Laura Benanti loves musical theater. Laura Benanti loves popular music. Laura Benanti combines the two in her new cabaret act, In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention, at Broadway nightclub 54 Below from May 20-25. The Tony Award winner (for Gypsy), most recently seen in the short-lived NBC comedy Go On, will share the stage with composer/lyricist/musical director Todd Almond and perform hits from both genres (including a few showtune-pop mashups that may surprise you). At a press preview for the concert in April, Benanti shared her inspiration for the concert, which will be recorded live and released by Broadway Records.

Laura Benanti sings Harry Chapin's ballad "Mr. Tanner."
Laura Benanti sings Harry Chapin's ballad "Mr. Tanner."
(© David Gordon)

Tell me about your show.
I'm performing with Todd Almond. He's a brilliant songwriter and musical director, and he's arranging songs. It's all over the map. I'm singing from The Boyfriend, I'm singing from Gigi and Guys and Dolls, and then we're also singing a song that Todd arranged of Lana Del Ray and Ellie Goulding, and Stephen Sondheim's "One More Kiss" and Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye," and then songs that Todd has written, and some songs that I have written. So it's really all over the place. And then, we're just silly. It's not stuffy. It's not an event where you feel like you can't breathe. I want to feel like people are coming to visit us in our home and we're just entertaining them.

This is the perfect place for that.
I know! It's so beautiful.

Whenever I see shows here, they end up putting me so close to the stage. I was literally under the piano for Adam Guettel's concert.
My husband [Steven Pasquale] did that show! I wish I had seen it. I was in L.A. Bummer.

How do you go about picking a song list?
I've actually been psychotic about picking a song list. I've slept like five hours in the last five days. I've been doing the same show for the past three years that was always, like, songs that I've sung in shows I've done, or songs I've always wanted to sing, or songs from my childhood. So I was really trying to evaluate why I was really doing this show. And I think what it boiled down to is…I was a musical theater nerd growing up, and I still am, but then I was introduced to The Beatles, and Tori Amos, and popular music. So I still had this love for musical theater, but now I was into popular music as well. So I wanted to take from both genres and meet in the middle. We're taking songs that are typically thought of as "musical theater plunky plunk songs" and out-there pop songs and arranging them in a similar vein so it all feels part of the same world. It's like a mix tape.

What do you think will surprise audiences the most?
I don't know. I don't know what audiences are expecting. I do know that whenever I perform, people are like "I didn't know you were funny." Which is a weird backhanded compliment. But I'm definitely a silly lady, and Todd is silly, too.

I'm excited to hear about the song you've written for the show.
There are actually three. One has been done before, "The Waitress Song," which I wrote for my friend who's a waitress. Another song I play on the ukulele. And then, a poem that I wrote when I was twelve, Todd set to music.

Ukulele? I think that's a side of you people won't expect.
I was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe when I was a kid, and in the movie Some Like It Hot, she played the ukulele, so I thought "Oooh, I want to be beautiful and sexy like her, so I'm gonna play the ukulele."

[Laughs]
That's not why she's beautiful and sexy. [Laughs] But it's okay.