DIVA TALK: Chatting With Forbidden Broadway Star Jenny Lee Stern

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28 Sep 2012

A pregnant Stern backstage at Jersey Boys.

Question: Is that a goal?
Stern: I think it's everyone's goal. I think the business has changed a bit over the past ten years, so to open an original company—I mean, I'll speak for myself—of Jersey Boys in Chicago or in Toronto, it really is the same thing, level wise. But there is this thing in the back of your butt where you're like, "But it isn't!" … You have this dream since you're a little girl: "I'm going to be on Broadway." So, of course, it's a goal, but your goals are more specific now. I don't want to be on Broadway just to be on Broadway. You want it to be the right thing. It's really cool to do a show like this because people have so much respect for it and love it so much, and it's in the city. Broadway's definitely a goal, for sure, and it will happen, and I'll make it happen, but far beyond that… I always say my ultimate plan is: "Get a reality show, get a book deal, 'Dancing With the Stars,' Mirror Ball Trophy, Roxie Hart on Broadway, name above the title on Broadway, Tony, Emmy, Academy Award, death."

Question: Well, that's not asking too much!
Stern: [Laughs.] I think it's a pretty solid plan!

Question: You also have two children…
Stern: I do. I have two daughters—a three-year-old and an 18-month-old.

Question: What are their names?
Stern: My three-year-old is Nora, and my 18-month-old, her name is Penelope, but we call her Patsy or Pat.

Question: How has it been combining motherhood and doing eight shows a week?
Stern: I mean, I'm not going to lie to you, it's definitely a challenge in [getting enough] rest, the sleep-in-silence department, when your voice is not 100 percent. But the way that it worked out between my husband and I, it's divine intervention. He just did Superstar, and then that closed literally the same week that we started rehearsals. And now, I've gotten through this whole process, and now he's going back into Jersey Boys here on Broadway as Tommy DeVito Oct. 9, so it's been perfect. Now I'm in performance, and we have my mom to come up, and she stays for a couple days a week, and we have two amazing nannies that swap off. You just get it done like anybody else does in any other business. Our hours are just at night instead of 9-5.

Stern and Jeremy Kushnier at opening night of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Question: Do you think it's helpful being married to an actor, someone who knows what the ups and downs are like?
Stern: I honestly couldn't imagine it any other way, unless I was married to a billionaire and then I can just buy some friends to talk to about it! [Laughs.] There's no way that anybody else could really understand what you're going through. In this business, everything is so heightened. Everything is life or death from like, "My wig fell off" to "Oh my God, my voice!" Sometimes it's nice to have people in the real world to bring things into perspective, like, "Look"—and I say this all the time, too, especially during talkbacks because people are like, "How do you do it eight times a week?" I'm like, "How do I do it? How does a pediatric cardiologist do it?" I want to know how those people do it… How do firefighters do it? What are we doing? We're putting on wigs and costumes, and I'm essentially making funny faces for a living. In that moment, it's life or death, and that's all there is to it. Yeah, it's really nice to have somebody who is going through it and can relate to that. And, also, I think we're both grounded, especially now that we're parents—you sort of have to be—so that we can bring each other back to reality. But he's just been the most amazing support system and is always trying to look out for me… I just had "my time," finally, for three months after being pregnant essentially for two-and-a-half years straight. And, we were on the road with Next to Normal with a three-week-old baby. We've been through it, so now that we're back and settled in the city, we're just figuring it out day by day. We can't go even by contract to contract. It's like, "Okay. We're going to wake up, we're going to get these kids fed and keep them out of traffic, get to a show by half-hour and then take it from there."

[Tickets are $29-$79 with premium tickets available for $110. Tickets can be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or by visiting telecharge.com. For more information visit     forbiddenbroadway.com.]

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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