Interview: Laura Benanti at NJPAC

By: Nov. 10, 2015
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Tony Awarding winning actress Laura Benanti will perform in concert at NJPAC on November 21st. A week before her solo show, Laura ties the knot to Patrick Brown. I caught up with the busy Broadway and now 'Supergirl' star as she dishes on behind the scenes of 'The Sound of Music LIVE,' why her tweets get a lot of attention, and some recent sad news.

Leigh Scheps: Have we really not seen you on Broadway in 5 years?

Laura Benanti: I know it feels weird, very foreign.

LS: She Loves Me is coming back on Broadway in the spring. You must be excited?

LB: Yes, very excited. We start rehearsals December 21st. It's a beautiful show. It's pretty cool there's a sweet revival happening when there are other new shows on at the same time like Hamilton and Waitress. I think it's good to have an old fashioned musical as well as new musicals. There's a lot of room for different shows.

LS: What are you looking forward to most about it?

LB: Being in front of a live audience again. I get that in my concerts but there's nothing like being on Broadway.

LS: The Radio City 'New York Spring Spectacular' was a hit and there are plans to return next year. Any insight on whether you'll be back too?

LB: No, because I will be in She Loves Me.

LS: You just posted on social media you had a miscarriage - something many women don't do. I am sure that was tough to write about and reveal.

LB: I am a feminist with a capital 'F' and this is definitely a feminist issue. The reason I did that was because I feel like it's one of the last women's issues we don't talk about. I wanted other women to know there's no shame in talking about it. People don't say they're pregnant until the second trimester. I intellectually understand that you don't want the whole world to know your business, but at the same time what does that mean? You don't tell your employers you're pregnant, but then when you miscarry no one knows you miscarried. Miscarrying is a horrible painful event. That just felt like something that needed to be addressed. I am by no means prescribing how people grieve. I am just saying it's painful, it's not your fault and it's so common. Well if it's so common --let's talk about it and open a dialogue where people know what to say to you. Doing it for me felt like the only way it would really help women who've also suffered. The response has been beautiful and heartwarming and I've received beautiful messages from people that I will treasure forever.

LS: Something you won't treasure: disrespectful theater goers. What's your take on the growing trend?

LB: I think it's a deeper issue on the lack of communication in our culture in general. It's not abnormal to see a family out to dinner and every person is on their phone instead of communicating with each other and that's pretty sad. I think we've become a TV culture where we forget the live performer in front of us can see us. I think there is a self-centeredness that happens. There's nothing more important than what you are doing in that moment. So, unless it's an emergency, put your phone away.

LS: Do you go off stage and talk about these people being rude in the audience?

LB: Yeah, it's a distraction. It's a bummer. It feels like we're the side show when really it should be the main event.

LS: You're hysterical on Twitter. I loved the joke you made in May about going for walk in Central Park while looking at your phone. Are you secretly a comedian?

LB: That's actually true. I am not so secretly a comedian. I write a lot of my own material if you've seen videos I've done. I write jokes.

LS: On to TV: You are a regular on the small screen these days appearing in lots of shows. Everyone is still talking about the 'The Sound of Music LIVE' and how you killed it "on stage." Besides no audience to work off of, what was the most challenging part? What were you doing while you were waiting in the wings?

LB: There were TVs everywhere. When we weren't on stage, we were watching what America was watching and rooting for each other and our leading lady. That experience was incredible, and I was just enjoying myself. We didn't have an audience to play to but I think that's good because we kept it more real. If we had an audience to play to, the performance would have gotten too big. Sizing our performances to the camera was an important journey for me at least.

LS: Tell me about your concert at NJPAC. What can we expect?

LB: It's going to have a 3-piece band and is similar to my other shows, but not necessarily in content. I sing songs from the theater and pop songs. When I say 'pop songs,' I mean from the 90's. And I tell jokes. So it's sort of a stand up show meets a concert --not your traditional lounging across a piano cabaret show. It's much looser.

LS: Is there anything you haven't done yet? How about that Tori Amos musical?

LB: I want to do that musical real bad. I am currently writing a book. I want to keep doing these comedy videos I do. I have lots of ideas for myself.

LS: What's your least favorite show tune?

LB: My least favorite is "This Was a Real Nice Clambake"' from Carousel.

LS: Favorite?

LB: My favorite show tune has got to be Stephen Sondheim's "I Remember Sky." It's probably the saddest song of all time I sing it to myself in the mirror. No, I am kidding. That's the joke.

And the joke's on you if you miss out on her concert appearance at 6:00pm and 8:30pm, November 21st. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit NJPAC.


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