Faith Prince calls and promptly asks to hang up and call back later. She didn't want to miss our scheduled chat time, but she was at the vet with one of her dogs. It's a down-to-earth moment from one of Broadway's larger-than-life performers, who hasn't been seen on the Great White Way since she played sea witch Ursula in The Little Mermaid in 2009. But this Tony Award-winning actress, best known for her performances as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, and Aggie, a beleaguered mother in the short-lived chamber musical A Catered Affair, has kept very busy. After appearing in the national tour of Billy Elliot in 2011, she returned to her cabaret roots and earlier this year released her latest album, Total Faith, recorded live at Florida's Colony Hotel.

After a triumphant run last summer (with fellow performer Jason Graae), Prince returns to 54 Below this week for a slate of solo shows scheduled June 3-8. In anticipation of her performances, we talked to Prince about her favorite tunes to sing and the roles she really wants to play.

Alex Rybeck and Faith Prince perform at 54 Below in August 2012.
Alex Rybeck and Faith Prince perform at 54 Below in August 2012.
(© Tristan Fuge)

I hope your dog's okay!
She is. Her ears have been bothering her, so I was trying to get medicine [before I leave for New York]. I have two little Yorkies. I'm getting on a red eye tonight and I'm trying to get everything in before I come in.

Glad to hear it. Tell me about your show.
I'm very excited! It's gonna be kind of a smorgasbord, a compilation of things. I have a couple of surprises that I don't want to reveal. [I sing] a couple of oldies, a couple of newsies, and definitely Broadway and some jazz.

Who do you perform with?
Alex Rybeck. We met years ago and have been together since 1998. We've been pretty much exclusive.

You do a lot of cabaret.
Usually I like playing other people. I like finding myself through other characters. But when you do cabaret, you are yourself. I think it's the most fun, and I tell you, if somebody had told me that, I would have done it fifteen years earlier than I did. I do like the live situation, because I think I am a live performer. I'm kind of bigger than life. What I love about [live] performance is that it doesn't have to be the same, whether you're an instrumentalist or a jazz singer or if you're a storyteller. I love that it can hold all those different forms. Each performer is different. There is a bit of a stand-up comedian in me. I'm from the South, so I tend to tell stories. That's how we express ourselves. And then I have the Broadway thing on top of it.

The show blends songs and stories. Tell me about your choices.
I was the first Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and I go back to what happened in that. It's fun when you find out performers were cast for something and for whatever reason it didn't work out. So I do a couple of things from Little Shop of Horrors. I do a Betty Hutton tune, a little Barbara Harris, "On a Clear Day…," Kander and Ebb, some jazz, some new songs by Carol Hall and Alex Rybeck, something from The Mad Show.

Do you have a favorite?
I have so many I love. I like a good ballad, and I think most people don't associate me with that. I've got this song by Carol Hall, and it's really different from me. Sometimes, I like showing people a different side of me. I do think I have a lot inside me. I feel like I'm just getting started, honestly. I feel like I've waited my entire life to be this age. I've got all these great broads in me, all these character women. I was playing a torn-down stripper at twenty-five on Broadway, and now I fit the shoes.

So I have to ask…what roles do you want to play?
Definitely Mrs. Lovett some day. I'd love to do Hello, Dolly! I think I'd be an interesting Mona in Whorehouse. Dear World interests me. I'd love to do a one-woman show about Laurette Taylor. Something unexpected.

That would definitely be unexpected. But I'd see it in a heartbeat.
When I was in A Catered Affair, people would come up to me and tell me I reminded them of her performance in the original Glass Menagerie. I had no idea who she was, so I had to research her. I saw a film clip of what she did, and it was like she wasn't acting at all. She was so beyond real.

I was just talking about A Catered Affair this morning, actually.
Oh, really? I still think we need a place on Broadway for the Light in the Piazzas, the Catered Affairs. It's sad that it only happens at Lincoln Center. We need a theater, at least one, beyond Lincoln Center [in which] you can do things like that and warrant its own publicity for that kind of musical. Trying to sell something like that commercially with the Mamma Mia!s and Jersey Boys, it's not the same entity. Like Caroline, or Change. It's different.

That line from "Coney Island" still gets me every time. "You paid your money, took the ride, but missed the view." I try hard not to let that happen to me.
That was one of the most unique lyrics. It saw things in a different way. The first time I really heard that, I was like "Wow. I've never heard it quite that way."