Interview: Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar of ALL FOR YOU at 54 Below

The two Broadway stars are back for an encore of their hit show!

By: Apr. 10, 2023
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Interview: Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar of ALL FOR YOU at 54 Below

Sometimes, when performers work together, there is an undeniable synergy between them and the audience that elevates the entire production. That synergy becomes elevated when it's obvious that the two performers absolutely adore one another.

Such is the case with Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar. A New Jersey production of The Bridges of Madison County brought them together and prompted them to create an evening of songs called "All For You." It had a hit run last year at 54 Below, and it's returning to the storied cabaret room for three performances this week April 12-14. I had the chance to chat with these two delightful stars to get some insight on what makes their chemistry sail across the footlights.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

So, this was an idea that was formed during your run in The Bridges of Madison County?

A.L: Yes, I said to Kate Baldwin, "We don't perform together enough. We seem to run into each other once every ten years or something. This show is going to end too quickly. I got to keep doing something. We've got to keep doing something. We sound good together. Let's do something, and you're really funny." Baldwin and I want to sing amazing songs and be funny with you. And we put together a show and they viewed it at 54 Below last July, so we're coming back.

K.B.: I'll have another amazing dress. Right now. I just bought it.

Since your last run of this concert, have you changed the songs or revamped it? Are you doing the set show that you did from last last summer?

K.B.: I think we had two changes. I think Aaron should probably talk about that, honey, right?

A.L.: Yeah. We spent some time really thinking about what changes we could make, but it really works so well. Last time it did, even though we sort of were like, well, what else can we do? We ended up just going, "It kind of works." But there were a couple songs that we wanted to sort of swap out and change, so I'm changing up one of my solos. I'll let everybody be magically surprised what that is. And we're we're adding a duet from Guys and Dolls. Since we're not right on the heels of Bridges anymore, we'll probably pull a little bit back on some of the stuff from Bridges.

What are your favorite songs that you guys do?

K.B.: Well, there are so many choices. The hard part for us was actually just narrowing it down and eliminating songs because we have so many favorites. We both are huge Sondheim fans, so we both love doing "A Little Priest" from Sweeney Todd. I love singing all the Bridges material together, and we also have a really fun time doing "There Once Was a Man" from Pajama Game together, and other Jason Robert Brown songs. We took the title of our show "All For You" from one of his well known songs.

A.L.: Yeah, I think those are our duets. But man, you know...

K.B.: When I think about the next 10 years and shows to do with Aaron, I think about Follies and I think about A Little Night Music and there's so many that we could sing from.

A.L.: It's hard. It's just hard to narrow it down and to really eliminate some of the great songs. I think, if I may, also, what Kate is trying to say is that we're starting to age into our prime. We're stepping into some of the meaty roles now. Enough with the kids stuff - and there's so much. I just love singing with Kate and, as her reputation precedes her, she is as incredible of a human being as she is a talent. We just have such an amazing time.

What makes the other a great singing or song scene or great song partner?

K.B.: The willingness to play, and to go with whatever you're doing, and the willingness to inject humor into whatever we're doing. I think our version of Bridges of Madison County was really funny. We played two characters and found the awkwardness in their relationship, and the awkwardness within them, and really sort of played that up. Those two characters are, you know, romantic. Of course, there's a lot of romance that is taken care of by the story. What I love about Aaron is bringing out his goofy side. And I love being ridiculous and telling funny stories to one another. We have great theater stories, too, because we both had these substantial careers so far, so we can share. We had an experience together, and what we've experienced when we're apart. Because, as Aaron said, we worked together about every 10 years... so it's kind of fun to have a friend like that who you kind of check in with each decade and, like, the first decade was in our 20s, just starting. Second decade was 30s, we're new parents and navigating jobs and families and all that stuff. And, here, we're in our mid 40s. There's kind of a freedom going to one another, and with ourselves, in the business, like kind of an absence of something to prove, kind of like "Let's just have fun and enjoy this time while we can." That kind of spirit, as opposed to trying to do something and make something - just enjoy, especially after a pandemic too. Gosh, I can really go on and on, can't I?

A.L.: I think that there's a very rarefied air of leading ladies and people who can sing anything and act anything and be funny. I've been doing this a long time now, and we've learned a lot. I think it's a really fun way for us to celebrate all the shows we've done and all the shows we want to do, with all of the sort of show business wisdom that we've learned, that you experience. Making Broadway is such a crazy thing. And when you do it long enough, you gain a fun perspective.

Kate just brought up something: She was talking about the stories, and that's what I wanted to hit on. Aaron, you worked with the late, great Angela Lansbury and Elaine Stritch, and, Kate, you worked with Bette Midler and a whole roster of Dolly Levi's. Do you have any fond remembrances or funny stories?

K.B.: Oh yeah, of course. I think Aaron will agree with me, when you first meet a person like an Angela Lansbury or a Bette Midler or a Bernadette Peters, that we both confronted it, haven't we? And, for me, I've listened to them, growing up, and idolize them, and wanted to be just like them. Then you get to know them as people and it kind of it blows your mind a little bit that they're as human as you are. They are just as vulnerable, just as easily swayed or affected by what's going on. So, I had a great time, but my favorite Bernadette story is when she went up, or she and her scene partner, Victor Garber, got into sort of a loop and started saying the same word, same lines, over and over and over again. They lost their place completely, just didn't know where they were, and Bernadette ended up going off stage and getting the the script from the stage manager and finally found their place, and the whole audience went crazy. Of course they all went crazy, just loving it. It's amazing. I just like watching somebody do that, and have the confidence to include the audience on the journey, include them in on the joke. Such a great showbiz story. I love that one. Absolutely.

And how about you, Aaron?

A.L.: Elaine Stritch, the late, great Elaine? Dear God, yes. She called me into her dressing room at half hour. She was, I think, 85 at the time, standing there in a black bra and stockings, checking herself out in the mirror, and she said, "Get in here!" I don't even think, I'm not sure if she knew my name at this point, I'm not sure. I'm playing Carl Magnus. It didn't matter because you just love Elaine. So she's like, "Get in here! Did I ever tell you about the only time I was ever hit by a man?" Before I could even answer, she was like, "It was Ben Gazzara. Hurt like hell and I kind of liked it. Have a good show!"

Oh my God.

K.B.: Oh that's funny. 85 years? Oh my God, I'm far too modest. I can't stand there with somebody looking at me and my... no way. Bernadette Peters crawled into my dressing room, once, on all fours pretending to be a dog. Because of Broadway Barks, you know? She just came in on all fours. And Victor was in my dressing room, but he always was, and she came in on all fours with her little wig cap on, and she goes, "Who's ready for Broadway Barks?" Victor and I were both like, "What's happening?" Bernadette was like, "I'm a dog, silly!"

Now tell me about the American Pops Orchestra and how did they become involved?

A.L.: They're amazing. I had worked on a PBS special with Luke Frazier and the American Pops and they were the first guys that popped into mind when Kate and I were like, "Yeah, let's put a concert together." I called Luke up and I was like, "Is there any world in which you would want to do this? I know how busy you are." Because they're such a special organization. He was like, "Yeah, actually we would love to to do this with you guys." We started working with them, and they're such amazing partners. They're so generous with charts, their musicians are brilliant, and it was a very smooth process, playing together with them, and they knocked it out of the park. It's amazing. I'm so excited to we get to spend another week with them.

I understand it's eight pieces and I thought: "How in the hell can they get more than eight pieces on that stage"?

A.L.: I think, even initially, Luke wanted a harp as well, and then he finally cut the harp. There's no room for the harp, so we'll leave that out. But I have to say that some of our song choices were chosen because I knew we had a string quartet and a rhythm section and guitar. So you're going to hear a fuller, more lush kind of sound and orchestration for some of these songs, which really enhances the performance and your listening and all of it. I just love it. And the dream is that we can take this with an even bigger orchestra to bigger performing arts centers. There was some talk of that last time, with some interest from producers so... You know that the American Pops gives us an unbelievable foundation, as we already have charts for eight pieces, and you can expand on that very easily.

K.B: I would love to do this show all across the country, with different orchestras, with Aaron. How fun would that be? Oh, absolutely.

Thank you both for taking the time out of your busy schedules to chat with me and I hope that "All For You" is a resounding success!

Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar will appear in "All For You" at 54 Below April 12-14 at 7pm each night. Tickets are available HERE. In addition to the ticket, there is a $25 minimum on food and beverage.

All For You will be live streamed on April 14th. Get a reservation HERE.

Visit the Kate Baldwin website HERE and the Aaron Lazar website HERE.


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