DIVA TALK: Chatting with A Little Night Music's Leigh Ann Larkin

By Andrew Gans
27 Aug 2010

Larkin with Patti LuPone and Laura Benanti
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Question: What was getting to work with Patti like after being a fan?
Larkin: Oh, gosh. Well, the first day of rehearsal, Arthur only called the principals because he wanted us to do a table read for the first week together, which is just a brilliant way of working. I was very lucky to experience that, but of course the first day I see Patti, I'm just like, "Duh duh duh." [Laughs.] I just couldn't believe it! I could not believe it. And we were working for the morning, and then I went to lunch and I was sitting, talking to my dad and mom on the phone, just telling them, "Oh, my God! You wouldn't believe it! It's so cool." And we were getting back from lunch, and I saw Patti signing in to go back upstairs. And she was like, "Wow. You're really great." And I was like, "No. You are so great!" [Laughs.] And I can't remember – she might have said, "Oh, I've got a couple years on you" or something really cute and sweet. And I was just like, "I can't believe she knows who I am now and that she complimented me." She didn't need to do that because she's so established and so incredibly successful. She was just so gracious, and I think that was the first moment in so long that my confidence had just come back up, and I was really thrilled to be there. Because you're so intimidated – you walk into a room with people like Arthur and Laura [Benanti] and Patti and Boyd [Gaines], and then there's you, and you just think, "Can I do this? Can I be any good? What am I doing?" And so for somebody that you revered that much to validate you like that – I'll never forget it. I'll never forget that moment. I can picture it like it just happened this afternoon.

Question: Do you remember your first night on Broadway? Do you have a picture of what that experience was like?
Larkin: I do. The two memories that stick in my mind about that: I remember being at City Center, and we were at rehearsal and then we were on a break, and I went downstairs and I kind of found a back way and I found myself on the City Center stage with just the ghost light, and I called my mom and I was like, "I can't believe that I'm gonna be performing [here]." I could not believe it. And then the second memory that I have on Broadway is, when we got to the theatre for the first time, when we were starting tech, I remember singing "Broadway, Broadway" on the stage for just Arthur and whoever else was in the house. And I was like, "I cannot believe this is happening. Could that be any cooler, singing the words 'Broadway, Broadway, how great you are?' while you're on a Broadway stage?" [Laughs.] I'll never forget it. It was an unbelievably cool moment. And what was so cool about Gypsy was that so many people in the cast were making their Broadway debuts, so it was so special to so many of us. That cast was so special — it became a family, everybody was present every day and nobody called out, and people just were dying to be there, including Patti, who's done hundreds of shows. And Laura and Boyd — I mean, everybody. I don't think Boyd missed a show. We were just all dying to be there and do this piece of theatre and be in this production. It was really great.

Question: How did Night Music come about for you?
Larkin: Oh! [Laughs.] I was in DC doing Ragtime, and I was at lunch with my agent [Don]. He had come to DC to see me, and he was like, "You know, they're reviving Night Music, and I talked to Tara Rubin and I think you're gonna get a crack at Petra, so if you wanna just start learning that…" I was like, "Great!" And, actually, what was so silly is that I didn't know anything about Night Music. I didn't know "The Miller's Son," I had never heard it. So right away, of course, I'm like, "Okay, what's this all about? Let me check this out." I had flown to L.A. for something, and I was in the bathroom of the hotel singing "Miller's Son," trying to learn the words and learning the melody just because I was obsessed with the song. I was like, "Oh, this song is so great!"

And then I came back to New York and I was given an appointment, and I was going through all my music and all the material over and over. I was walking through the park talking to a friend of mine on the phone, and my agent called and he was like, "Why did you miss blah blah blah audition?" And I was like, "Oh, I didn't miss that. I was there this morning." … And he was like, "Oh, okay, that's weird. Let me call them back." Then he calls me back and he was like, "Why did you miss your Little Night Music audition?" And I was like, "What?" He was like, "It was today." So anyways, we go back and forth with this banter, [and it turns out that] it was [that] day. I had thought it was the next day. I am running through the park, disgusting, because I had just gone to the gym and I went to FAO Schwartz to get candy or something. [Laughs.] I was running back, I was the last person of the day to go. I thought, "Well, they'll never know. They probably don't know what order people go in." No, no. Wrong. I go in, Trevor [Nunn]'s like, "You need a secretary to sort out your schedule." I was like, "Oh, my gosh!" So then, fast forward, I went in for him, and then I went in for Sondheim the next day and then I didn't hear anything …

Question: Wait, back up a little. What was it like singing for Sondheim?
Larkin: Terrifying. And mind you, he's not a terrifying person at all, and I also knew him from Gypsy because he was very involved with Gypsy. He was there all the time, saw the show a plethora of times and was always so gracious. That wasn't his music — that was his lyrics, but it wasn't the pitter-patter and the intricate melodies and notes and words, and this was. I think that — I'm sure some people would disagree — but I think "Miller's Son" could be argued to be one of the most Sondheim-y pieces of music he ever wrote. I mean, there are a handful, but that one in particular — the words — I mean, you can't catch up to yourself. If you miss it, you're done. Just the complexity of the piece — to sing that in front of him was like, "I need to throw up, and now I'm gonna go sing it for him." [Laughs.] Because you can't get around it, and he knows it better than you ever will. It's like somebody writing your life story and reading it to you and you're like, "Well, that's not what happened." You could sing this to him and he'd be like, "Well, that's not at all how it's supposed to be, and you're also missing this and missing that." But he wasn't – he was just so complimentary, and I was scared to death. I actually probably blanked out for most of it. My hands were shaking. It was quite a nerve-wracking five-to-ten minutes of my life.

And then I didn't hear anything, and then I was like, "Oh, well, I guess I didn't get it," because usually how that goes is you hear soon after. And then my agent called me — I was in Kansas — and he was like, "Listen, you're still in the running, but you're gonna have to come back and sing again and audition. So just stand by, and I'll tell you when you need to book the flight." And I was like, "Okay, great." So then I get a call back after, like, an hour or so, and he's like, "Actually, you're not gonna need to go anywhere. You're gonna stay there and they're gonna fly the music supervisor to Kansas." I was like, "What?" [Laughs.] So he was like, "Yeah. So [the music supervisor] Caroline [Humphris is] gonna come in and we'll figure out the details." And I was like, "Oh? Oh? Okay!" So the director of the show [that I was doing in Kansas] was so gracious to lend his beautiful, stunning house to us, with his baby grand piano and his wooden room. And Caroline came in to audition me, and of course, the house is kind of like a museum, so she was like, "We need to check this place out here, and then we're gonna get started." … It was just so amazing. So I sang for her, and then about a week later I found out that I got it. And I literally cried on the floor, like, "Nothing better in my life has ever happened," and I think at that point [that was true]. I was offered Ragtime when it was moving to Broadway, because that was such an incredible experience, and was kind of all set on doing that. And when my agent called to say, "I have good news and bad news," I really thought that he was just gonna say, "We got your offer for Ragtime, but Night Music isn't gonna go any further," and [the news] was that I couldn't do Ragtime because I had gotten Night Music.

And I was in tears on the floor! [Laughs.] Even though Gypsy was my first Broadway show, this was the first [time I] got a call because [I] got cast to do a Broadway show. [With] Gypsy, they had kept us all from City Center, and that was, of course, an awesome gift in and of itself, finding out that that was moving and I was gonna do it. But this was the first time it was like, "You auditioned for a Broadway show, and you got it and they want you." It was just awesome.