Ana Gasteyer Shares Her Songs
The multi-talented star discusses her new cabaret show and her return to series television.
The enchanting show, which debuted last month at New York's Feinstein's at Loews Regency, takes its title from an offhand comment made by the star's mother. "A couple of months ago, she told me on the phone I had become a 'handsome woman', and as soon as she said it, I thought it made a great title," she says.
"As for the elegant part, I love the idea of trying to class myself up. I was originally going to put the show together as an uptown fancy-dress kind of evening, doing lots of Sondheim, but it eventually degenerated into something more like an old-time variety show. I think it's the successful marriage of all the parts of my personality."
The act -- which she conceived with her good friend Julian Fleisher -- may be Sondheim-free, but it showcases an unusual array of songs, including a singular version of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Titwillow," the Gershwins' "Slap That Bass," "The Theme from Valley of the Dolls," the gorgeous ballad, "The Book of Love," the tongue-twisting "Proper Cup of Coffee," and "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate."
"The overall idea was to find some songs with what I call a sense of musical humor," says Gasteyer. "But I didn't want to do standard musical comedy songs, and I didn't want it to feel like I was doing slapstick ha-ha numbers. What I wanted were songs that live in between a character and me. To be honest, I hate being onstage alone. I really think of myself as being an ensemble actor, which is why on some of the numbers I insist on getting shoutouts from the band."
While the New York version of the show didn't include anything she's done on Broadway, she may change that for the Catalina engagement. "I hear the L.A. audience is very Wicked-friendly, so I am going to try to find some fun way to do 'Defying Gravity' or 'For Good'," she notes.
The transition from Broadway to cabaret has been both thrilling and terrifying, says Gasteyer. "Every time I do the show, I feel like I'm being shot out of a cannon or I'm giving birth," she says. "But the joy of cabaret is that it is such an intimate way to see a performer. I wanted the act to feel like you were at my birthday party in my living room. At home, I really love to throw parties -- we always have a signature cocktail and play games, and my show feels a lot like that."
Fortunately for her many fans, Gasteyer isn't turning her back on television. She appeared numerous times last season as a quirky judge on CBS' The Good Wife, and will guest-star in two upcoming episodes of HBO's acclaimed series Curb Your Enthusiasm as a love interest for star Larry David.
Gasteyer has also just joined the cast of ABC's new sitcom Suburgatory in the recurring role of Sheila Shay. "So far, I've only shot the pilot, and I think it's a funny show with a lot of heart and sincerity," she says. "Sheila's the typical nosy neighbor -- this hyper-perfect woman with a little dose of TMI, which is great for me. But I've talked to the writers a little bit about where the character might go, and we all agree that she has this slightly dark and unhappy side, which will add a little dimension."