Encores! He spoke so favorably of you when he did this column recently, as well. Would you like to reprise your Lola someday with him on Broadway?
JK: Oh, my God! I absolutely would! DAMN YANKEES was part of the Encores! Summer Series and I really have to say that it was truly one of the most challenging - and, ultimately, most satisfying - parts that I have ever taken on.
PC: Why so?
JK: Well, in that production we had taken on doing all of the original Bob Fosse choreography. It was just heaven for me to do that amazing Bob Fosse choreography every night - I love those dances so much.
PC: So iconic.
JK: Also, I got to learn all the dances from the woman who Gwen Verdon taught all the dances to - somebody from the estate. So, she was so fascinating - she knew why Bob and Gwen made up, you know, every finger turn and ankle twist; so, the stories I got were just incredible.
PC: I bet! That must have been exhilarating for a dancer like you.
JK: It was. It was a real behind-the-scenes education that I never thought I would get - so, it made it especially brilliant for me. But, back to what you asked about Cheyenne - I just adore Cheyenne. He is one of the great guys in this business - as a person and as a talent. You know, we just seem to keep getting cast opposite each other over and over again!
PC: You really do.
JK: It's crazy - from our XANADU workshops to DAMN YANKEES to even 30 ROCK and everything. I mean, when he showed up on 30 ROCK, I was like, "Really?! Now, wait a second!" [Laughs.]
JK: Almost! Almost.
PC: Did Tina Fey's husband, Jeff Richmond, write the lyrics for the 30 ROCK live theme song you two sang for the two live shows - both the recent one and the older one?
JK: Actually, I think our writers wrote the lyrics for those, but, obviously, Jeff Richmond is the composer for the show and writes all of the music - all the songs we do and the parodies and the underscoring and everything.
PC: And what an astounding collection that is!
JK: Oh, I just love what he comes up with - and I just love that Cheyenne and I got to sing the 30 ROCK theme song live both times. Those two live show experiences were, for me, the greatest hybrid that I could ever get in my career - you know, it crossed live, Broadway show performing with television; it combined both my experiences. So, the live shows were definitely my favorite thing that we have gotten to do in all the years of 30 ROCK.
PC: They were both excellent themes - both of your versions.
JK: Yes, Cheyenne got to do the West Coast version and I got to do the East Coast version this time, and, he told me that, honestly, they gave him the lyrics maybe one minute, maybe thirty seconds before they went live to air - because it was all about the football draft and it was going so long and deep. So, before they could give him the lyrics, they had to know what players had been chosen and all of that.
PC: That's hilarious - and he pulled through famously, needless to say.
JK: Yeah - Cheyenne did brilliantly and got it one-hundred-percent cold; and, it was live! He's a real champ, that guy. I hope I get to work with him for many more years to come and have even more great musical experiences together.
PC: And we all can't wait to witness them all.
JK: He's just, really, a great friend and I love working with him.
PC: I wanted to ask you about your time spent in STARLIGHT EXPRESS - your first Broadway show. Reva Rice recently did this column and told me wild stories about the treacherous set - particularly one incident with you and Robert Torti.
JK: Oh, yeah, yeah - I remember that; that was terrible!
PC: Also, Reva said Andrew Lloyd Webber was very involved in rehearsals and constantly writing and rewriting the show.
JK: Yeah - Andrew was very involved; he really was. I think that he really wanted to make the show very fresh for New York - and, he did. You know, it was really a very different production - the New York production versus the first London version that they had; set-wise, score-wise, interpretation-wise. I mean, you know, they wrote Reva a whole new song! Honestly, Reva was really our roller skating diva and we were just trying to keep up with her!
PC: She is the real deal - so unbelievably talented.
JK: Oh, she is! Reva is so fabulous. But, as far as the injuries - there were days where the hydraulics would stop, and, then, because it was all Plexiglas, people couldn't see when the gates were up; it was all very dark and sort of rock n roll-lit. So, because of that, people were constantly going through the gates and falling off of the bridges. [Pause.] We all had to start somewhere, though, you know? [Laughs.]
PC: And not too shabby being in the original cast of a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on Broadway in the mid-1980s when he was at his height.
JK: I do kind of love that I started with that show - STARLIGHT EXPRESS was my Broadway debut. I suppose it was under the anonymity of being a roller skating train - I was just the one that zoomed by in blue and silver. [Big Laugh.]
PC: That was the quintessential 1980s Broadway show - the roller skating element was adapted brilliantly in the parody you and Tina Fey did on 30 ROCK flashing back to Jenna Maroney's theatre days.
JK: Oh, yeah, yeah - oh, my gosh, I forgot about that. I think we did that because I had just done the workshop of XANADU and I had brushed up on my old roller skating skills for that. You know, once you learn how to roller skate for STARLIGHT EXPRESS, it's a lifelong skill you have acquired.
PC: I wouldn't doubt it. Do you have a health regimen to stay in perfect voice and in such good shape all the time or is it just good genetics?
JK: Well, I am always in much better shape when I am doing a Broadway show because you have the eight shows a week to kind of keep the body clean and perfect in a sense, you know? For instance, I always eat much better when I am in a show because you can't have dairy - for your voice. So, when you are in the discipline of doing eight shows a week, I know that, for me, I am always in my fittest condition - which is what you need to be to do what you have to do; and, I love it. That's why I always get such a sort of charge from doing live shows.
PC: So, eating clean and living as pure as possible is the secret?
JK: I think so. Then, with 30 ROCK, our hours are so long and the days are so long that you start the season a little thinner than you end up - there's always that craft service five pounds that sneaks on during the season! [Laughs.]
PC: Always lurking.
JK: It's unavoidable.
PC: When do you go back to 30 ROCK to start shooting the last season?
JK: We start 30 ROCK again in August - and it's going to be a very short season; we only have thirteen more to go. I am going to miss it terribly - it was the fastest and most fun seven years I could ever imagine. I got to work with comedic geniuses left and right all throughout that production, so I am really going to miss it terribly. I can't believe it's been seven years!
PC: It's so great that NBC will be giving the show a big send-off with a final thirteen - many TV shows end unceremoniously these days, especially comedies.
JK: Absolutely. NBC is giving Tina Fey and the writers the proper chance to end the series the way that they would like.
PC: And hopefully we'll get another big musical number or two, too, before you go out!
JK: Yes, yes! Hopefully.
PC: Jane, this was so beyond the beyond - I could not have asked for more. You are the absolute best. Thank you so much.
JK: Oh, Pat, you are so sweet and thank you so, so much - this was so much fun. Bye bye.
Photos 1, 7, 8, 9 - Walter McBride
Photos 2, 10, 19 - Monica Simoes
More On: David Leveaux, Michael Grandage, Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Maury Yeston, Tommy Tune.