15 Questions in 15 Minutes with Broadway’s Laura Benanti

After taking Broadway by storm at the age of eighteen as Maria in The Sound of Music, the super-talented multi-nominated multiple award-winning star Laura Benanti has appeared in such notable Broadway productions as Swing!, Into the Woods, Nine, The Wedding Singer, Gypsy (for which she earned the 2008 Tony Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical), In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, She Loves Me, Meteor Shower, and most recently, in 2019, in My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center. Her beautiful semi-operatic soprano can be heard on cast recordings of the shows, on her debut album In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention: Live at 54 Below with Broadway Records, and in her cabaret concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, where she’s scheduled to return this December 1-6, as a part of the iconic midtown nightclub’s “Diamond Series.”

Laura Benanti at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Photo courtesy of the artist.

In addition to her formidable presence on the stage, Benanti has also appeared on the big and small screens, including her popular roles in the TV series Nashville, The Good Wife, Supergirl, and Nurse Jackie, and, since 2016, as First Lady Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Not only is Benanti a prolific performer and fan favorite, she’s a dedicated artist/activist and “righteous feminist badass” who is using her powerful voice in support of a number of momentous socio-political causes, from Immigrant Families Together to Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) and Sunshine Concerts – a charitable endeavor to benefit senior living facilities, children’s hospitals, and community members who are especially isolated during this time of quarantine.

For her latest project, Benanti will be joining forces with Margaret Cho, Peppermint, Laura Jane Grace, Veruca Salt, Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, and a roster of other concerned cisgender and non-binary feminist performers in Do Re #MeToo – a virtual concert covering the most sexist songs ever written, in support of the Abortion Access Front (a non-profit advocacy organization of comedians, writers, and producers using humor to destigmatize abortion and to expose the extremist anti-choice forces working to destroy access to reproductive rights). The digital event, which Benanti will co-host with Lizz Winstead (co-creator of The Daily Show and founder of the AAF), will stream on Thursday, September 17, at 9 pm ET, with the intention of reminding viewers of how pervasive sexism and misogyny are in our pop music, throwing the songwriters’ lyrics back at them, kicking sexism’s ass, and having a great time doing it!

Laura made time in her active schedule to answer some quick questions and to share her witty opinions before the pointedly hilarious show streams later this month.

Laura Benanti in Gypsy. Photo by Joan Marcus.
  1. What’s the most fabulous thing about being on Broadway?

Laura:  Continuing on in the great tradition of telling our stories through word and song. Being in a space where the performers’ hearts are beating in the same space as the audiences.

  1. Which role has been your favorite to date?

I’ve had so many and love them for different reasons!! Louise in Gypsy and Eliza in My Fair Lady.

Laura Benanti and the cast of My Fair Lady. Photo by Joan Marcus.
  1. Are you more like Maria (The Sound of Music), Cinderella (Into the Woods), Louise (Gypsy), or Eliza (My Fair Lady) in real life? 

Hmmmm. There are qualities of all of them that I possess but I would say overall I’m most like Eliza. Spirited and fiery!

  1. What’s the most memorable and meaningful line you’ve ever delivered?

“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

  1. Have you ever performed a song or a character in a show that made you think twice, shake your head, or cringe?

Yes – but I wouldn’t want to say which one!

Laura Benanti. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  1. Is there a particular part or a show you’d like to play in the future? 

I’ve been so lucky to have played so many of my dream roles on stage. At this point in my career I’m focusing on playing interesting roles in TV and film. I don’t feel like I’ve met my fullest ability in those mediums.

  1. What’s the biggest difference in performing on stage versus TV?

Primarily, it’s a difference in energy. Theater requires that you fill the space with more energy. TV/film, you have to draw the audience in. The camera is like a lie detector. If you don’t mean what you’re saying, there’s simply no faking it.

  1. What’s your first creative memory?

Standing on top of a slide and singing in preschool.

  1. What three emotions have you been feeling during the pandemic and the closure of Broadway?

Fear, grief, and a desire to be of service. 

Laura Benanti. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  1. Is there any leisure activity that’s kept you going while in quarantine?

I’ve been concentrating on being of service through #sunshinesongs – free Sunshine Concerts for hospitalized children and isolated senior citizens, donating the proceeds of the first single off my new album (“Sucker“) to Food Corps, and now Executive Producing a documentary for HBO Max about seven graduated seniors from the class of 2020. And raising a three year old! Not much leisure! 

  1. What is it about being in front of a live audience? 

The connection.

  1. What are you enjoying about going virtual?

Being able to be “live,” anywhere.

  1. Which song or line in Do Re #MeToo do you find the most offensive, the most laughable, and the most infuriating?

“Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger you needn’t try anymore.”   

  1. Is there one song that you plan to perform in the “Diamond Series” that best expresses who you are as an artist and a person? 

“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell. 

  1. What are your biggest hopes for 2021, and for your daughter’s future?

I hope that there is a return to a belief in science, trust in journalism, and a trend away from our current nationalism and lack of integrity.

Thanks, Laura, for sharing a “badass” 15 minutes with us, for continuing to entertain your fans during the coronavirus shutdown, and for putting your fame, talent, and humor to good use in support of such crucial causes.

Do Re #MeToo: Sexist Songs Reclaimed By Righteous Feminists plays Thursday, September 17, 2020, at 9 pm ET, on Crowdcast. For pay-what-you-can tickets, go online. A virtual cocktail party VIP package, beginning at 8:30 pm, is also available. All proceeds benefit the Abortion Access Front.

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Deb Miller
Deb Miller (PhD, Art History) is the Senior Correspondent and Editor for New York City, where she grew up seeing every show on Broadway. She is an active member of the Outer Critics Circle and served for more than a decade as a Voter, Nominator, and Judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. Outside of her home base in NYC, she has written and lectured extensively on the arts and theater throughout the world (including her many years in Amsterdam, London, and Venice, and her extensive work and personal connections with Andy Warhol and his circle) and previously served as a lead writer for Stage Magazine, Phindie, and Central Voice.


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