Off Script: Laura Benanti Keeps a Strict Regimen to Hit 'She Loves Me' High Notes and Punchlines
"We played alien relatives together, but I'm actually convinced she's an alien because she's crazy talented," said 'Supergirl' star Melissa Benoist of the five-time Tony nominee.
Laura Benanti nabbed her first lead-actress Tony nomination for her starring turn in Scott Ellis’ revival of the beloved musical comedy She Loves Me, about quarreling 1930s perfume-counter clerks unaware that they are each other's anonymous romantic pen pals. Opposite Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski, THR’s review said Benanti “has never been better,” as her soprano numbers “match technique with maturity and heart” and her comedic timing is “flawless, never pushing too hard on a line or failing to grasp the heightened effectiveness of a throwaway delivery.”
The Tony nomination is Benanti’s fifth overall, and the storied performer of Broadway’s Into the Woods, Swing!, Gypsy (for which she won) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was feted by family and friends on Monday at Feinstein’s/54 Below. “We played alien relatives together, but I'm actually convinced she's an alien because she's crazy talented,” said Melissa Benoist of Benanti’s Supergirl guest stint, as others like Jeremy Jordan, Michael Urie, Michael Arden and Molly Ephraim also saluted her humorous tweets, witty original songs and consistent discipline offstage to deliver her best onstage. Julia Murney said it best: “That kind of unicorn doesn't come easy.”
Benanti, 36, goes Off Script to talk hitting high notes while delivering punchlines, sticking to her strict regimen and rereading a special note from her husband before every Studio 54 performance.
What do you admire most about Amalia Balash, and love about playing her?
I admire her courage to step outside the box of a traditional 1930s woman. And that I get to sing in a soprano tone but also get to be funny.
Toughest part about the role?
Vocally, the entire show is difficult for me. For “Where’s My Shoe?” I’m running around like a lunatic, and “Dear Friend” is particularly hard because I’m emotional while singing that high. But that’s my favorite number. I love “Vanilla Ice Cream” as well, but I really connect to “Dear Friend” in a powerful way.
Laura Benanti as Amalia Balash in 'She Loves Me.' Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Favorite punchline to deliver?
When he says, “Do you think I liked you criticizing my socks, my shoes, my fingernails?” And I get to look at his fingernails and say, “Much better.” For some reason, I love that.
What new habits have you taken on for this role?
Never going out. Never drinking, never eating anything delicious. Basically, living like a little monk. I’m pretty fun right now.
Favorite pre-show ritual?
I do have one, but I don’t want to talk about it! [laughs]
When do you eat – before or after the show?
I have veggie smoothies before the show and basically a lot of soup and veggies and rice crackers. My diet is so boring right now. Have I mentioned I'm not fun?
What are you doing when you’re not onstage during the show?
Steaming in my dressing room.
Any trouble sleeping after the show?
Yes. I tend to fall asleep around two in the morning. It’s the worst.
When do you wake up on a normal day?
It’s horrible. Lately I've been waking up at eight or nine and doing a bunch of press.
What do you do on your day off?
Chores! And hang with my friends and my hubby and watch marathons of television.
What’s something special in your dressing room?
A photo from my wedding with my family, and my new family. And a note on my mirror from my husband that he wrote about my performance in this show. After the reviews came out, he wrote his review.
Best post-show reaction so far?
My family said this show is the culmination of the best things they’ve ever seen me do. That feels really good.