One of the most versatile performers in show business, Laura Benanti has been a Broadway star for 25 years – earning raves for dramatic, comedic, and musical roles, and the Tony for the title role of the 2008 revival of Gypsy.
Now, Benanti is trying something completely different: an autobiographical comedy show (complete with some original songs by Benanti and composer Todd Almond) called Nobody Cares, which will run February 2-4 at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre.
TheaterMania recently chatted with Benanti about the show’s title, why she’s so intent on skewering herself and confessing to past mistakes, working with composer Todd Almond, and her hopes for the future of this project.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What does nobody care about?
Me, of course! [Laughs] My first song, “Nobody Cares,” is about the inner demons who make fun of me every day. The whole show is this self-deprecating look at fame and a commentary on the fact that even though I have accomplished many things in my career, I am also not the most famous person in the world. So why should I write a show about me and expect anyone to care?
Audible reached out to me before pandemic about doing a show, but then there was such a massive shift after that in our country that I didn’t feel another middle-aged white lady voice was needed. Ultimately, I also needed time and space to think about what I wanted to say. And then I realized the only thing I am qualified to do is talk about myself; that’s why I am actress. So that’s what you’ll get.
So, this show is very different than Laura Benanti at 54 Below?
Absolutely. My cabaret shows are usually like 12 songs from musicals I’ve done or songs I like, with a little patter thrown in. In this show, there are five original songs; that’s it. It’s much more Mike Birbiglia or Alex Edelman than Liza Minnelli.
What can audiences expect to find out about you?”
A lot of my stories are about my early career on Broadway. I did my first four shows before my 23rd birthday. I am very honest about my own bad behavior as a young person. I am a recovering ingenue and a recovering people pleaser. When you are that young, you are not being truthful – both to yourself and to other people. I was playing “grown up” with grownups without being one.
I have a lot of regrets. I should have said “No” a lot more. But I didn’t know how to do that directly, so I made up excuses — and that ultimately bites you in the ass. I realize now I made too many decisions when I wasn’t ready. I got married when I was 24! I joke now I’ve been married for 20 years, just not to the same person.
Let’s talk about these songs you wrote with Todd Almond. How did that process work?
I would hear a song in my brain and then I would send him a voice memo with lyrics and some kind of music, and he would write the accompaniment. We weren’t usually in the same place at the same time, so we couldn’t write together in a traditional fashion. We came up with the final arrangements later.
To quote Stephen Sondheim, are you excited and scared about doing this show?
I always say I am excited and scared about everything, but I am trying to flip it to just being excited. I put so much time into this show that I really want people to like it. It’s one thing to play a character that’s not well received; but it’s a very personal rejection if it’s a show by yourself about yourself.
Of course, I am excited that Audible is recording it for further distribution, and I really hope that I can do it for more than just three nights on stage. My ultimate goal is to make it a TV special for Amazon. And God forbid, people don’t like it, I guess I’ll just have more material for my recovery program.