Laura Benanti, the Tony-winning Gypsy actor who is blessed with one of the purest voices in musical theatre, is currently sharing that glorious sound with audiences at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in the Tony-nominated revival of the classic American musical My Fair Lady. The gifted artist is fulfilling a life-long dream playing Eliza Doolittle in the production helmed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher.
Benanti, whose Broadway credits also include The Sound of Music, Swing!, Into the Woods, Nine, The Wedding Singer, Gypsy, In the Next Room, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, She Loves Me, and Meteor Shower, recently penned a list of her own most memorable nights in the theatre; her responses follow.
1997 Broadway Revival of The Sound of Music
The first time I ever went on as Maria in the 1997 Broadway revival of The Sound of Music I was 18 years old. I was the understudy to the marvelous Rebecca Luker, and she was on a well-deserved vacation! I was so nervous as the curtain went up and the opening song began to play. As I ran down centerstage and lifted my arms into the classic Julie Andrews pose, I could see my shadow shaking in the spotlight. I finally got my arms up and on top of my head...and I could not get them down for the rest of the song!
Swing! on Broadway
I was 19 years old when I did Swing! on Broadway. I had a number where I morphed from an uptight soprano who snapped on the one and the three to a sexy songstress who snapped on the two and the four. The most amazing part of my transformation was the trick dress made for me by William Ivey Long. I unsnapped the cape around my neck, and it became a gorgeous gown. It always elicited a quiet “oooh” from the audience, but one night it got a hearty gasp. I figured I must have looked particularly glamorous that day and was reallllly feeling my lewk. Then, I felt a breeze. A boob breeze. My boob was out.
2008 Tony Awards Telecast
Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines, and I performed on the Tony Awards the year our show [Gypsy] was nominated. Patti sang “Everything's Coming Up Roses.” Watching every single person in Radio City Music Hall leap to their feet is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Filming of 2016 Broadway Revival of She Loves Me
I was secretly pregnant with my daughter during much of She Loves Me. The night that we did the video recording for BroadwayHD I threw up in my mouth and swallowed it. I returned to my dressing room to a text from my husband that read, “DID YOU JUST BARF IN YOUR MOUTH?” To which I replied a glamorous, “You betcha.”
Current Revival of My Fair Lady
Eliza Doolittle has been my dream role since I was five years old. I had not replaced another actor since The Sound of Music! (See first story.) Harry Hadden-Paton (the actor who plays Higgins) was away filming the Downton Abbey, movie, and we were unable to rehearse with each other until the day I went into the show! It was terrifying and magical, and every single moment I spend with this company and as this character is a gift.