VENTURA COUNTY STAR
Broadway belle
By Mark Wyckoff
Thursday, October 18, 2007

Susan Egan will bring her cabaret act and stories to Thousand Oaks on Friday

Courtesy of Mischa Kischkum Susan Egan performed her first cabaret concert a decade ago and has been honing the show ever since. "I finally feel like we're at a point where we're no longer molding the clay, we're polishing the stone," she says.

Susan Egan

The Tony-nominated singer-actress will perform her one-woman show at 8 p.m. Friday in the intimate Scherr Forum Theatre at Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Tickets, $40, are available in person at the box and through Ticketmaster, 583-8700 or http://www.ticketmaster.com. Egan’s show will kick off the Civic Arts Plaza’s Cabaret Series, which also will feature performances by Dale Kristien and Michael Maguire (Nov. 7) and Linda Purl (Nov. 9). Call 449-2787 or visit http://www.civicartsplaza.com for more information.

Miss a cue? Blow an entrance? Not Susan Egan. Since making her Broadway debut in 1994 with a Tony-nominated performance as Belle in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," the spirited singer-actress swears she's always hit her marks with precision in New York.

The same can't be said for Ventura County. Egan's gaffe-free record came to a screeching halt one night in May 2002 when she was starring in a Rubicon Theatre production of "High Button Shoes" opposite one of her best friends, the manically impish Jason Graae.

"Fifteen seconds I was late! Fifteen seconds!" she said last week in mock exasperation. "As I'm racing out of my dressing room trying to get to the stage, I can hear Jason having a grand time with the audience, telling them, You know, Susan's probably backstage drinking. She's such a lush. She pulls stuff like this all the time.'"

Egan relays the story with a giggle, a giggle that gets more and more pronounced as the tale goes on. By the end, she's had so much fun reliving the "High Button" hijinks that she says, "You know, maybe I should tell that story in my act."

Egan, 37, is on the phone from her Los Angeles home to talk about that act, which she'll perform Friday at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Backed by pianist Stephen Cook, she'll sing songs from her Broadway musicals, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Cabaret," as well as classics by the likes of Cole Porter and George Gershwin and edgier material by contemporary composers like Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, who penned "Taylor the Latte Boy" on her 2004 album "Coffee House." She'll also dish about backstage Broadway life and share stories about being a new mom to 8-month-old Nina.

Egan's transition from stage actress to cabaret performer was gradual and unexpected.

"I seriously thought I'd be hiding behind wigs my entire career," Egan said. "That's why I got into this business — to play characters. But in the last three years, I've probably done my show 200 times all around the country and what I've found is that I love it. It's become my forte. Playing ingenues on Broadway was fun, but I was always the straight man. But in my own show, I can show off my silly side. Instead of being Julie Andrews, I get to be Carol Burnett."

Egan's first foray into cabaret came in 1997, when she did a solo show to benefit her alma mater, the Orange County High School of the Arts.

"I didn't want to just get up there and sing standards for an hour," she said. "I realized that the cabaret shows I've liked the most are the ones where, after it's over, you walk out of the theater feeling like you got to know the performer."

Important, too, was realizing that solo performers need a point of view. It's something she learned by hanging out with her husband, Robert Hartmann, who owns several comedy clubs.

"The best comics, like Jerry Seinfeld and George Lopez, have a very specific point of view that they communicate well," she said. "I discovered I had one as well. I had one about Broadway. You might think it's glamorous, but it's actually so ordinary that it's a delight."

Examples?

"In Beauty and the Beast,' I spent a lot of time backstage picking fuzz off the Beast's tongue," she said. "The actor couldn't do it himself because he's stuck in his costume with these huge hands. And then there was the night in the show when I came out in my big yellow dress and a little girl yelled out, She looks just like me!' The whole place just stopped and roared — all because of a 5-year-old."

Egan last treaded the Broadway boards in 2004 as the title character in "Throughly Modern Millie."

"I'd like to go back to Broadway when I'm 40 and play someone who's 40," she said. "Millie was great, but I was 34 playing a 21-year-old. It's somebody else's turn to play ingenues."

Until then, she's happy performing her cabaret show and even happier being a new mom. Of course, her patience is tested occasionally when baby Nina starts to cry.

"It used to be that any music I was listening to for rehearsal purposes would put her right to sleep," she said. "Then I did a concert called Broadway Rocks' where I had to learn Jellicle Cats' from Cats.' It's not one of my favorite songs and Andrew Lloyd Webber isn't my favorite composer. So, of course, that's the only song that puts her to sleep now. She couldn't like Sondheim. Noooo she's got to like Andrew Lloyd Webber. Life is cruel that way."