Ann Harada has been seen on Broadway in Les Misérables, 9 to 5, and now Cinderella, but it's still Avenue Q, the little show that could (and still does), for which she is best known. After originating the role of Christmas Eve off and on Broadway and in London, Harada has a rightful sense of ownership over the role, and when she decides to bring out this hilarious character, she does so in a big way.
Harada loves revising Christmas Eve yearly for a one-night-only holiday spectacular, Christmas Eve With Christmas Eve, a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This year, the event will take place on December 2 at XL Cabaret Lounge. TheaterMania chatted with Harada about the unique holiday treat, which features her signature creation singing duets with some of Broadway's best-looking male performers.
Where did the character name "Christmas Eve" come from?
That's always a point of discussion. [Avenue Q coauthor] Jeff Marx said he had an aunt named Eve and they used to give her a hard time; it had some sort of relative connection. But basically, it was one of those weird kinds of names like "Hello Kitty" that [the character] picked for herself because it represented something to her that was cool or American. We've chosen to go that route.
What is the Christmas Eve with Christmas Eve origin story?
It was sort of a joke started by Gary Adler, our musical director at Avenue Q, when we were doing the show. He said, "Wouldn't it be great if you did a concert called Christmas Eve with Christmas Eve, and it would be a big variety show like Perry Como or Andy Williams." And we were like "Hahahahaha." Cut to, we're closing Avenue Q on Broadway and I said to Gary, "We should do it this year because there will be no Christmas Eve and we can do it as a one-off." Little did we know if was about to move off-Broadway in three seconds and that Avenue Q was not done.
And you decided to try it anyway?
We said, "This is a good idea and we should try doing it." I don't remember who had the idea that we should have it be her living out her dream singing with all of these Broadway hunky guys. Once that idea evolved, we took it and ran. This is now year four, and the hardest part is trying to reach the guys and talk them into doing it.
Which of Broadway's hunkiest are participating this year?
I have several hunky men — Max von Essen, Wesley Taylor, Leslie Odom Jr., Santino Fontana, Adam Chanler-Berat, Howard McGillin, Greg Hildreth, Jordan Gelber, Howie Michael Smith, Clinton Sherwood, Aaron Albano, and Jose Llana.
Why do you return to Christmas Eve, the character, year after year?
Because I love her. She is me. So much of her is me. She can tell the truth in a way that Ann Harada cannot. Christmas Eve can get away with it, in the same way that Jen Cody and Don Richard [can when they] play Little Sally and Officer Lockstock [from Urinetown]. It's that kind of freedom.