Jennifer Simard is probably the first Broadway performer to sing a duet with a slot machine. Simard plays the gambling-addicted nun Sister Mary Downy in Seth Rudetsky’s Disaster!, a musical spoof of 1970s disaster movies running at the Nederlander Theatre, and she brings down the house with her hilarious rendition of “Never Can Say Goodbye.”
“Clifton Davis, who wrote the song, recently came to see the show and performing in front of the man who created it was a once in a lifetime moment I’ll never forget,” says Simard.
Simard is known for her comedic stage chops, having appeared on Broadway in The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, Shrek the Musical, and Sister Act. When asked which comedians she admires, she names “a litany” of women, from Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason to Betty White and Carole Burnett to Amy Schumer and Tina Fey. (Apparently, Sarah Silverman is also a childhood pal!)
“Watching great comediennes was the best training as well as just doing it,” she says. “Experience can teach you how to not push and just try and let the audience come to you.”
Broadway Style Guide recently spent an afternoon with Simard at her favorite post-theatre haunt: the French bistro Chez Josephine (414 West 42nd Street).
When did you first start going to Chez Josephine?
I worked at The Westside Theatre for years, and Chez Josephine is right around the corner. I remember first going there with my folks. My dad is a retired French teacher and the whole ambiance of the place made us all feel right at home.
What are your go-to drink and food item on the menu and why?
I’m not really drinking right now for the sake of my voice, except on rare occasions. But if I do, it would be some Chateau Simard Bordeaux—my namesake! As for food, I love the slow-roasted Amish chicken with haricot verts, potato purée and garlic jus. It’s got everything I need to fuel my show without weighing me down.
Plus, in the whimsy category, my mom had two favorite words in French that she thought sounded pretty. She loved the French word for umbrella, “parapluie,” and the French word for green beans, “haricot verts.” If I see haricot verts on the menu, I’ll likely order them if only just to overly enunciate the pronunciation and laugh. She’d love that.
What is one of your favorite memories of a night you spent at Chez Josephine?
Recently—March 6 to be exact—two nights before opening night of Disaster!, me, my husband, my brother, and my dad went to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We lost my mother a year and a half ago so it was an emotional remembrance of good times past. Amazingly enough, right after we toasted her memory, the pianist started playing my big song from the show, “Never Can Say Goodbye.” I couldn’t believe it!