DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Gypsy Tony Winner Laura Benanti

By Andrew Gans
10 May 2013

Laura Benanti
Laura Benanti
Photo by Robert Trachtenberg/NBC

News, views and reviews about the women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Laura Benanti
Laura Benanti, the acclaimed actress blessed with one of the purest voices in the musical theatre, will be sharing that beautiful sound with audiences at 54 Below May 20-25. The gifted artist, the first actress to win a Tony for playing the title role in Gypsy (opposite the Rose of two-time Tony winner Patti LuPone), has titled her new show, which will be recorded live for Broadway Records, In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention. It's a busy time for Benanti, who co-stars in the NBC series "Go On" and will be seen in the world premiere of Andrew Lippa's new oratorio I Am Harvey Milk next month with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chatting with the down-to-earth, straight-forward Benanti, who spoke about her upcoming cabaret engagement, her Gypsy Tony win and her husband, actor Steven Pasquale; that brief interview follows.

Question: Tell me about your upcoming show at 54 Below.
Laura Benanti: It's called In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention. Todd Almond is my music director and arranger. It’s my first time performing with Todd and my first time performing with the band, so I’m really excited about that.

Question: How large is the band?
Benanti: It’s four pieces. The concert is basically classic musical theatre songs and then some pop songs, some songs that Todd wrote, and a couple songs that I’ve written — and then just little silly stories in between.



Question: Tell me a bit more about that title.
Benanti: [Laughs.] Well, the evening is very relaxed and silly, so I wanted a name that would sort of reflect the vibe of the evening, and that seemed like the best one. Because, really, who on earth does a one-person show? Let’s be honest – it’s a person who really needs a lot of attention [laughs].

Benanti at the April 29 New York Pops gala.
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Question: How did you go about putting your show together? Did you choose all the songs or did you and Todd work together?
Benanti Todd and I chose the songs together. He came in with a few, and I came in with a few. Then, from there, we just tried to put them in an order that makes sense with the little bit of storytelling that we’re doing.

Question: Is this your first time at 54 Below?
Benanti: It is my first time. I’m really excited.

Question: You’ve played other clubs – how does playing in a smaller, more intimate space like 54 Below compare to…
Benanti: I prefer a smaller space because the vibe that I like to create with the show is the feeling that people are coming into my living room and we’re all just hanging out, so it doesn’t feel quite as formal as cabaret can sometimes feel. There’s something about the smallness of the space that feels really cozy and intimate, and I prefer that to the great big hall feeling. That feels a little removed to me.

Question: You’re also part of the premiere of the Harvey Milk concerts in San Francisco.
Benanti: Yes, I am - with Andrew [Lippa].

Question: How did you get involved with that?
Benanti: Lippa just asked me if I would do it, and I said, “Yes!” [Laughs.] It was very simple.

Question: Have you heard the piece yet?
Benanti: Yes, the piece is beautiful. It’s a little bit complicated to explain the person that I play. I feel like I don’t want to talk about it too much because I’m still figuring it out, and I would hate to speak out of turn.

Question: Is it a through-sung piece?
Benanti: Yes.

 Continued...