DIVA TALK: Catching Up With 2014 Beautiful Tony Nominees Anika Larsen and Jessie Mueller

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02 May 2014

Anika Larsen
Anika Larsen

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Anika Larsen
Those who have enjoyed the numerous talents of Anika Larsen, who has been seen on Broadway in Avenue Q, Xanadu, All Shook Up and Rent, were thrilled this past week when the singing actress, who boasts a rangy and rich belt, earned her first Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress In a Musical for her work in Beautiful. Larsen plays songwriter Cynthia Weil in The Carole King Musical, which nabbed a total of seven Tony nominations, including one for Best Musical.

"I'm fantastic! It's surreal," the gifted artist told me April 29, the morning of the Tony nominations. "I'm in Penn Station right now, and I was crying in Penn Station, but it being New York City, nobody noticed or cared!"

It was Larsen's long-time agent who informed her of the good news as she was stepping off a NJ Transit train coming back from her "fellow's" home. "It was perfect that he called—he was the only agent I've ever had," Larsen said. "I've been with him 15 years, and he stuck by me through thick and thin, so for him to be the one to call me was really special. And then my phone started blowing up, and I don't even know if you can hear me [with] the amount of texts that I've gotten in ten minutes—it's better than my birthdays of all my life combined!"

Larsen, who was also seen Off-Broadway in the autobiographical Shafrika, The White Girl, which she co-wrote with Tim Acito, fellow 2014 Tony nominee Joshua Henry and Janice Lowe, said she burst into tears when she heard the news of her first Tony nomination. "It's sort of perfect that I was in Penn Station—that's such a New York place. I'm from Boston, and I would watch the Tonys obsessively when I was little and sort of dream about this big city and this world, but never really believed that I could somehow be a part of it, so … it's unbelievable that I am in some way involved in the Tonys. It's really hard to wrap my brain around."

The actress said her current Broadway experience has been Beautiful. "I have to say that of any job of my life, this is the most charmed and has had the least amount of anxiety because we were so well led by [director] Marc Bruni that he made it such a loving and comfortable place to work. And, Doug McGrath, our book writer, they were both so generous with being collaborative with us."

Larsen also has nothing but praise for the woman she inhabits eight times a week, songwriter Weil, who with husband Barry Mann (2014 Tony nominee Jarrod Spector), penned such hits as "On Broadway," "He's Sure The Boy I Love" and "Don't Know Much," among others. "Cynthia Weil herself has been so loving of me," Larsen said. "I mean, we have such an incredible friendship now; we call each other 'BFF,' although she often calls me 'me.' When she emails me, she says, 'Dear Me.' I feel like I can do no wrong in her eyes.

Larsen at the Tony Nominee reception
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"And that has been so wonderful because that really is a stressful thing. When they first come, you want them so badly to approve of what you're doing. But she and Barry Mann have just embraced Jarrod and I. It has been such a pleasure to get to know them and to get to play them every night."

On April 3 the entire cast of the Tony-nominated musical was treated to a surprise visit from songwriter King, who enjoyed the new musical at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre for the first time that evening.

"I woke up the next day and thought, 'What did I drink last night?!'" Larsen said with a laugh. "I felt like my face was swollen … and then I realized it's just that I had an emotional hangover – I was weeping for 20 minutes. It was extraordinary. I mean, my first thought when I saw [King onstage at the curtain call] was, 'Oh no, how's Jessie [Mueller] doing?' And I immediately clocked in on Jessie, and her face crumpled, and she burst into tears, and then I started to sympathy cry and kept crying for 20 minutes. But then both of us had this realization, 'Oh wait, she's not just here, she just watched the show!' And both of us were trying to remember if it was a good show, if we were happy with our performances that night, if the audience was good that night. And both of us were pleased to remember that it had been a good show, and it was just amazing — she's just amazing.

"[Carole King] is like a warm light to be around. To have her lead us in 'You've Got a Friend' was an unbelievable moment. It was unforgettable and then for the audience to sing along, and then she stopped everyone onstage from singing and just had the audience sing. If you've got 1,000 people singing 'You've Got a Friend' at you, it's like nothing you've ever experienced."

PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: A Two-Show Day at Beautiful: The Carole King Musical With Anika Larsen

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1:47: Wig prep done, but before I put on my makeup, I gotta glance at my checklist. It's important to have such a checklist. Sometimes you forget.
Photo by Anika Larsen



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