By Andrew Gans
07 Feb 2014
Every few seasons a new voice of singular beauty graces the Broadway stage, and this year theatre fans are being treated to the glorious sounds of Lauren Worsham, whose soaring soprano is one of the many highlights of the new musical comedy A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, which plays the Walter Kerr Theatre. Worsham, who is making her Broadway debut, plays the role of Phoebe D'Ysquith in a cast that also features Tony winner Jefferson Mays, Bryce Pinkham, Lisa O'Hare and Jane Carr. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with the singing actress, whose theatrical credits also include the New York City Opera production of Candide, the Goodspeed staging of Carnival and the national tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Worsham spoke about her road to Broadway, her role in the Robert L. Freedman-Steven Lutvak musical and more; that interview follows.
Question: Since we haven’t spoken before, let’s go back a bit. Can you tell me where you were born and raised?
Lauren Worsham: Austin, Texas
Question: When did you start performing? What is your earliest memory?
Lauren Worsham: I played Jonathan Livingston Seagull in a musical version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull in Austin, TX. It was pretty special. [Laughs.]
Lauren Worsham: I think I was probably eight. Before that I sang at home a lot. I was actually tone deaf until I had tumors in my ears — I had very small ear canals — removed. Once they fixed that I was actually able to sing in a pleasant manner.
Question: Do either of your parents sing?
Lauren Worsham: No, they’re in real estate. [Laughs.] My brother sings. My brother is a singer-songwriter. His name is Parker Ainsworth. He changed his last name to his middle name.
Question: When you were growing up, were there any singers or actors that you admired or inspired you?
Lauren Worsham: Absolutely. Austin is a big music town, so growing up I had a lot of local heroes. Toni Price I was very, very into; she was one of the first people I tried to emulate. She’s a local Austin blues artist. Marsha Paul I was also a very big fan of. And, in the larger sense, of course, Beverly Sills… She’s a legend and what she did with the New York City Opera was pretty amazing. And, Maria Callas… In theatre, Barbra Streisand. I mean, who doesn’t? She’s amazing. The list goes on. I’m particularly enamored these days with Laura Benanti. I’ve seen her perform live before… but she was just so amazing in [the "Sound of Music Live!"] broadcast… I mean she just stole the show in a part that should not necessarily be stealing the show. She was so amazing, and her voice was so crystal clear and conversational and just wonderful.
Question: Was there ever a point when performing changed from a hobby to when you knew it would be your career?
Lauren Worsham: Yes. When I first went to Yale, I thought to myself, “Okay, I’m going to Yale, I should do something sensible. I should major in something, and I should have a back-up plan." Everyone always told me it’s a really hard way to make a living, which it is. But, of course, when I got there, I started auditioning for musicals, and even though I didn’t major in it, it was kind of the first step towards it. I just couldn’t get away from it. Really, I think the defining moment was when I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival my freshman summer, and we were basically playing there for a month, [and] sometimes there would only be two people in the audience. And, I thought, if I was still enjoying this and doing it every night for one dude, even if it was just our producer, then I thought that I could do this for a living!