Laura Benanti Says Mom Linda Was Her Most Inspiring Teacher | Playbill

How Did I Get Here Laura Benanti Says Mom Linda Was Her Most Inspiring Teacher

The duo will explore mother-daughter relationships in three performances of Mothers Know Best.

Laura Benanti Graphic by Vi Dang

Tony winner Laura Benanti, who triumphed this past season with her Off-Broadway solo show Nobody Cares, is returning to 54 Below later this month with a special co-star.

The Tony winner—blessed with one of the purest, beautiful voices in the musical theatre—is again joining forces with her mom, actor and voice teacher Linda Benanti (The Odyssey tour, The Fantasticks Off-Broadway) for three performances of Mothers Know Best July 21, 23, and 24 at the intimate Manhattan nightspot. Featuring music direction by Billy Stritch, the 7 PM concerts will explore mother-daughter relationships. Click here for ticket information.

The younger Benanti, who made her Broadway debut in the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music, won her Tony for her touching and powerful work as Louise, a.k.a. famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, in the 2008 revival of Gypsy. She was also Tony-nominated for her performances in Swing!, the 2002 revival of Into the Woods, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and the 2016 revival of She Loves Me. Her additional Broadway credits include Nine, The Wedding Singer, In the Next Room, Meteor Shower, and My Fair Lady.

The multitalented artist, also a mom to daughter Ella, has been seen on screen in Elsbeth, No Hard Feelings, The Gilded Age, Life & Beth, Gossip Girl, Younger, Nashville, The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, Law & Order: SVU, The Sound of Music Live!, Royal Pains, Go On, The Playboy Club, and more.

In the interview below for the Playbill series How Did I Get Here—spotlighting not only actors, but directors, designers, musicians, and others who work on and off the stage to create the magic that is live theatre—Laura Benanti shares how both getting older and parenting have changed her perspective on her work.

Laura and Linda Benanti

Where did you train/study? Was there a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor stand out?
Laura Benanti: I trained with my mom! Well…my mom because…she’s my mom.

You had great success with your recent solo show Off-Broadway. What did you find was the biggest challenge of performing as yourself/by yourself, and what was the biggest reward?
I don’t think I realized how vulnerable it would feel telling some of those stories, even though they were told comedically. But it was cathartic and freeing, and I had so much fun.

You've performed on stage with your mom before. What can audiences expect from the upcoming shows?
My mom is the funniest, most talented person I know. If you like me, you’ll like her even more!

What do you think having a daughter of your own has taught you most about yourself in and out of the business?
Patience. Patience has never come naturally to me. In some ways that’s helped me in my career, but it’s disastrous for being a parent. For myself to slow down has been very challenging, but also informed me as an artist. One has to be acutely present when parenting, and that has bled over into all aspects of my life. It’s also just helped me prioritize. If something’s going to take me away from my family, it needs to meet certain criteria. It’s not just me anymore, and I’m really, really grateful for that!

Boyd Gaines, Laura Benanti and Patti LuPone in Gypsy Joan Marcus

With Gypsy set to return to Broadway this season, can you share one favorite memory of sharing the stage with Patti LuPone in the last revival?
Watching all of Radio City Music Hall leap to their feet after she sang “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” [at the Tony Awards].

Do you have a dream stage role that you've yet to play or any role that you'd love to revisit?
I miss Louise [from Gypsy] and Eliza [from My Fair Lady] sometimes. I wish I could visit them.

I would love to do A Little Night Music. Who doesn’t want to sing "Send in the Clowns"?

Tell me about a job/opportunity you really wanted but didn’t get. How did you get over that disappointment?
That’s mostly what being an actor is. This past year alone I wanted probably seven (TV) jobs that I auditioned for and thought, “I got that!,” and I didn’t. The nice thing about getting older is gaining perspective, and realizing that doesn’t reflect on me as a person or artist. It’s not that they didn’t like me. They just liked someone else more!

Laura Benanti and Richard Chamberlain in The Sound of Music

What do you consider your big break?
When I was 18, I auditioned for Liesl in the 1997 revival of Sound of Music, and they cast me as the understudy to Maria (played by the luminous Rebecca Luker). When Rebecca left, I took over the role opposite Richard Chamberlain.

What advice would you give your younger self or anyone starting out?
There’s enough to go around. Someone else’s success isn’t your failure.

What is your proudest achievement as an actor?
Making a living doing what I love.

From Gypsy to Eliza: Celebrating the Career of Laura Benanti

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