Click Here for More Articles on INDEPTH INTERVIEWS

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & More

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MoreToday we are talking to a supremely talented triple-threat who has carved out an astonishingly impressive career thus far onstage with her string of stupendous performances ranging from her blazing debut in the late-'90s revival of THE SOUND OF MUSIC and millennial WONDERFUL TOWN through to the Broadway productions of SWING!, the revivals of INTO THE WOODS and NINE, as well as THE WEDDING SINGER and her Tony Award-winning work in the recent revival of GYPSY - the astonishingly alluring and simply phenomenal Laura Benanti. Touching upon many of her past stage roles - and some screen ones, too - and expressing candid insights into many of her most celebrated characters to date, Benanti opens up about the productions and properties which have made her one of the most exciting and in-demand Broadway crossover performers of the 21st century. In addition to all about her many Broadway bows - including her most recent runs in IN THE NEXT ROOM (OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY) and WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN - Benanti also shares thoughts on her multiple TV and film projects, new and old, shedding light on THE PLAYBOY CLUB, GO ON, her current arc on USA's ROYAL PAINS, film roles and even more. Most importantly, Benanti provides us with all the details on her new live solo album, IN CONSTANT SEARCH OF THE RIGHT KIND OF ATTENTION: LIVE AT 54 BELOW, as well as gives a preview of her series of upcoming concerts at 54 Below in promotion of the sterling new release. Plus, Benanti looks ahead to taking on Shakespeare via the new Public Theater production of THE TEMPEST as well as tackling a particularly operatic part in 2014, byway of the just-announced Encores! revival of Frank Loesser's THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. All of that, Benanti's recollections of performing a hilarious specialty song at this year's spectacular Tony Awards, roles she would love to play in the future and much, much more!

More information on Laura Benanti's 54 Below run September 19-21 is available at her official site here. Additionally, purchase Laura Benanti's IN CONSTANT SEARCH OF THE RIGHT KIND OF ATTENTION: LIVE AT 54 BELOW on iTunes here and Amazon here.

On The Steps Of The Palace

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: As a bit of an appetizer to the album and the upcoming 54 Below shows, could you take us through what we can expect from IN CONSTANT SEARCH OF THE RIGHT KIND OF ATTENTION?

LB: Sure! First of all, I come out with "I'm Old Fashioned". I sort of sing that just to prepare everybody for the throwback-y evening that it is going to be - even though my patter is very loose hopefully pretty funny. Then, I do "My Time Of Day" from GUYS & DOLLS - which is a great, great song. After that, I do "On The Street Where You Live" from MY FAIR LADY, which is a show that I absolutely love, but I changed the lyrics to "On The Street Where I Live" because when I was a little girl I grew up on 54th and 7th, which is pretty much right where Studio 54 was and where 54 Below is now. Then, I go right into a mash-up of two songs that my music director, Todd Almond, put together - Ellie Goulding's "Starry Eyed" and Lana Del Rey's "Video Games". Joni Mitchell's "He Comes For Conversation" and two songs that Todd Almond wrote - "Tilly's Aria" and "Spring Is Coming" - come next and then I do a song on the ukulele that I wrote and then another song that I wrote when I was a little girl. Then, after that, I do this song I love from GIGI called "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore"...

PC: Lerner & Loewe fits your voice so well - and, obviously you are somewhat aware of that.

LB: Yeah, I think maybe they do - but, listen, I'm too old for GIGI at this point! I just like the idea of singing a song that an old man would sing, I think. I mean, now that I'm 34, I look back on what I did when I was in my 20s and think, "Ugh! Oh, My God! I am so glad I don't feel that crap anymore!" [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: The song-list for your shows and the album is incredibly eclectic. Did you develop this project entirely with Todd Almond?

LB: Yes. Todd Almond is an incredible music director as well as an incredible composer. We worked on the whole thing together. At first, we were like, "What the hell are we going to do?!" because in the past I had worked with Mary Mitchell Campbell and we have worked together for years, but she was busy - she was doing BIG FISH in Chicago - so she couldn't work with me. So, Todd and I had worked together before and had been friends for many years, so I was absolutely thrilled to get the chance to work with him on this.

PC: How did the process actually work, day to day?

LB: Well, Todd and I sat down and we basically brainstormed. And, so, it came together pretty seamlessly over the course of a couple months. I figured out the stories that I wanted to tell and what stories would go along with that and Todd put together a band - it's the first time I've sung with a band; usually, before this, it was just piano and vocals in my live shows. So, that was great, as well. And, you know, Todd plays the accordion on "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" and there's banjo in the show, too, and I play the ukulele like I told you about before - we have some really interesting instrumentation in the show, which is really, really exciting for me personally.

PC: Since you cover her, I have to ask: are you a Lana Del Rey fan yourself?

LB: Yes, I actually am! I was a fan of hers already, before Todd did this - he actually put those two songs together because those were his and his husband's two absolute favorite songs of the summer; he just loved them so much. So, not only did I sing this medley of "Starry Eyed" and "Video Games" in the show and now on the album of it, but I also sang it at their wedding a little while ago.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: How awesome is that?!

LB: Yeah! It was great. So, they are both very meaningful songs for Todd and myself.

PC: The album exactly reflects the live show, then, I assume? No cuts at all?

LB: No cuts. Since it's a live album, we recorded the shows throughout the run and then went through and chose the best takes of each song and the best patter in between them and then we put it all together. And, the shows coming up at 54 Below will be the same show - one hundred percent.

PC: Were there any touch-ups in the studio you found necessary or is it all pretty much material sourced from the live shows?

LB: Well, they would pick the best words and the best lines of some things - the best pitch, too, in some cases - and they said that they didn't use much Autotune or anything like that much at all, which good. It's very live - I love the way that they mixed it.

PC: Will you be performing any selections from the many shows you have done in the 54 Below shows?

LB: Yes. I do "Unusual Way" from NINE and I also do "Model Behavior" from WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: Your most recent Broadway appearance! David Yazbek is so underrated - his Broadway scores are all so much fun.

LB: I know! I know. I totally agree.

PC: Was that song written especially for you? It feels like it. Did you ever have an understudy go on or see someone else do it for you?

LB: Yes, I did have an understudy and she did go on once, I think, and she was really, really great. That song was actually not written for me, though - the song was already written. And, I have to say, the song is so well-written that I learned it rather quickly. And, also, I have to say that it was one of the best moments of my life - singing that song onstage with the audience going so insanely crazy was one of the best moments of my life.

PC: Your Drama Desk recreation was incredible, as well - you positively nailed it, long after the show had closed even!

LB: Aww, thank you! It was a little tricky out of context - in retrospect, I really don't know if that was the best move on my part. [Laughs.]

PC: From your most recent role back to the very beginning, as it was for many of us theatre fans: I first saw you in THE SOUND OF MUSIC - as you know, you were so impossibly young!

LB: Oh, God - I was a teenager! I think I was eighteen when I first started doing that.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: What a blazing debut!

LB: Yeah, you can't ask for a much better debut than that! It was a beautiful, beautiful production and I was so incredibly lucky for that to be my first experience on Broadway.

PC: I am curious: what was your first audition for NINE like? Did you audition for David Leveaux one on one?

LB: I'm trying to remember... I know that David Leveaux came to see me in INTO THE WOODS and then I just had a meeting with him; I didn't sing for them or anything at that. So, after I met with David, they basically offered it to me, I think. That's how it happened.

PC: Claudia is so enigmatic in many ways. How did you color the character? That entire production seemed quite influenced by the original film.

LB: Yeah, I think you're right - he wanted the feel of the film. And, you know, Antonio [Banderas] is such a colorful and creative actor that it was basically just playing off of him a lot of the time. Of course, David directed me and I tried to color her with... as you know, when you're Italian, you are passionate! [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: This is very true!

LB: Right! So, I wanted her to be passionate. I wanted my Claudia to be passionate.

PC: Was working with that cast a special kind of joy?

LB: Oh, of course! It was crazy...

PC: Was that a particularly powerful experience being in a cast with that many strong female actors?

LB: Oh, yeah! Of course. I mean, I was 22 at the time... I remember that Chita Rivera really took me under her wing and that was so amazing. Also, Mary Stuart Masterson was a good friend during that time, too. And, you know, it was such a blessing to be able to just see Jane [Krakowski] shine like she did in that show. I learned a lot from her. It was a really wonderful experience - and it was a very healing experience for me, too. I learned a lot. And, now that we're talking about it, I think that it's really one of those special shows for me - it's one of my favorite shows that I have been a part of.

PC: High praise indeed coming from someone with your resume!

LB: And Antonio! Antonio was so, so incredible. I loved working with him. And, Melanie [Griffith], his wife, was around a lot during that, too - and the rest of his family. They were all so lovely. So, yeah, to answer your question, NINE was just one of those perfect experiences for me - where you try to just be as grateful as you can in the moment as it is happening because you know it might not happen again.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: Your "Unusual Way" is peerless.

LB: It's a very, very beautiful song. I loved singing it.

PC: Did you audition for the recent movie version?

LB: No! They wouldn't even see me!

PC: Why not?

LB: I have no idea. I guess that they were set on having famous people...

PC: Your musical performances on THE PLAYBOY CLUB were extraordinary - by far the best element of the series. Did you film ones that ended up not airing because the show was so short-lived?

LB: Oh, thank you for saying that! That's so nice of you. Yeah, we had a bunch of other ones that we did - I remember we did "Fever" that was really cool. "Fever" was the best one, I think.

PC: You should try to get NBC to release those clips! They would be fabulous to see.

LB: I know! I know. I wish they would.

PC: Do you enjoy working with multiple directors like you often do on a TV series or do you prefer the autonomy of one captain per ship?

LB: Well, you know, it is not my favorite thing to have a new director every episode, I can tell you that! I mean, you have to develop a process with a director - whoever it is - and every director works differently. So, for me, it takes a few days to get that process going, and, so in my experience, as soon as I get to that point, they are gone.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: It moves too fast.

LB: It's not my favorite situation in the world, but I have met some incredible people and some amazing directors working like that. And, I think it's valuable to do it - it teaches you to be able to just go with the flow. It's really helped me not be so sort of rigid in how I do things.

PC: Early in your career, you participated in one of the workshops of William Finn's THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY...

LB: Yes, I did! I can't believe you know that. [Laughs.] I love Bill!

PC: Did you sing "The Girl I'll Never Be"? That's one of Bill Finn's best songs.

LB: Yes, I believe so - I played the ingenue character; I played Carolee [Carmello]'s daughter. I do believe I sang that, though. To be perfectly honest, that was so long ago - and so many workshops and readings ago - that I can't say for sure.

PC: Do you ever sing any Finn material in your live shows?

LB: That's a great idea! I should sing more of Bill's stuff - especially more stuff like that.

PC: Is a full-fledged Finn production in your future? Trina in FALSETTOS, perhaps? Something new?

LB: Oh, yeah! I would love to work with Bill on anything he wanted to do - he's an amazing, amazing guy.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: It would be wonderful to hear more of your classical side, too. Do you anticipate taking on a soprano role sometime soon?

LB: It's funny you ask that because there actually is going to be a role like that for me coming up soon, but I can't talk about it yet - not until it is officially announced. But, I can promise you that there will be something coming up in the next couple of months that will one hundred percent show that off, though! [Laughs.] [Note: Since this interview, Benanti has been cast as Rosabella in Encores! upcoming 2014 production of the operatic musical THE MOST HAPPY FELLA.]

PC: Before then, we can catch you live previewing your new album, at least!

LB: Yes, I am going to be promoting the album with some concerts at 54 Below starting on September 19, through the 21.

PC: And we can certainly expect a recreation of a few of your most famous performances.

LB: Yes, as I said, there might be one or two - as a matter of fact, "Unusual Way" is one of the ones we are doing and one that we also do on the album. That's going to definitely be in there.

PC: Is it a new interpretation or largely the same?

LB: It's a little bit different, but only because I don't do it with an Italian accent!

PC: What a shame! No "seemple"-type pronunciations, then?

LB: [Laughs.] Exactly! Exactly.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: How much has happened in the intervening ten years to shade your performance of that song, would you say?

LB: Oh, boy - a lot has happened in the last ten years! Some incredible blessings and some things that were very, very difficult - but, I like that; you have to have the light and the dark, I think.

PC: For instance, how has becoming a household name changed you, do you think?

LB: Well, first of all, I don't think that I am a household name necessarily - I really don't think I am a household name at all. I think that if you know theatre, you probably know me, and, maybe, if you watch some of the TV shows I've been on you might know me, but I think I have a different kind of career...

PC: You may be underestimating your reach!

LB: Listen, I'm extremely happy to not be a famous person! To be a famous person and all that they go through is really hard. [Pause.] You know, I'm that person where four or five people every single day are like, "How do I know you?!" Stuff like that.

PC: They recognize you somehow, but they can't quite put a finger on it.

LB: Yeah - you know, they think that we went to school together or something. In New York, people do recognize me more, though, I have to say. But, as far as it changing me or anything, I think I am the same exact same person that I was before. Hopefully, I am a little bit wiser than I was when I was younger. [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: Many of your co-stars have spoken so highly of you when I've asked them...

LB: Aww, thank you for saying that.

PC: No less than Patti LuPone among them! Tell me about working with her.

LB Oh, Patti... [Pause. Sighs.] she feels like my family. She is the most supportive, mosT Loving, most hilarious woman I have ever met - ever. You know, I have always admired her and I've always thought she was an incredible talent, but, beyond her talent is just this unbelievably generous human being. She is one of the kindest, mosT Loving people I have ever known.

PC: How do you see this performing arts age we are in with so much crossover between Broadway and Hollywood, especially on TV?

LB: Well, you know, I am very, very grateful that I am able to cross over into television. It's hard when you do musicals because a lot of people seem to assume that you can't act for some reason, so there was an uphill climb in terms of proving to people that I didn't have to be singing or dancing or doing jazz hands in order to act - that I could just be a person. So, now, I feel confidant in that world. I feel like Hollywood or the television world or whatever you want to call it has accepted me as an actor and I am grateful for that because it allows versatility in my career, which is something that I have always wanted - I have always wanted to be able to go back and forth between mediums.

PC: Why so, in particular?

LB: Because it keeps you excited! It keeps you excited and interested in what you are doing at all times.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: You are currently appearing in an arc on USA's ROYAL PAINS. Is that a fun show to do?

LB: Oh, yeah. They are so sweet and fun to work with there - they are just the sweetest people in the whole world. Mark Feuerstein is the lead of the show and he really runs the set and it's an incredible set. It's a real joy doing that show. Actually, I just finished shooting with them and it was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

PC: You are on several episodes this season, correct?

LB: Yeah, I am on a bunch of them.

PC: You recently appeared on the web series BITTER PARTY OF FIVE as well - quite hilariously, I might add.

LB: BITTER PARTY OF FIVE was so much fun, too - it's funny you mention that, actually, because I just saw Mary Birdsong at an audition. I loved her so much on RENO 911 - I thought she was just brilliant in it, so that's part of why I wanted to do it; to work with her.

PC: Would you enjoy doing a TV drama next? Do you have a preference, especially having done both in the past?

LB: I do like doing both, I think - I like going back and forth between projects. For me, going forward is about picking the roles and the shows and the characters that are the most interesting thing to me. As I get older, it becomes less and less important to me to just take anything that comes along - I want to be a little bit more choose-y now. And, I have found that it is very hard to say no sometimes because people will keep asking you.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: Thankfully you said yes to doing that spectacular Michael John LaChiusa specialty song on the Tonys this year!

LB: Oh, yeah - I love Michael John! That was so, so much fun to do.

PC: Had you two worked together at all prior to the Tony Awards?

LB: Actually, we hadn't - I had never worked with Michael John before the Tonys, I don't think. But, I really feel like he is the unsung hero of that - I feel like we have gotten all this incredible reaction to it, but it would not have even been possible were it not for Michael John, so I am very, very grateful to him for what he wrote; it was funny, it was brave and it was a little bit cathartic, too. He's just amazing.

PC: So, you did find it cathartic then?

LB: Oh, yeah! Totally! Totally.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: Needless to say, you were pleased with the reception?

LB: Of course! It went over really, really well and it was a wonderful thing to be able to do it - and to be able to do it with my friends; that was pretty cool.

PC: Do you feel you represent Broadway when you appear in other mediums given your rich resume and associations?

LB: That's so nice of you to say that - I don't really think of myself in that way, I guess, so I can't really say! [Big Laugh.]

PC: Even after how many Broadway shows? Ten?

LB: Yeah, I think it's nine or ten now on Broadway... [Laughs.]

PC: Daring original musicals, sparkling revivals, straight plays, a revue - how diverse can you get?! Do you feel that way at all now, looking back?

LB: Well, I guess you're right - and, I think that doing a straight play on Broadway proved that I was capable of being an actress in a play and not just a singer. But, I look at all the friends I've made and the experiences I have had and I basically just look back on all of it with gratitude. You know, I don't know if I appreciated it enough when I first started - when I was so, so young; when I was 18. Maybe it's not that I didn't appreciate it, but it was like my experience was my only experience so I assumed that everybody else had a similar experience, and, as I've gotten older, I've learned that's really not true at all. This is a hard business and people who work really hard and people who really deserve to be successful aren't and people who are I-don't-understand-why-they-are-successful are successful somehow...

PC: It's a crap shoot.

LB: Yeah, there is just no rhyme or reason at times. But, I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the fact that I was in the right place at the right time. Plus, my mother and my family really taught me to work hard. I feel like it was a combination of love and hard work and I am lucky that it all came together the way that it did - really lucky.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: You've described yourself as very serious growing up, so was having a resume as impressive as yours is always the goal?

LB: I think so. Ever since I was a little girl, all I ever wanted to be was on Broadway, so to achieve that dream at 18 was really wonderful.

PC: What show do you consider to have been your big break where you first made a major impact on an audience?

LB: Definitely THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Starring on Broadway with Richard Chamberlain? Yeah, that's a big break. Definitely.

PC: You impressed us all around the same time in WONDERFUL TOWN and in SWING!, too. How did you become involved with that first Encores! WONDERFUL TOWN production?

LB: Well, I had Richard Frankel and Jack and Tom Viertel and Steve Baruch - I had these men who were going to bat for me and really looking out for me. They were the producers who cast me in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, so they put me in readings and SWING! and WONDERFUL TOWN and everything during that time. They found me and then they supported me. You know, Richard Frankel - who runs 54 Below now - basically said to my mom, "I know Laura left NYU to do SOUND OF MUSIC and I promise you that I am going to look out for her and I promise you that I am going to make sure that she is OK." And, ever since then, he always has, so I am really grateful to him for everything that he has done for me.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: Besides all the other genres and mediums you've done, I'd be remiss not to mention your recent work with Christopher Durang.

LB: Yes! Yes - I did a comedy with him a little while ago. WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, at the Public.

PC: Would you enjoy doing that role on Broadway or perhaps taking on another comedic role in a straight play sometime soon?

LB: Oh, I would love it! I'd love it. I mean, there were some comedic elements to THE VIBRATOR PLAY, but it definitely wasn't a comedy. I'd love to do a comedy someday.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: Given your ongoing film and TV work, is Broadway still where you would like to work next?

LB: [Sighs.] I really miss Broadway. I am dying to come back to Broadway in a big musical where I get to sing soprano - that would be my dream. Then, I would like to do a straight play - maybe two; a comedy and a drama - after that. Really, I just want to do everything and keep working on creative projects with interesting people, though. That's all.

PC: Is there a particular part you have in mind?

LB: Yes. Eliza Doolittle is a role I have always been dying to play. I don't know if I ever will get a chance to, but that is the dream role for me. At this point, that's probably the only role left for me where it's like, "Man, I would do anything...."

PC: You would be perfect for Nurse Fay Apple in ANYONE CAN WHISTLE if that is revived anytime soon. What a score!

LB: Aww, thanks for saying that! I like that score a lot, too.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: What is your favorite memory about working with Stephen Sondheim on INTO THE WOODS? I assume you were a already fan, yes?

LB: Oh, I've been obsessed with Stephen Sondheim since I was a very little girl - since I was like 12-years-old; for real. So, when I met him, I was just extremely - extremely - star-struck. I don't even remember what I said! It was probably dumb. He was so, so lovely to me, though - so helpful. He was so supportive - never an ugly word. Everyone was so kind and supportive in that production, but especially him. You know, I am so lucky that my artistic hero has treated me so beautifully throughout my career.

PC: He was around for GYPSY rehearsals, as well, of course, was he not?

LB: Yes, he was. It was mostly Arthur [Laurents]'s vision, but he absolutely was there - especially in terms of the music. As always, he was incredibly helpful and thoughtful. Any opportunity there is to work with him, even if it is just for a little bit or a few minutes, I will take it. Always.


LB: Yes, yes! Thank you for mentioning that.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: On the topic of Arthur Laurents, legendary for his brilliance and also for his direct nature - some would say mean or cruel - did you two have any run-ins or was it generally a smooth process on GYPSY?

LB: Arthur. He is... he was incredible and brilliant and loving and supportive and specific, and, then, he could also be extremely moody and difficult and hurtful. But, at the end of the day, I always knew that he loved me and whenever he would hurt my feelings he would apologize. He always knew when he did it and afterwards he would explain to me why he lost his temper and he would apologize for it and make it right. But, no, he wasn't an angel - none of us are. He had a light side and a dark side - like all of us do. But, he was very, very committed to GYPSY coming from a place of love - our production of it - so it really came from a place in his heart. So, the side of Arthur that I got to see was primarily wonderful.

PC: That's a very vivid and lived-in description.

LB: Yeah, we had a rough first couple of weeks - we didn't really understand each other; we really didn't know how to talk to each other. But, once we got past that, it was just tremendous.

PC: Did he ever ask you to go beyond your safety zone?

LB: I remember that at one point near the end in the scene with Patti and me in the dressing he wanted me to lower my voice so that it was in an extremely deep register, and I did it - I did it at City Center and I did it a little bit at the beginning of the run on Broadway, but then I stopped doing it because it didn't feel right to me. It felt affected and I never want to come from an affected place - I want to be truthful and honest. So, that was really the only thing that we didn't agree on that I can remember.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: What exactly happened that caused the change?

LB: Well, he saw it - I basically disobeyed him and did what I wanted to do one night instead of his way and he said to me afterwards, "You were right. Do it like that from now on."

PC: You had to show your mastery to please the master.

LB: Yeah, I guess so. I mean, there were other times where we would fight tooth and nail on things and then he would say, "Just do it!" and I would and then I'd find out he was right. So, it was a two-fold situation.

PC: He was so insightful and on the nose - "Do less," is a famous saying of his. Is there a direction of his that has stuck with you?

LB: You just said it! "Do less" is one of the biggest things he taught me - he said that a lot, actually. So, I guess that what he taught me besides that was, basically, "Stop showing me - feel it. Don't show me that you are feeling it, just experience it - you don't need to show me so much. Instead of doing something, be something." And that advice actually changed my entire style of acting - it completely altered me as an actor and as a performer and I will forever be grateful to him for that.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: How fascinating.

LB: I feel like GYPSY is what made me an actor. I really do. Before that, I was a singer who was really just trying to act. I remember I would have breakthrough moments of being free and outside my ego and those were really good moments, but I didn't know how to sustain it. Now, I don't know how to all the time, but I can live in that free space where you really are just becoming another person. And, I have to tell you, it's so much fun! It's like being a child again - and children play.

PC: "Children Will Listen" too, apparently.

LB: That, too! [Laughs.] That, too.

PC: We were discussing MY FAIR LADY and ANYONE CAN WHISTLE before, are there any other scores you are desperate to sing?

LB: Oh, I'd love to do Fiona in BRIGADOON.

PC: It's time for a revival of that.

LB: It is! It is. I'd love to do that.

PC: Do you particularly enjoy doing one-off concerts and short-run special events such as THE TEMPEST coming up? It seems you have been a part of quite a few special events over the years.

LB: I do! I really do. I mean, my absolute favorite thing in the entire world is to do shows like I do at 54 Below - concerts like that - but I love doing special things like that, too.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: On that note, HAIR: IN CONCERT was so incredible, I must add. Just: wow!

LB: Aww, yeah! That was a fun night, too! That was a great cast.

[A fan approaches Laura, addressing her by name, and asks for her autograph after telling her that she recently participated in her high school's production of THE WEDDING SINGER and how the entire cast was always comparing themselves to the Broadway cast, particularly Laura. The girl, Lauren, tells Laura she played Holly in the production as she goes.]

LB: You're a perfect Holly! You're so sweet. Thank you! Take care! Bye!

PC: So, you're really not a house-hold name, then, Laura?! Are you still sticking by that statement?!

LB: Very funny, Pat! Very funny. [Big Laugh.]

PC: The score for THE WEDDING SINGER is so catchy and enjoyable. Is that one of the elements that made you first want to become involved with the show?

LB: Isn't it?! Yeah - I love that score, too. I think it's really fantastic.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & MorePC: The cast recording is great, too. Do you ever listen to yourself in general?

LB: No, I don't - I really don't.

PC: Given we just discussed your album at length, lastly: what's on your iPod?

LB: Well, I do a lot of Pandora. When I work out, I listen to a lot of Robyn - and, I'm ashamed to say it, but Britney Spears. I have to say that my favorite artists right now and have been for a pretty long time are Jeff Buckley, Patty Griffin, Harry Chapin, Joni Mitchell; I tend to like sadder, folkier kind of stuff. I like James Taylor a lot, too. I do a Harry Chapin song in the show and on the album that I love to do, too - "Mr. Tanner".

PC: Also, did anything major not make the cut for the show and the album?

LB: Oh, yeah - there were so many! But, I think the ones that we have make a really great show, though - and the recording reflects that.

PC: This was stupendous, Laura - thank you so very much. We all can't wait for all your many upcoming projects - and may your house-hold name status rise ever higher!

LB: [Laughs,] Aww! Thank you, thank you, Pat. This was incredible. Bye.

InDepth InterView: Laura Benanti Talks New Live Album, 54 Below Shows, Broadway, Hollywood & More

Photo Credits: Walter McBride, Joan Marcus, Lincoln Center Theater, Encores!, etc.

Related Articles

From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Before you go...