BWW Interview: A Leading Lady of Broadway, Christine Ebersole Stars As Herself In AN EVENING At The Wallis
The much lauded and much admired Broadway leading lady Christine Ebersole will be bringing AN EVENING WITH Christine Ebersole for one night only at The Wallis February 28, 2020. Winner of two Tony Awards (42nd STREET and GREY GARDENS), Christine, in between her many theatrical engagements (and present television gig), ventures out in cabaret settings as her effervescent self, showcasing her gorgeous vocals and charming wit. In a delightful phone conversation, Christine answered my questions with sharp quips as only a seasoned comedienne would. (She was a Saturday Night Live cast member, after all!) Lots of laughing between us!
Thank you taking the time for this interview, Christine!
Have you performed AN EVENING WITH Christine Ebersole before? Feinstein's in New York, maybe?
This was at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.
With just the songs from all the musicals you've done, you'd have enough for a number of AN EVENINGS WITH. How did you come up with your current song list?
That's such a good question. Just songs from my career, but it's also songs that really speak to me, that aren't necessarily songs that I've performed in a Broadway show; that kind of shape a narrative of my life, and involved family, my parents and career.
Do you plan on reprising your previous cabaret BIG NOISE FROM WINNETKA any time soon? Or does each of your shows morph into newer versions?
I don't know if they morph into newer versions. But it's just kind of where I'm at. I think I've moved on from BIG NOISE FROM WINNETKA, although I absolutely loved that show. I just feel like my life has taken me to other places and other memories and other experiences that I would like to share.
I usually ask a singer of their favorite songs, but I just realized that one probably wouldn't be singing songs one doesn't like, right?
No, no. I don't do that.
Is there one song in one of your past shows that you had a particular challenge with? (mixing up lyrics, missing cues, mistimed entrances)
If it did happen, I blocked it out. Because that's definitely an unpleasant experience.
Do you find it liberating, or just apples-to-oranges, performing as yourself Christine Ebersole in a cabaret, as opposed to as a scripted character?
Going as yourself is the hardest. because it's the most exposed, and the most vulnerable.
Any differences in pre-show rituals for you as WAR PAINT's Elizabeth Arden or GREY GARDEN's Little Eddie vs you as you?
No, I don't think so. It's just the half-hour of putting on makeup, and things like that. It's a way of gathering your thoughts and getting centered. The approach is to always be honest.
Do you do any vocal warm-ups?
As Ethel Merman says, 'What do you think the first number's for?'
What do you remember from the evening of June 3, 2001 sitting in Radio City Music Hall waiting for your category to be announced?
That's so nerve-racking! The thing I kept remembering to tell myself was that in the great scheme of things, it's already been decided. I just needed to show up and find out what happens.
That's a great attitude! So six years later sitting in Radio City Music Hall, were you more 'seasoned'? Or just as nervous and excited?
That was different because there was such an expectation for me to win, so that made it harder in a way, because what if I didn't? Then, it's like letting everybody down. You're always being scrutinized. There's something about awards that is... nerve-racking. As much as we appreciate them in the long run, the actual event is nerve-racking.
What words of wisdom did you receive early in your career that you fervently adhere to today?
There were two things that my father told me. One was 'work begets work.' And the other one is 'enjoy the process.' In other words, don't look for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Just enjoy the rainbow, and then you'll find the pot of gold at the end.
That's pretty smart. What version of this advice would you give to an acting novice in 2020?
I think it's a bit of a shark pool. I think it's important to be armored in a sense, and yet be honest . The other thing is being dedicated to your gift that you've been given, and to pursue that with your full self. Don't stand outside of it. Although there is a part of you that just is watching, which I guess is good.
You were part of Saturday Night Live during 1981 to 1982. What was the best technique/trick you learned from that experience?
Hold your nose when you're underwater.
What is the funniest memory you have of your SNL time?
Lots of funny that year. I remember one that was very challenging. Singing a song with Joe Piscopo based on "It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas." But we were singing "It's Beginning to be Supply Side Christmas," which was a popular phrase that was done in the Reagan era. It was wintertime. It was snowing. But, in order to have snow, they used this plastic snow that looks like snow; but it was plastic. And I remember taking a breath in, and a plastic snow went to the back of my throat. This is on live television. That was really a trip. Singing when I just wanted to choke.
What is 'supply side'?
Supply side economics. I think it was part of Reaganomics. Reagan was president then. I never really understood what it meant. But it had to do with rich people. I think I was wearing a mink coat.
A real mink?
Probably. They were all real back then. That was before the red paint.
Any theatrical heroine (or villainess) you'd still love to tackle?
That kind of remains to be seen. I think that's going to be written.
What's next on your plate?
I'm currently here in Los Angeles doing a TV series. You can watch me every Monday night on CBS. It's called Bob Hearts Abishola, Chuck Lorre's new TV series. I'm having a ton of fun over there at Warner Bros. It's a great, great cast; I'm just so blessed to be a part of it.
Any particular song from AN EVENING WITH... you'd love the Wallis audience to leave humming or singing?
There's so many wonderful songs, oh my gosh! I would say, as many as you can take in.
Can you share a preview of some of the songs?
"Lullaby of Broadway," "42nd Street," "Inchworm," "The Way You Look Tonight," "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" It's an evening of fun and frivolity.
Thank you again, Christine! I very much look forward to spending AN EVENING WITH you at The Wallis!
For ticket availability for Christine's one-nighter February 28, 2020; log onto www.thewallis.org