DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Closer Than Ever, Wicked and Wild Party Star Julia Murney

By Andrew Gans
03 Aug 2012

Murney's soon-to-be costar Jacquelyn Piro Donovan

Question: How do you go about learning lyrics? Do you have any special tricks that you use?
Murney: Well, with this show—because it's all music—[and it] all came about very fast. I did not know very long ago at all that I was doing it… The decision happened on a Friday—I was in Vail doing a concert, and then rehearsal started a week from that Monday, so it was very short. I asked, "Can I please, please, please have the music in my hands Monday when I get home because I have to start?" So I just started, and Andrew Gerle, who is the music director, is fantastic, and he made brilliant practice tapes to learn from, and it was just a matter of going, "Okay, which group number seems like it's the most complicated? Let me start with that one," where I would have the most amount of time. And, luckily, because this was, like I said, a soundtrack in my car in the late '80s, some of it was sort of down in my brainstem somewhere. It wasn't there for keeps, but it was tapping on it, going, "Oh, right! Remember that?" So some of it came up that way. But I stay in the music and then I try to get to a lyric sheet as soon as I can once I think I know how the tune goes.

Question: Do you have a favorite song yet of the ones that you're doing?
Murney: It's hard to say. To my surprise, I really enjoy "Back on Bass." I say "to my surprise" because this show was originally formed around Sally Mayes, who is an amazing jazz singer. And, she scats. That's her jam, and that is not my jam! [Laughs.] I started having a little scat panic attack, and then Jenn Colella was like, "That was the first thing that panicked me, too!" [Laughs.] But now I really enjoy it, and it's fun because Danny [Weller], the bass player, is there, and I get to play with him, so that part is super fun. And, because I've barely done the duets or the group numbers with another person, it's hard to say beyond that.

Question: I know there's a duet with the two women, "I've Been Here Before." Which part of that do you do?
Murney: I do "I've Been Here Before." [Jackie] does "It's Never That Easy." … Today will be the first day that Jackie and I are called together, so perhaps today we'll get to sing it. [Laughs.]

Question: As you're working on Maltby and Shire songs, how would you define their work?
Murney: They're accessibly clever. They're not clever to the point of going, "Wait. What just happened? What did anybody just say?" The thoughts don't get too involved, in terms of not being able to get them on the first pass, so they're accessible in that way. But I think the reason people like this show so much is because you go, and you immediately see yourself in it. And, it's a very interesting experience to have loved this show when I was essentially a kid and now come back to it as a grownup person. [Laughs.] I had that happen recently—I went out to Paper Mill to see the production of Once On This Island… It was wonderful. It was so beautiful. And, that was one of those shows where I cried so hard… And, I saw it on Broadway originally. And, when I saw it originally—and I had the cast album and listened to it—I just loved it, and I loved the music, and I was like, "Oh, it's this sweet story. It's a sweet fable." But to see it now as a grownup, some of these scenes that are touched on—even though I knew they were coming because I knew the show—gobsmacked me, and afterwards I went backstage, and I looked at the cast, and I showed them… All I had was one raggedy tissue in my bag, and it was done. [Laughs.] It's very interesting to see something like that, and Closer Than Ever does that. I remember sitting in my green Subaru at Syracuse University and listening to "Life Story" and thinking what a great song it was and also thinking, "I can't sing it. I'm too young to sing it" because she talks about her age and specific things in the song. And, now I'm almost old enough to sing it. Oh! How did that happen?! [Laughs.]