DIVA TALK: Chatting With On a Clear Day Star Jessie Mueller

By Andrew Gans
20 Jan 2012

Mueller in On a Clear Day.
photo by Paul Kolnik

Question: When did performing change from being a hobby to when you knew or wanted it to be your career?
Mueller: I think as a little kid, that's what I wanted to do. When I started doing it in high school, I thought, "Oh, okay. Well, this is what it's actually like to do this." And then, when I started applying to college, I was kind of trepidatious about it, but that's what I ended up majoring in. So, it was kind of that transition from high school to college was the decision of, "Okay, I think I really want to do this."

Question: Where did you go to school?
Mueller: I went to Syracuse University.

Question: What was your first professional gig after college?
Mueller: My first professional gig was Once Upon a Mattress at the Drury Lane Oakbrook… I was in the ensemble. I was one of the ladies in waiting, and I covered Winnifred.

Question: Skipping a bit forward, how did On a Clear Day come about for you?
Mueller: I'd been acting in Chicago since I came back after University, and I got a call from my agent saying, "They're doing this revival of On a Clear Day," and I actually auditioned when the team came through Chicago for the American Idiot tour. They were auditioning people for that, and I came in that same day in the midst of all their rock 'n' roll auditions, and came in with my pieces from the show, and that's how it started. We were supposed to have a callback the next day, and I was involved in a reading of a play that I kind of couldn't back out of, so I ended up flying myself to New York the next week and auditioning again, and then they flew me back. They flew me back to the third audition, and that's when I got to meet Harry.

Mueller and Connick in On a Clear Day.
photo by Paul Kolnik

Question: How did you find out you had gotten the role?
Mueller: There was a workshop that was done at the Vineyard Theatre, and I was able to be a part of that. I found out that I was going to be doing the role at the Vineyard, and as that workshop presentation came to a close, the producers pulled me aside, and they were like, "Alright. I think we're going to do this."

Question: Do you remember your first preview or your first night on Broadway? I'm always curious how the first Broadway performance lives up to what your idea of it was.
Mueller: I do. I do — parts of it very clearly and parts of it not so clearly. [Laughs.] It's so fun because my first entrance I come up through a trap — I come up through an elevator. I remember that moment — I'm underneath the stage kind of looking up — being like, "This is really going to happen." Once I hit the stage, I was better, but when I was waiting in that elevator, I was nervous just because I was trying to take it all in about what this was and what it meant. But, it was thrilling. The energy in the house that night — this is before opening, this is just first preview — we were just all so excited and eager to get to do our show.

Question: Tell me a little bit about working with Michael Mayer — what's he like as a director?
Mueller: He's so smart. I think right from the get-go of hearing the stories of how he decided to reinterpret the show, and why he wanted to and what it meant to him, I think we just always knew we were in good hands with him. And, because of the work that he's done prior — he's just had such amazing successes and has been so inventive with the things he's done, so it was a pleasure in tech to just sit out in the house and watch it all coming together… The elements of the set and the costumes are so vivid and informed us so much, I think, about what our play was going to be. He was wonderful, and I'm so grateful to him for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to do this.