Laura Benanti: Salty and Sweet

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Laura Benanti and Chelsea Nachman may be famous among theater fans for their friendship on Twitter and Instagram, but when they met in 2006, social media hardly existed.

Nachman recalls their meeting: “We met during The Wedding Singer, as in, at the stage door of Wedding Singer….. correct. We don’t know why we started talking either. This was pre-Internet, though (as in 2006, not like 1845), and things are a little different now with the prevalence of social media and the instant gratification of a favorite or a like. I had to write HAND-WRITTEN LETTERS TO STAGE DOORS, PEOPLE!!!!!”

So in honor of Benanti’s return to Broadway in She Loves Me after five years away, we gave Nachman a list of questions to ask Benanti, as the two hung out in her dressing room at Studio 54. (Oh, and Nachman also asks that you do not try to steal her best friend at the stage door.) —Broadway Style Guide Team

Chelsea Nachman: So, we are here tonight to talk about you.
Laura Benanti: Mhm, like every other night.
Chelsea: (Laughs) Let’s talk about this sexy, sexy shoot you just did for Broadway Style Guide.
Laura: Okay.
Chelsea: I want to talk about your style.
Laura: My style?
Chelsea: Your current style. Tell everyone what you’re wearing right now.
Laura: My current style is a Rangers onesie. A giant fleece Rangers onesie with the hood up.
Chelsea: And did your stylist pick this out for you?
Laura: No. I picked this out for myself.
Chelsea: Great. Tell me about your work with Scott…
Laura: Scott Allgauer.
Chelsea: …and how you create your “aesthetic”?
Laura: Well he’s a genius, because I don’t really actually understand clothes very much. I always vaguely look like I’m going to an Indigo Girls concert. So he is helping me to bring a more fashion forward look to red carpets and events.
Chelsea: Clearly not to your dressing room couch…
Laura: Not to my dressing room, but it is affecting my everyday life! In the morning now, I feel like I have a better understanding of what looks good on me and what can still be comfortable but looks cool.
Chelsea: And I just want to point out, that you didn’t learn that from me all these years? Let’s just be clear.
Laura: No.
Chelsea: Great. Do you have any new favorite brands to wear?
Laura: I really like Jonathan Simkhai.
Chelsea: You might get free stuff, say it louder.
Laura: JONATHAN SIMKHAI. (Laughs)

Chelsea: So you’re back on Broadway in She Loves Me after five years. Those were like the saddest five years of my life, of you not being on a stage.
Laura: Sames.
Chelsea: What made this one the one to come back to?
Laura: Because a lot of times when you’re in a soprano role, you get to sing really pretty and be the heart of the show but you don’t necessarily get to be funny.
Chelsea: But you’re not funny.
Laura: Right, that’s true.
Chelsea: So why did this really call out to you?
Laura: For me, to get to do all of the things that I love to do—which is get to sing in a coloratura soprano and also get to be funny, but then also have moments of heart and truth. It’s very rare to find a role like that.
Chelsea: Did you see Scott [Ellis]’s original revival?
Laura: No.
Chelsea: Were you familiar with it? Or is it solely based off of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail?
Laura: Yes, one hundred percent. I base all my characters off of Meg Ryan. No, I listened to the original cast recording of She Loves Me when I was a little girl. Barbara Cook.
Chelsea: What a nerd!
Laura: I know, honestly. Duh.
Chelsea: JK. So your big song in Act 2…
Laura: “Vanilla Ice Cream”?
Chelsea: Correct. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? I know the answer, but tell everyone else.
Laura: I really love mint chocolate chip. But also, now I’m into this like cookies and cream flavor that also has mint in it. So it’s like cookies and cream meets mint.
Chelsea: That sounds horrible.
Laura: How dare you? Why would you say that?
Chelsea: Mint… Mint is for toothpaste.
Laura: No, mint is for delicious desserts. You, first of all, drink ice cream. (Laughs) Yours is completely melted. It’s so vile.
Chelsea: For the record, I have very sensitive teeth, and I’m living that soup life. 24/7. #SoupLife.
Laura: Sugar soup. Get a little bit of that sugar soup.

Chelsea: What else do I want to talk about? Let’s talk about your wedding dress.
Laura: So a designer named Anne Barge designed my dress, which I loved so much.
Chelsea: You looked beautiful.
Laura: Thank you.
Chelsea: Pretty sure I cried on that dress.
Laura: I’m pretty sure you did too. I’m pretty sure I did too. I feel like everybody did. And then Charles Baker Strahan, who is my good friend who lives in L.A., flew in and did my hairs. I did my own makeup. Whaaat?
Chelsea: I mean, just multitalented.
Laura: A woman of the people. And it was like, the best day of my life. It was the most beautiful day of my life, marrying Patrick Brown.
Chelsea: Again, I’m sitting right here. Like, this is offensive.
Laura: I know, I’m sorry. (Laughs)
Chelsea: Speaking of our love affair…
Laura: Okay!
Chelsea: Particularly social media, wink face.
Laura: Oh my God.
Chelsea: Talk about your Twitter and Instagram, and let’s talk about how you’ve like, cultivated that.
Laura: I didn’t cultivate it! Like I didn’t start out doing Twitter to be like “Everyone’s going to think I’m funny.” I just was being myself. And like my funny observations on life. And then people seemed to respond to it. It’s done a lot for me.
Chelsea: Uh, yeah, to say the least.
Laura: I think it’s done a lot for both of us.
Chelsea: You have a book now.
Laura: Well, I’m writing it. It’s in my brain. It’s just not on the page yet.
Chelsea: Sure, but that happened from Twitter…which is cray.
Laura: I know. It really is. And… I really enjoy it. And now I’m into Snapchat.
Chelsea: Oh…
Laura: Do you think I’m getting good at it?
Chelsea: Still some pointers…
Laura: What? Really?
Chelsea: Well, I mean like, when you send a photo don’t make it 10 seconds all the time.
Laura: Oh, right.
Chelsea: I’m not going to critique you during this interview. But we can go over it after.
Laura: The last one I did wasn’t ten seconds.
Chelsea: Which was the last one?
Laura: The one where I’m a cowboy.
Chelsea: Oh, true. But videos are different.
Laura: Oh, right. I see what you’re saying.
Chelsea: So like, still photos… You know what I mean?
Laura: Got it.
Chelsea: Like, I’ll watch a video until the end, but if you want to show me a photo with just no words on it, give me like four or five seconds.
Laura: I always give you words. I always have words.
Chelsea: Yeah but like… (Laughs)
Laura: Don’t edit any of this! Please nobody edit this! This is perfection.

Chelsea: Um, skipping right along…LOL, “role model for young girls”—
Laura: Me? Does it literally say “LOL role model for young girls?”
Chelsea: No.
Laura: I was gonna say, sarcasm!
Chelsea: I added my personal LOL touch to it.
Laura: Thanks. I do want to be a role model for young girls!
Chelsea: Well, let me finish. That was the LOL part. This is the real [part]—“who want to be on Broadway or love theatre, and how do you handle being in that position?” ‘Cause like on Twitter you want to be a little sarcastic and dry and witty sometimes. Do you ever stop yourself from typing something rude or mean?
Laura: Yes. I try not to swear.
Chelsea: Nope, not me!
Laura: I know.
Chelsea: (Laughs) Sorry, Mom!
Laura: I do feel a sense of responsibility in a way. I know I have a lot of young followers, and I know a lot of those people might not be the cool kids in their school. They’re the musical theater nerds and that is what I am and was. And that was challenging at times. So for me, I feel like if I can use that social media platform to reach out to young people who are maybe going through a little bit of a tricky time, I want to do that. ‘Cause I know what it was like to not be cool.
Chelsea: You just wrote a song about it.
Laura: It’s hard. I did! “I Like Musicals!”
Chelsea: Yeah, duh. We just high-fived. Dear Broadway Style Guide readers, we just high-fived.
Laura: Wait, and if they go to iTunes and they buy said song, called “I Like Musicals,” all the proceeds go to VH1 Save the Music to keep music in our public schools.
Chelsea: Great. I wanna do some rapid fire questions.
Laura: I thought you were gonna say “I wanna do some raps!” I was like “Oh, wow, okay!”
Chelsea: (Laughs) I mean…
Laura: That took a turn.
Chelsea: Would you like to? Just GO!
Laura: Hey, ho, what do ya know? Sitting with Chelsea Nachman, yo! We’re under a blanket! Don’t fart, it’ll stank it! Watch out, Lin-Manuel… I’m coming for you. That’s rapping.
Chelsea: Slow. Claps. That’ll win a special Tony Award for Best Rap Performance.
Laura: Probably.

Chelsea: Great. Okay, I’m just going to think of them. Chocolate or vanilla?
Laura: Ooh, chocolate.
Chelsea: Day or night?
Laura: Night.
Chelsea: TV or books?
Laura: Gross. TV. (Laughs)
Chelsea: Um, sweet or salty?
Laura: Salty…and sweet.
Chelsea: Oh, okay. This is rapid fire. You have to pick one or the other.
Laura: I know. I just chose.
Chelsea: What’s your favorite thing about me?
Laura: Oh, your sense of humor.
Chelsea: Oh my God!
Laura: And your loyalty. You’re a very loyal person. You also have beautiful eyes.
Chelsea: It doesn’t have to be only three things.
Laura: What if this just evolves to us furiously making out? The rest of the sounds are just kisses.
Chelsea: Yup. What was your best or most memorable fan gift?
Laura: I get a lot of them, I have to say. But my favorite might be this drawing that was done of me in my pajamas holding a little thing of ice cream. I love it.
Chelsea: That’s really cute.
Laura: But I get so many sweet gifts. I got M&M’s with my face on them.
Chelsea: Um bring those over, are those them?
Laura: Yeah.
Chelsea: We’re taking an M&M break! Oh my God.
Laura: Like how amazing is that? Those have my face on them! You’re eating my face.
Chelsea: I mean, I would’ve if I was at the shoot anyway.
Laura: That’s exactly right.
Chelsea: What’s your favorite candy?
Laura: Ooh, I love Twix. But I also love Peppermint Patties. Mint.
Chelsea: Ugh. God, I can’t believe we’re still friends.
Laura: I know.
Chelsea: Talk more about Patrick Brown.
Laura: Patrick Brown is the greatest guy in the entire world. He is so loving and smart and supportive…
Chelsea: You only said three things about me, so you can only say three things about him.
Laura: Done. (Whispers) And handsome.
Chelsea: How… dare… you? I’m leaving. Um, what are your favorite hangouts in New York City?
Laura: My couch. (Laughs) Your couch, and this couch.
Chelsea: Great. What’s your workout routine? I’m laughing as I ask the question. Lifting the fork to your mouth?
Laura: Yeah, currently right now. Um… currently, sit-ups. The one sit-up when I get out of bed, and the second sit-up when I lay down at night.
Chelsea: I don’t think that counts as a sit-up.
Laura: It’s like a backwards sit-up.
Chelsea: So I think all in one it’s one full sit-up.
Laura: Yeah. And then eight shows a week.
Chelsea: Sure. That seems easy though.
Laura: I stretch!
Chelsea: So what are your favorite restaurants in New York?
Laura: I like Lido in Harlem. I like Vinateria, I like Red Rooster. I like… my couch.
Chelsea: Great. Skincare regime?
Laura: I’m terrible. I’m the worst. I wash my face with soap and put on moisturizer. That’s it.
Chelsea: It works.
Laura: Well I’m starting to get little crow’s feet.
Chelsea: Where? This is me making a skeptical face.
Laura: Well, that’s because I’ve been hanging out with lots of crows, and they’re stepping on me. Well now that I’m getting older, I gotta start doing something.
Chelsea: LOL. Um, I don’t know, is there anything else you want to say?
Laura: I want to thank the Broadway Style Guide for the opportunity to show a different side of me. You know, I play a lot of classic roles, or you know, if I’m on television, like murderers or bad guys in onesies, or like country singers. And I want to thank, also, the designers who lent us these fabulous clothes; because I do think that it’s hard to get people to lend for Broadway. And so, I feel like it becomes cyclical.
Chelsea: For sure.
Laura: If there’s no fashion on the red carpet at a Broadway show, then nobody’s going to cover it. But it’s really hard to get people to lend to you, because people don’t cover it. So for myself, or Kelli O’Hara, or you know, Jessie Mueller, to show up on a red carpet in something that’s really fashion forward, that helps our Broadway community. That has people look at us in a different way, other than like, “Oh those are the carneys, who wear garbage bags on the red carpet.”
Chelsea: Totally.
Laura: All right, go ahead.
Chelsea: No! I mean, you kinda said what I was gonna say, so I have nothing else to say!
Laura: Great.
Chelsea: So are we done?
Laura: We’re done!

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Styling by Scott Allgauer
Hair by Nastya Miliaeva
Makeup by Brittany Bell Spencer
Clothes by Bill Blass, Cinq a Sept, Jonathan Simkhai, Mugler & Rag & Bone
Shoes by Aquazzura & Stuart Weitzman
Jewelry by Eva Fehren