Interview: Jane Krakowski on Hosting Name That Tune and Singing and Dancing in Schmigadoon!
Krakowski discusses her two latest projects, both filmed in other countries during the pandemic.
As a long time fan of the classic game show Name That Tune, Tony winner Jane Krakowski jumped at the chance to host Fox's new reboot of the beloved series. Filmed entirely during the pandemic, the network took the unique step of flying Krakowski, band leader Randy Jackson, all of the contestants, and the band, out to Sydney, Australia, where they could shoot in front of a live studio audience, much like they would have here. It's one of two jet-setting by necessity projects that Krakowski has taken part in recently; the other being Apple TV Plus's upcoming musical series Schmigadoon! Here, she shares the secrets of both.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How do you film a musical game show with live singers, live band, and live audience during a pandemic?
We went to Australia, is how we were able to do it! The show was ready to go, and it's the only way we would have been able to get it on the air within this TV season. We were in Sydney, and after quarantining for 14 days, we were able to film it like you would here, with a live audience, four live singers, and an amazing live band who learned, I think, 80 songs a day. And we had all American contestants, too. Fox sent us all over to Australia, and we were really thankful that we were able to go there.
What was that experience of quarantining like?
Quarantining was hard. We were brought in an army van to an undisclosed hotel and locked in for 14 days. It's my first time working with the legendary Randy Jackson — he's the band leader — and we would call each other for signs of life. We really bonded, which helped solidify the chemistry we have during the show. Once we got out, we saw that the world is hopefully like how it will be here after we recover and get the vaccine out. There were even three Broadway shows opening there, Pippin, Frozen, and Hamilton. Since we're still fully shut down here, it was like a time warp a little bit.
How did you come into this project?
I was looking to do something in front of a live audience, whether it was hosting a talk show or a game show. I'm very drawn to games. My family is very musical, so we would all play long when Name That Tune was on during my childhood. [My team] was brainstorming ideas and Name That Tune came up. We laughed and thought it would never happen, but it was a good match for me. We saw that it was being made very soon at Fox, so we called them. There was a whole process of getting it, and I feel very lucky to have been chosen to be the host. It's a classic game show and I think it's gotten a very classy reboot.
Was this process similar or different to the traditional theater work you've done?
It's different because you're not presenting a musical or play from start to finish, but the adrenaline rush is the same. We filmed it basically live to tape, which means they introduce you, you come on, and we keep going unless something majorly goes wrong, which very rarely did. So we did get that feeling of live performing in front of the audience, which is what I was going for, and it was a great pleasure to do. There was a bit of a learning curve, the biggest being following all the rules. Standards and Practices is really strict. With a show like Name That Tune, if you heard a song rehearsed when nobody was there and it gets in your head and you start humming it backstage, you could get federal fines. It's a serious gig and the rules are very, very tight. I would improvise a lot of jokes on air, and you couldn't make any reference to any song that might come up. You have to be really careful not to sing along.
You have another musical project in the works, too.
I was lucky enough to film a show that our Broadway fans will be very excited to see, called Schmigadoon! It's a full musical series, in six episodes. It's about a couple [played by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key] who are going through relationship therapy and they're told to take a walk in the woods to figure out their problems. They stumble upon a town called Schmigadoon that's entirely lived in musical-theater. It's really good. We went to Canada for that one, and it's a project that I did a bunch of readings of, and I'm so in love with it. We sang everything live, we rehearsed it like you would a Broadway show, and they filmed everything head-to-toe, which I'm so thankful for, because most movie or TV musicals aren't shot that way and that's something you miss. That'll be on Apple TV Plus eventually, I think over the summer. I'm really thrilled I got to be a part of it.