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Photo by Jenny Anderson

On today’s SNAPSHOTS, tomorrow night if you love musical theatre like me then you have been waiting for Signature Theater & Wolf Trap’s 4th Annual Broadway in the Park. Experience a night of stellar show tunes and memorable performances under the stars this summer at Wolf Trap. Our guest today is one of the two amazing actresses who has made her mark in the world of entertainment!    

The funny, the fearless Laura Benanti!

Welcome to SNAPSHOTS, Laura!

Gosh, what an incredible introduction. Thank you, Dean!

Well, you have earned it. Especially since I followed your career for such a long time, and it’s still a great honor to talk to you. I’m a lover of musical theater. Now, my first question to you is, this is the fourth annual Broadway in the Park, how does it feel to be part of the 2024 festivities?

I’m really excited. My mom and my dad are both from the area. My mom grew up in McLean and, my dad, Marty, grew up in Falls Church. So yeah. So I heard, you know, the tale of Wolf Trap since I was a child. When I was about nine years old, I went and saw A Chorus Line there, and it was like 100 degrees out. We were sitting on the lawn, and at a certain point I realized, “Oh, I’m not even feeling the heat,” because I was just so enthralled about what was happening on the stage. So, Wolf Trap is sort of a special place in my family lore. So, extra excited to be there. I have a lot of family that’s going to be in the audience, so that should be a lot of fun.

Nice! Now, will this be your first time performing at the venue?

No, I performed one other time in the main space with Matthew Morrison, many years ago. And then I’ve played the Barns many times. So, it’s one of my favorite audiences for sure.

I’m so glad to hear it. Well, like every other Broadway in the Park over the years, we have two Broadway stars. In this case of this year, you’re partnered with Jordan Fisher. Is this the first time that you two worked on stage together?

I’ve never even met Jordan, so I’m very excited to get to know him. From everything I’ve heard, he’s a really lovely young man.

Excellent! Now, you have been known for your work on stage, screen & television. I want to talk about your Broadway career, because you’ve been nominated for many Tonys. You won one Tony. I’ve always meant to ask this question to musical theater actors, is there a role out there that you have yet to play one day but love to?

So, I’ve been so blessed. I’ve performed so many of my dream roles, Maria in The Sound of Music, Claudia in Nine, Cinderella in Into the Woods, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Amalia Balash in She Loves Me. And then, you know, newer shows that I felt so grateful to get to be a part of creating. There’s really only one show that I feel like is my on my bucket list, and that’s A Little Night Music. I mean, who doesn’t want to sing Send in the Clowns? So that would be, that’s definitely a role that I would want to play.

If you ever performing that in DC or New York, please give me a call. I would love to come out and see you perform

I absolutely will!

And you have done a comedy show recently, which I’ve heard on Audible right now, and I got to listen to it before the broadcast. And it’s called Nobody Cares. For those who have never seen the show in New York or heard it in last couple weeks, tell us what the show is all about?

Well, it’s a, like you said, a comedy show. It’s sort of an autobiographical comedy that lends itself more to stand up than anything else. There’s five original songs that I wrote with Todd Almond. It was directed by Annie Tippe, and it’s not what people are necessarily used to hearing from me. I want to be really clear that no one under the age of 16 should listen to it. It definitely I will not be singing show tunes.

It’s really sort of a comedic trip through my life, which has been an interesting one. It’s, you know, it’s called Lauren Benanti: Nobody Cares, which Audible commissioned this show. As I was writing. I just kept thinking, “who cares? Nobody cares. There’s so much real stuff happening in the world. Who cares what I think?” And then through the course of writing it, I realized sort of how much life I’ve lived and then I really got to this space of realizing that so many of the things I had worried about as a young person, they weren’t worth it. You know, all of those fears that used to sort of decimate me. Nobody cares.

It’s a full circle journey from ingenue to recovering ingenue and it was a delight to do. I’m excited for the next steps of it. People can listen to it on Audible right now. And even though you’re not able to see some of the more physical comedy, I really think the show itself comes through.

And I understand that one of the songs, Recovery Ingenue, is actually going to be in tomorrow’s performance, correct?

Yes, I’m going to be debuting it with an orchestra, which will be really exciting.  I’m excited to hear it adapted in that way.

Since I’ve know the show and its downright hilarious, would you ever think about touring it across the country one day?

I think the plan is to start taking it out to certain cities, and doing it that way. And then there’s talks of filming it for a TV special. And so, we’ll see, we’ll see. I hold it all loosely, but I’d like to get it out there into the world more.

We’ll definitely keep that in mind. Now, how did you discover that you are comedic? You are one of those actress who can do anything and you kill it.

My mom’s really funny. My mom sort of always looked at the world through the lens of a sense of humor, and she taught that to myself and my sister. There’s usually some something funny to be found in any situation, even the hardest ones. I think it’s really through her and allowing myself as I got older to worry less about what people think of me, because comedy is you put yourself out there. You know, there’s a risk with comedy. There has to be a sense of abandon and play in order for it to feel fun. Because that’s when I see an artist who’s having fun, that allows me to join in.

I bet, especially since a couple weeks ago, you got to reprise a role that many people are familiar with you doing – Melania Trump on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I mean, every time I watch it, you kill the mannerisms so perfectly. When did the opportunity came up for the first time that you were asked to portray Melania on The Late Show?

Well, I had actually been on Steven’s show promoting She Loves Me, and he put up a photo of me next to Melania and said, “has anyone told you, you resemble her?” And I never had thought of that. Then I sort of made the face and then didn’t think about it again. And a few months later, after her famously plagiarized Michelle Obama speech at the Republican National Convention. I woke up to a flurry of emails and calls and texts asking if I could come in that day and try and put together an impression. And I did.

I spent all day watching videos, any video of her that I could find, and trying to get down her mannerisms. And it was a live show. Usually it’s recorded live in front of a studio audience, but it’s played later, and this was actually live on television, so it was a big risk, but it paid off.

It paid off dearly. How many appearances have you done as Melania so far?

I would say probably 15 or 16, I’m not sure exactly, but definitely in the teens.

You have such a busy life. You’re about to do a show in a couple weeks with your mother on 54 Below, called Mothers Know Best. Tell us about this show.

There’s a wonderful cabaret space called 54 Below, and I perform there a lot. I actually have a live album that was recorded there. And mom, Linda Benanti, who is Linda Wanaberger, when she lived in Virginia, she and I are performing together. This is our second show together. Our first one was The Story Goes On. My mom was a Broadway performer, and when my parents got divorced, she stopped performing. So, right when I had my first daughter, Ella, I sort of realized how much she sacrificed for myself and my sister. Becoming a mother really illuminated that for me, and I basically forced her to come and sing with me. So, she came out of retirement, 36 years later, and it’s as though she never missed a beat. She’s so remarkably talented, and getting to do these shows with her is so special. I’m really excited about it.

What can audiences look forward to Saturday night? I know for me, every time I come to see Broadway in the Park, I’m looking forward to not only the the two Broadway actors they bring every year, but some of our local talent, like Tracy Lynn Oliveira and Rayanne Gonzales.

I tell you, I’m looking forward to that the most. I’m looking forward to you know, some of the Signature’s singers, and meeting new artists is one of my favorite things. And there are so many talented people in this world, it’s kind of remarkable. And you know, who becomes famous and who does not is such a crapshoot at the end of the day. I always love whatever city I go into, I love hearing and meeting and watching the local talent. Because before we had television, before we had social media, before we had all of that, there were local celebrities. It was the person in your town who was the most talented, and they were acknowledged and celebrated for that. So, to me, this is the most reminiscent of that time.

I understand you have a birthday coming up. Any special plans?

You know, ignoring it. I’m mostly going to be ignoring it. My baby, Louisa, turns two on July 9th. Oh, and then I turn 45 on July 15th, which I just simply cannot believe. I started in this business when I was 18 years old, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. You know, this life is so precious and fleeting. When I was young, and I would hear people my age say that, I would sort of roll my eyes, but man, this life goes fast and just sort of enjoying every moment of it and taking in the love from the people around you is becoming more and more my focus in this life.

I almost forgot this one thing I remember that you also narrate books, and you’re about to have a narration of a book coming out soon?

House of Glass is a very scary book. It is very suspenseful. It’s not gory or anything like that. But I was riveted, honestly, as I was reading it. And you know, it’s a good book when the person who is the audio engineer is like, “Can we do one more chapter? I want to know what happens.” 

See Laura with Jordan Fisher and our local amazing talent in Signature Theatre and Wolf Trap presents the annual Broadway in the Park – Saturday night 8:00pm at the Filene Center. Tickets starts at $33 – Gates open at 6:30pm. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.wolftrap.org

Laura Benanti: Nobody Cares is now available on Audible. House of Glass featuring the narration of Ms. Benanti will be released August 6th. Click HERE for more information and to pre-order!

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