By Andrew Gans
20 Jan 2012
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Say what you will about the current Michael Mayer-directed revival of the 1965 On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which will close Jan. 29 after 29 previews and 57 regular performances at the St. James Theatre, but the musical did introduce New York audiences to a new star-in-the-making, Chicago native Jessie Mueller. Mueller, who is making her Broadway debut, plays a 1940s jazz singer named Melinda, whose no-nonsense personality and striking vocals draw the attention of Dr. Mark Bruckner (played by Tony nominee Harry Connick Jr.). Mueller, who often reminds one of a young Judy Garland or Liza Minnelli, greatly impresses with her jazz-tinged vocals and her ability to shift from a whispery tone to a powerful, rangy Broadway belt within the same phrase. Her performance of "Ev'ry Night at Seven" is especially exciting and makes one hope a Jessie Mueller concert will be presented in the not-too-distant future. Just a few hours before it was announced that On a Clear Day, which also co-stars David Turner and Kerry O'Malley, will end its run at the end of the month, I had the pleasure of chatting with singer-actress Mueller, who spoke about her Broadway bow, her Chicago roots, her famous co-star and more; that interview follows.
Question: Since we haven't spoken before, where were you born and raised?
Jessie Mueller: I was born and raised in Evanston, IL.
Question: When did you start performing?
Mueller: I didn't really start performing until high school. My whole family is actually in the business, and started in the business in Chicago, so I was going to shows when I was a teeny-tiny kid, but I didn't really start performing until high school.
Mueller: They're all actors.... Roger Mueller is my dad. My mom's name is Jill Shellabarger. Then I've got my brother Matt Mueller, my sister Abby Mueller, and my brother Andrew Mueller.
Question: Has anyone else played Broadway or are you the first?
Mueller: Not yet. I'm expecting and I hope they all get to, but just not yet.
Question: When you were in high school, what shows did you get to do?
Mueller: I think my first show was The Wiz, and I was in the ensemble… [Laughs.] I did Working in high school — that was really fun. I feel like everybody does that in high school or college.