Laura Benanti on her new CD and 'Sound of Music'
FILE - This June 12, 2011 file photo shows actress Laura Benanti at the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York. Benanti, who won a Tony in the Broadway revival of "Gypsy," has a new album titled, "In Constant Search of the Right Attention." (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Laura Benanti has been on a bit of a roll since she showed up drunk at the Tony Awards.
That was Benanti, mournfully holding a bottle of booze, onstage with "Smash" star Megan Hilty and former "The New Normal" star Andrew Rannells to skewer theater stars who seek fame on TV.
"Both my shows were canceled, it's true — no joke! Not one show, but two!" declared the actress, whose shows "Go On" and "The Playboy Club" were yanked. "And so I raise a bottle to you — television sucks!"
Since that bit of comedy, Benanti has gone on to perform in front of more than 20 million people in NBC's live version of "The Sound of Music," record the CD "In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention" and book a bunch of concerts. She also has a recurring role on "Nurse Jackie."
"People are getting to see a little more of who I am and what makes me tick and what my sense of humor is," the actress recently said from Los Angeles, where she was auditioning for TV pilots.
Her career's rise is all the more meaningful since her heart was broken at the time of the Tonys show: Her marriage to fellow Broadway star Steven Pasquale had ended, and the chance to laugh at the Tonys was perfect.
"I really needed that. I needed to be amongst all of those people that I love in that room and get to be funny and silly and self-effacing. I felt like from then on it was this upward trajectory. I felt the angels were really looking out for me."
Benanti, who won a Tony in the Broadway revival of "Gypsy" alongside Patti Lupone, also earned Tony nominations for her work in "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," ''Into the Woods" and "Swing."
On her new CD, she fuses theater standards with pop music and original songs. Recorded live at the club 54 Below, the album showcases her immense charm, like the revelation that she was such a musical theater nerd as a kid that she went trick-or-treating dressed as Fosca from Stephen Sondheim's "Passion."
She talked about her CD and "The Sound of Music" in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
AP: You've left the fun, goofy stuff you talk about during your cabaret show between songs on the CD. Why?
Benanti: I want people who weren't able to get to New York to get to share the show. This way you're able to really experience it as if you were there. You just don't get to see me make idiotic faces. You can get to hear me be an idiot.
AP: Do you feel you've been getting more attention since "The Sound of Music"?
Benanti: Yes. It definitely felt like I was an overnight success after 16 years. I gained probably 6,000 Twitter followers and had a lot of people congratulating me. Being out in Los Angeles for this trip feels extremely different than it's ever felt. I feel like people are like, 'Oh, we get you now.' I felt frustrated before, like they didn't really know what to do with me.
AP: Was it fun doing a live show on television?
Benanti: I had a wonderful experience doing that show. It's everything that I like to do. It's singing, it's acting. It's a period piece, which I'm super comfortable doing. And it was on television. So it's everything that I enjoy at once — and it's live.
AP: Any downside?
Benanti: What I get frustrated with is when I feel like people in the theater community were horribly cruel to Carrie (Underwood). No. 1, we have to remember that she'd never done anything like that before. Her learning curve was incredibly steep. From the first day of rehearsal to the performance, she grew in leaps and bounds. I think it takes tremendous heart and courage to come back to work every single day knowing that maybe you're not that good yet. She came to work every day and cracked her heart open and was like, 'Teach me. I want to learn.' I think she did a beautiful job.