Broadway Spotlight: Interview with Laura Benanti

Tony-Winning Actress Serves Up New Comedy

Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti is perhaps best known for her powerful soprano voice in various musicals, as well as her comedic timing in various roles on stage and screen. The New York native was raised in northern New Jersey and says she was smitten with Broadway since before she could speak. Benanti is now starring as the wife of Keegan- Michael Key’s character in his Broadway debut, as a couple visiting Amy Schumer (also making her debut) and Jeremy Shamos’ characters’ home for dinner in Steve Martin’s new comedy Meteor Shower opening November 1 at the Booth Theatre.

Directed by four-time Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks (Guys & Dolls, Six Degrees of Separation), Benanti returns to the stage after a successful run last year in She Loves Me, earning her fifth Tony nod opposite Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski. Benanti won her Tony in 2008 for Gypsy and has also starred opposite Patti LuPone in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, not to mention countless roles on TV, including Nashville, The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, Royal Pains, and Law and Order: SVU. Laura talked recently with New York City Monthly about her superstar cast and creative partners, her dream dinner in New York City, and the inspiration from her mother that shaped her desire to be in the theater…

You and Jeremy Shamos are pretty much stage veterans at this point, as well as superstar director Jerry Zaks, in addition to everything you have done in TV and lm. You two are both working with Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key for their Broadway debuts, who both have their own signature timing and comedy chops. What would you say during the rehearsal process they may gain from you and Jeremy with your theater experience, and what if anything have you gleaned from their perspectives as comedians?

The term “stage veteran” cracks me up. Like Jeremy and I are in our 80’s sitting around reminiscing about the golden age of Broadway and swapping our best Merman stories! Jerry has created a really safe and fun rehearsal space. We are all bringing our best abilities and particular strengths to the show. It’s been a really fun experience.

Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower takes place over dinner. New York, of course, has a massive dining culture. If you could create a dream dining scenario in NYC, be it a restaurant, dish, drink, company to include, what would that look like?

It would be me and Amy (Schumer) eating pizza and drinking wine at one of New York’s many delicious pizza joints while we FaceTime Hillary Clinton, who is sitting behind her desk in the Oval Office. You said dream.

Having done musicals, comedy, drama, what made this new comedy most attractive for you to be a part of?

The writer (Steve Martin), the amazing cast, and the opportunity to work with Jerry Zaks again.

What is an early memory you have of Broadway, maybe before you were actually starring in a show? Something that happened maybe with family or friends, a rehearsal or audition that made you really connect with this art form?

I have connected with this art form since I was pre-verbal. My earliest memories are me pretending to be on stage. My mother taught voice to some of the kids in The Tap Dance Kid and I got to meet them backstage, and it blew my mind.

Meteor Shower blends so many talented forces in entertainment. What do you find most compelling about this show, and why should audiences not miss this one with all the strong material out there right now?

I find the humanity within the absurdity to be entertaining and compelling. Not only is it ridiculous and hilarious, but I am really drawn to what it says about relationships and the dynamics between people. Also, it’s really funny.