For Harry Connick, Jr., that dream is a reality. The composer, singer and actor, who was Tony Award-nominated for the first stage show he composed, Thou Shalt Not, is set to headline the new Kathleen Marshall revival of the labor-loves-management musical comedy The Pajama Game. Connick — who has interpreted show tunes at his jazz piano for 20 years — talked to Playbill.com about how his latest assignment exercises a new set of aborning artistic muscles.
Playbill.com: Obviously, you grew up with all kinds of music. Did show tunes have a place in your childhood?
Harry Connick, Jr.: To a degree. As I got older, more and more. When I was a kid, it was more traditional jazz. When I got into my teens, I started working, and doing plays in high school—the repertoire for jazz musicians is show tunes. They're so well written and well structured. That's just the library we pick tunes from. I used to work at Chez Josephine [on 42nd Street]. I played piano there on Saturday nights. I used to call my pop between sets, because when you're playing solo you go through a lot of tunes. I used to say, "Dad, I need some more tunes." Over the years, your repertoire grows.
Playbill.com: Are any particular tunes from Pajama Game well known to jazz musicians?
HC: Not really. "Hey There" is obviously a very popular tune. But I never really ever heard anybody play that tune. It was never one of those tunes that made it across the fence to the jazz world.
Playbill.com: How did they approach you for this role?
HC: It was a year or two ago. Somebody asked if I'd be interested in doing it. I've always wanted to do something on Broadway and for various reasons it never worked out. This came along. I like the songs. I bought the original cast album and watched the movie and thought this might be fun. Another thing I liked about it was it was a little more obscure than Guys and Dolls. It hadn't been done 8,000 times.
Playbill.com: This is your first musical as a star. Does it seem natural to you?
HC: When you're in high school, those are very formative years. I did three shows in high school. It was a really important time in my life and I really enjoyed that. I hadn't revisited the stage in that way since. It was almost like a time warp doing this. It feels very comfortable. I'm used to singing and I'm used to acting. But this challenges you in every way the whole time—that part was unfamiliar to me. Playbill.com: How has this experience been different from the one you had as composer of Thou Shalt Not?
HC: It's amazing. There's such great musical talent working on this show. When I come to rehearsal, I don't have to think about anything but singing. It's bizarre. I'll hear them working out musical things. My inclination is to go and be a part of that. It's almost like a great freedom.
Playbill.com: Are you writing another musical?
HC: I am. I can't really talk about it, because it's not ready yet. But this feels very comfortable to me, being here. I've always loved the talent and creativity of people who live and work on Broadway. I want to be around that more.