BWW Interview: HEDWIG Head-Banger Lena Hall Joins Josh Groban's STAGES Tour!
Lena Hall, who won a Tony for her gender-bending role as the hard rocker Yitzhak in HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, might seem an unlikely choice to tour with Josh Groban, a global pop star whose musical repertoire ranges from Broadway to opera.
Hall's journey to Groban's North American Stages tour began when Groban attended a performance of HEDWIG. "Josh came to one of Hedwig's first previews and was so taken by my performance he started following me on Twitter," Hall said en route to a rehearsal in Pittsburgh. "I followed him back and we became friends. We have a mutual respect for each other and we have a lot in common." She had also seen Groban in the 2013 film COFFEE TOWN.
Groban, who has sold more than 20 million albums since his 2001 debut, saw Hedwig multiple times said Hall, who left the show in April. The show closed in September.
"Josh talked about his album and the next minute I joked about performing with him," Hall said. Then- surprise! -Groban suggested she sing with him on his fall tour.
"The timing was perfect," said Hall, who plays guitar and is an avid head-banger in the five-member rock band The Deafening. "My schedule had opened up and it became one of those wonderful little journeys you don't know is going to happen."
Hall didn't have much time to prepare. "It happened so fast, I was still figuring things out," she said. "I had a few hours to pack and get on a plane. It was chaotic, but I'm feeling good and making sure I have a really good time."
Groban and Hall's first concert, in Washington, was met with enthusiastic audiences. "I'm always surprised when he introduces me," Hall said. "He talks me up so much, I want him to talk me down," she joked. "The crowds have been amazing. This is an incredible opportunity he's given me."
Hall, whose musical preferences lean toward edgy female singers, views their differing musical styles as complementary. "He's a little bit musical theater, I'm a little bit rock and roll," she said, bending Donny and Marie Osmond's "A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll."
"I never thought I'd be on tour with Josh Groban but it makes sense now," Hall said. "He's good with my style and it represents who I am," Hall said. When she heard him sing "You Raise Me Up" ( composed by the duo Secret Garden), she became a fan. "I listen mainly to rock and roll but that song ..."
Hall welcomes this opportunity to show audiences another side of her. Fans know her mainly as an energetic rock and roller. "When I did 'All I Ask of You' "-from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA-"a bunch of Hedwig fans saw me and were shocked. They urged me to sing more stuff like that," Hall said. "Why not? I'm versatile. It's difficult singing soprano but I can belt really high and I can belt really low. Whatever," she said.
"This is my first musical tour and I'm on top of the game," Hall said. "His fans are so wonderful, loyal and loving. They've really been open to hearing me sing in my style. This is an incredible opportunity he's given me, not to mention the physical relief of doing fewer, less demanding shows. I have less to do now so it's nice. I get to just show up."
Hall sticks to the tour playlist with little talking between songs. "I keep banter at a minimum because I'm just terrible at it," she said.
Her pre- and post-show routines are mellow, she said. She meditates in the morning and does vocal warm-ups at the theater. "I don't have any amazing rituals-I don't go into the bathroom and spin around 10 times. Doing my hair and make-up is very therapeutic," Hall said.
She's also mindful of Groban's routine. "I am very respectful of his process. I always ask my leading men what their pre- or post-show process is so I don't annoy them." After a show, Hall is ravenous. "I'm always hungry, so after a show I eat and drink, maybe a cocktail to chill out, then I go to bed."
The tour, which includes two nights at the Beacon Theatre on Sept. 29 and 30, ends in San Francisco, Hall's hometown. "I hope people think, 'Omigod, I've never heard someone sing like that before. Who is that girl and where can I see more of her?'"
The Stages Tour comes to the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway between West 74th and 75th Streets, Sept. 29 and 30. For more information, visit: joshgroban.com.