Can you tell us how you got bitten by the acting bug?
Susan: That would be my
parent’s fault. I was always taken to theater – I was very
fortunate. They took us to a lot of films. And not necessarily
mainstream films but the art films and I went to them on school nights
with my dad. He’s a huge film buff…So I don’t know HOW they could
be surprised (but they were) when I said “mom and dad I want to be an
Why? Did they want you to be something else?
Well yeah, I was brought up to go to
. And then I decided not to go and instead go to UCLA for acting and my
parents went “gasp..gasp”. And
THEN, my dad looked at the difference in tuition and thought it was a
really good idea!
So what was their original plan for you career wise?
You know, my Dad’s a doctor and he failed miserably on three fronts
with my brother, sister and I to get any of us to be a doctor –
although it’s his own fault. He would bring Polaroid’s home and show
them at dinner of surgery. And he wondered!
I remember I cracked my head open when I was 10 and my dad took
me to the hospital and he walked me around on my way to get stitches
trying to sell me on the idea of being a doctor because he knew he had
failed with my brother and sister. And here I am thinking my head is
cracked open and I’m about to be in pain with stitches… it just was
never going to work… I do think he is glad I didn’t become an
Well I think there are a lot of people that are glad you didn’t become
Well that was sweet of you. I would have been a good attorney!
CB: Do you
like to argue?
I do. I love to argue. I can argue any point – I don’t even care
performing run in your family?
No.. it really doesn’t. My mom is completely tone deaf. How excellent
it that? I have no pressure when she comes to the shows. She just thinks
everything is great.
CB: So no
Well this is kind of a cool story…My middle name is Farrell and I was
named after my grandmother who I happen to also look just like. I
don’t look like my parents. I look like my paternal grandmother. She
was really talented musically. She was a terrific pianist and she had
this teacher who wanted to make her a concert pianist. But her mother
said that women just don’t do that sort of thing. Because it was in
“that day and age”. But she always played. She and her husband had a
little pub up in
and it was the hangout of Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Van Heusen and all
these guys from
. Jimmy fell in love with a girl up there and got married at my
grandmother’s house. So I have this great picture of my dad with
Sinatra in his heyday – he was probably in his early 40s.
were your role models growing up both professionally and personally?
SE: If we’re talking about
musical theater, it would be Bernadette Peters. I listened to Sunday in
The Park with George until the TAPE broke! That’s how long ago that
was. I was always a huge Sondheim fan. My parents were always a little
confused by me. They would take me to Annie but I would respond more to
Man of La Mancha and A little Night Music. I never wanted to be Annie
– I wanted to be Frederica
was your first role/show?
SE: In the fifth grade I was
the narrator for A Christmas Carol – we performed it in the library.
CB: Was that the musical
version of A Christmas Carol?
No, it was a straight play! You know I started out as a straight play
CB: OK! You
mean you were a “legit” actress…
A “legit” actress, that’s right…you know, and then Beauty and
the Beast, you do a musical in
and everybody thinks of you as a musical theater girl. Although I just
did a production of Amy’s View last year in LA. I like the straight
CB: Tell us
a little bit about your journey to Broadway. Were there any
I was very lucky. I chalk it up to the right opportunities came
by – I was not a “natural” at this – by any means. I was not the
star of my school. My best friend was and she wanted voice lessons and
basically needed a car pool partner and that’s how I fell into this.
It’s the “
” story. So when I was in high school, I started doing community
theater at the Pacific Light Opera. People don’t necessarily think of
being a big theater state or
being a theater town, but there is a
to do at every level from non-professional to fully professional and a
lot of semi-professional things. So I would work in these musicals
alongside actors who had done Broadway stuff. When I was in college I
did a production of Sunday in the Park with George at South Coast
Repertory and Harry Groener was our lead. So yeah, it was really neat.
Then the summer after my junior year, I auditioned for a production of
No, No, Nanette! at the St. Louis MUNY and as I was walking out the
casting director said, “Do you know Bye Bye Birdie and Kim McAfee’s
song ‘How Lovely to be a Woman?’ and I said “yeah” because I had
just done a musical revue called “By Strouse” at college. So I sang
it and he cast me that summer in both roles. Tommy Tune came down to
play Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie and I was thinking “How
sad..what is this Tony-Award winning man doing something in summer
stock..had things gotten that bad?”
probably thinking “Maybe I should have been a lawyer after all!”
Right.. AHHH! But it
wasn’t like that. He was testing the show out to see if it was a good
vehicle for him - and it was. It was the perfect vehicle for him. It was
such a natural choice to have him sign Put on a Happy Face and do a tap
number. So the next year with Fran and Barry Weissler, he created a tour
of that and I was brought back after having met with him. So I felt
incredibly lucky to be there and under his wing and I toured for a year
and it was the most ideal situation in that I had this opportunity at a
young age to see if I liked the business. I knew I liked performing. Oh,
Gene Saks was the director and it was incredible – like getting an
education from the consummate director of comedy and the most amazing
musical theater director, star, producer who also happens to incredibly
genuine and gregarious soul. He was the one that told me to leave LA. He
said “Susan – They’re not going to know what to do with you here
is going to know exactly what to do with you.” So that’s why I moved
to NY and wound up in Beauty and the Beast.
CB: What was the audition
process like for originating the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast?
SE: I auditioned the last
day they were holding auditions and I remember I didn’t want to go to
the audition. I thought it was a rotten idea. I hadn’t seen the movie
but I thought “a cartoon? No..” – but you have to remember I was
such a theater snob and there were a lot of things happening that
season. There was My Fair Lady, Carousel and Grease and I was putting
all my eggs in the Grease basket because it was being done by Tommy
(Tune) and Fran and Barry Weissler – it’s a 1950s musical – I was
just FINISHED with one – so that’s what I thought – that’s what
I’ll do, I’ll do Grease. Um No.
But I auditioned for all those shows and I thought I would just
go to Beauty and the Beast because “that’s my job. I go to
auditions.” I had
auditioned for the movie of Beauty and the Beast when I was like 18 –
I was a huge fan of Little Mermaid and had mistaken Jodi Benson’s
voice – I thought it was Liz Callaway. Anyway, I thought for the next
one, their not going to want someone who sounds like that, they’re
going to want something different because they just did that. So I sang
a little more legit – and didn’t get it. And then I heard Paige
O’Hara on a recording of it and I thought “No, they DID want someone
who sounds like Liz Callaway” Ok, so I learned my lesson so at my
audition for Beauty I sang “The Story Goes On”
from Baby and they responded to it. They gave me a bunch of sides
and said “Ok – come back whenever you are ready, take several hours
if you want”. So I read the sides and I found them to be very funny.
But I had never seen the film so I just thought they were funny and I
guess I made them laugh, I don’t know, but anyway..
that’s interesting, you saw The Little Mermaid but not Beauty and The
Well maybe I was resentful because I didn’t get the job?
Hmmm. I don’t know. Huh! I never thought of that!
worry, the therapy here is free
Good – the therapy’s free. I’m like, uh Craig, I’m getting in
touch with my demons! (laughs) So anyway I was called back and the call
back was stressful because it was three days in a row and I wasn’t
told it was three days in a row and I thought “Who has three good days
in a row?” And I had this ONE dress that I wanted to wear that I had
worn to the original call. At the time I had short spiky hair but I
still had my Kim McAfee long haired wig so I wore that. I wasn’t going
to go dressed as Belle because I figured everyone was going to be
dressed like Belle, but I am going to go dressed very Disney. So I was
dressed more “
in Wonderland” with the headband but a red and white dress – not a
blue dress. But it all “hinted” at that fairytale thing. So since it
was the only dress I had, I realized I was going to have to wear this
thing three days in a row.
first day was a coaching session with the musical director and the
director. The second day was singing for Alan Menken – and that was
the day I was most nervous for because I KNEW who Alan Menken. And then
the third day was for all the Disney executives. I was there at 11am and
there were a bunch of girls there – I was nervous so I read my book
because it kept me from freaking out.
And in the room was Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, but I
didn’t know who they were, so it was kind of OK – because I’m just
ignorant (laughs) and I had “passed” Alan Menken who I had been
worried about. But I do remember, after Alan, I panicked. I asked if I
should go rent the movie and they said “No. Don’t mess with what you
are doing.” Because I think what I was doing was different and that
could have worked to my disadvantage but I guess they had seen a lot of
people mimic Paige (O’Hara) -
I don’t know. Maybe what I was doing was “true enough” to the
essence of what Paige did but also a little different. I don’t know.
What was interesting is that on the last day, I did my thing and I was
weird and funny and then I think it was Rob (the director) panicked a
little – maybe it was Disney that panicked a little – and Rob came
up to me on the stage and said “Ok, can you just do it totally
straight. Totally Ingénue. Just show us that you’re able to do
I was actually relieved to have the opportunity because I really thought
they were taking a risk going with me because I am very strange – and
while Belle is odd…I don’t know..
Yes.. right – not that odd. So I did have the opportunity to play it
very soft – very sweet. So I think they went “Ok. If we panic at all
throughout the rehearsal process, we can at least come back and have her
do it that way. So I was there from 11am to 5pm. I was exhausted. I
think out of mercy, that night, Jay Binder called and they said I had
it. I was SO excited that I went out with my dog and bought some Ben and
Jerry’s Ice Cream and I rented the movie! So I finally saw the movie!
Can you share any funny or touching backstage stories from your
experience with BatB?
SE: There are so many, I was
in it for a long time. It was a lot of fun with the kids who would talk
to you while you were on stage. But I think my favorite moment – but
not in the moment it wasn’t – but retrospectively – it was
definitely the day that Terry (Mann) pulled my wig off on stage. I ran
off stage thinking I just sent 900 children into therapy.
Also – Eisner called me the bag lady because
whenever somebody dropped a prop or whatever, since really none
of the other characters could bend over – you know, Mrs. Potts,
Lumiere and Cogsworth – they don’t have hands either, so I would
just pick everything up and put it in my basket during the entire play.
Michael (Eisner) saw the play so many times that he would notice each
time what I had picked up…
Your solo CD "So Far..." debuted a little over a year ago.
Can you tell us a little bit more about that project, how you selected
the songs and the entire process.
SE: Well I met John Yap (the
producer) when he produced the Triumph of Love album. I am so grateful
to him for doing it because nobody was going to record it and I love the
composer and lyricist so much and also the book writer and I though
it’s such a great play for regional theater but if there’s no
recording, nobody’s going to do it. So I was really grateful to him.
He was very kind and asked me if I ever thought of doing a solo CD and
so I said “actually, yes.. I HAVE thought about it. And of course I
wanted to do esoteric and original material and he said “No.”
(laughs) and that it wouldn’t “sell” But he would release an album
of esoteric and original material if I did a very commercial album
first. So then we came up with concept which I thought was interesting.
You know I had done some really cool things and for long periods of time
in my life that I never recorded. And this was a chance to record things
like Bye Bye Birdie which I did 500 times and Cabaret which I did 500
times and also a chance to record other musicals I did out in
and regionally that I loved – like State Fair. You know I originally
did that but then I was doing Beauty and the Beast when they brought it
to Broadway. The funny thing is that when I went to record it, I
didn’t record it in the key I sang it in, but in the key Andrea
McArdle sang it in – which was a MUCH better key and I thought “Why
didn’t I think of that?” I
was doing the little Miss Soprano thing back in those days. So it was
just a really neat opportunity to kind of get to record that stuff like
a yearbook. Theater’s not like film – you don’t have any record of
what you’ve done. It’s…It’s gone. You know Beauty and the Beast
was never even recorded for
while the Original Cast was in it – so I don’t even have a record of
it there. I have no record of my performance in that. None. But at least
the audio recording of it is something. So…then we just filled in the
blanks – and the way we did it (the way John records which is
brilliant) is that I got to record the instrumentals for half the songs
and I used his library for the other half. So it was excellent!
have quite a theatrical resume (tours, regional and Broadway), what
roles and shows have been your favorite and why?
SE: Always the one that I am
playing at the moment.
CB: Fair enough. You’re
also featured on a plethora of compilation albums – you were one of
Bruce Kimmel’s “Staple” performers. Do you have a favorite track
from those and why?
SE: Bruce is a terrific
producer. I went in to record for the Sondheim album and I was so
excited to be on the “Sondheim at the Movies” album and Bruce gave
me the song from The Bird Cage called Little Dream – and I was SICK
the day I was supposed to record it. I went into the studio and was like
“Ugh! Bruce I am so sick I’m gonna be..”
and he said “Don’t worry about it. Just go in there and sing
in incredibly light”. I
had no “chest” voice really. So I went in there and just thought it
was going to be horrible. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it!
And for whatever reason, we couldn’t reschedule either – so I
sang it really light and it was great. It’s my favorite recording
because it’s just really casual and laid back and easy. While it’s
fun to belt and hit high notes, when I listen back to it I find that I
sound very obnoxious (laughs). That’s why I like Little Dream.
CB: You've also done the
voices for a few animation projects. Can you tell us a little bit about
how you landed the role of Meg in Disney’s Hercules?
SE: Well I was doing Beauty
and the Beast and so everybody thought that’s how I got Meg. But the
truth was – they wouldn’t even let me audition! Because I was
playing Belle and Meg is very different. Meg was written in the style of
Barbara Stanwyck in “The Lady Eve.” Now I had this amazing dresser
in Beauty and the Beast who had this incredible library of old movies.
So I went through everybody – Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and certainly
Barbara Stanwyck and all those films, I was such a huge fan of those
ladies and their roles were so great. But also the cadence of acting –
that mid Atlantic accent – it was all so legato with the “bum..baddadada
dada” – you know with the “So.. come around and see me some
time” It was like the 1930s “thing”. And I loved that. Meg was
incredibly well written but they wouldn’t let me audition – and they
were auditioning EVERYBODY. Donna, Audra, everybody and I couldn’t get
an audition. And finally, I think to just shut me up they let me come
in. Now these auditions are VERY strange. Because they were like “oh
hey come in Susan, thanks for coming in…blah blah blah”
then they put you behind the microphone (and there’s no
callback because they record you and that’s becomes your callback) and
then they just put their heads down on the table or they’re looking in
their laps at a picture of Meg because they don’t want to see you.
They want to know if the voice matches the image. So here I am saying
“So, did they give you a name with all those rippling pectorals”
like this whole “thing” with this deep voice which is actually my
speaking voice (the Belle voice is the acting) Meg isn’t “acting”
– Meg is actually where I “live”. So one by one, their heads
popped up and it was Alan Menken and those guys and they were like
“huh!” And the audition song that everyone had to sing was
“Somewhere That’s Green” – so after that I didn’t hear
anything. It was about six months later that I heard I had made the cut,
made the cut, made the cut – you don’t ever hear back because you
never have a callback – they just use the recording. Then they
narrowed it down to the final three voices to animate to. They told me
that sometimes their first choice doesn’t work in animation for
whatever reason it just doesn’t fit the character. So after the
animation test and final cut they called and told me I got the role. I
was lucky because at that point they were really starting to go with big
names – they certainly had big names in all the other roles. I was
also really lucky and excited because I got to be the speaking and
singing voice which doesn’t happen anymore..
Right… which I always thought was a little strange since sometimes
they cast people that probably could get away with singing the songs…
Well I’ll tell you – if they could – they DO record it. I’ll
tell you that much. And then if it doesn’t cut it for them, they’ll
find a sound-alike. I have been called in to be the sound-alike for a
couple of people. For example – I was the sound-alike for someone, not
because they couldn’t sing (because she’s actually quite a good
singer but I think her recording label wouldn’t let her do it) in Lady
and the Tramp II – it was Alyssa Milano – who has a great singing
voice but wasn’t going to sing in that movie. So they got me.
OK. So now let’s talk about something which I know is near and dear to
your heart. You recently held the position of Artistic Director for
of the Arts. What was that like and what prompted you to take that role?
SE: It made 8 shows a week
look like a walk in the park! Oh my god I have never worked that so hard
in my whole life and I have worked hard. The man who was that
influential high school teacher of mine
– the one who made all the difference – it was his music
program that made me went “I want to do this,” he runs that school.
He had a couple of people leave the staff and it was an opportunity for
him to make some really big changes. The music and theater department in
particular hadn’t really changed in 15-20 years and yet musical
theater HAD changed so much since then. You know 1988 was the first year
the school existed, so now we’re talking 2002 – RENT has happened
and all these things. Musicals have transferred from little bohemian
off-off-off Broadway funky little things, you know like Bat Boy: The
Musical became big hits and the feeling at the school was still (Susan
sings) “yadda yadda yadda…yadda yadda yadda”
little dinner theaterish?
CB: Not to
criticize dinner theater…
No, not to criticize dinner theater. I did dinner theater. I sang
“Roll out the rolls”. And it’s not like it was a bad program –
it had good people. It was just an opportunity to update it. It was
interesting, UCLA had called me in a few years ago because they were
redoing their program – just to ask me questions and pick my brain.
They asked “what does a person need right now in the industry?”
You have to be a triple threat now. You have to do it all. You
can’t just be an actor. You can’t get away with just a good voice
anymore, you really can’t. You WANT to be good at all of it. It’s
also an industry where people are stepping from genre to genre – from
film and TV to do theater – in a way that did not happen in the 70s
and 80s – at all. For a movie star, a commercial was the end of their
movie career. Not the same anymore. So anyway – I wanted to implement
all of that so I took on the position of Artistic Director and hired a
wonderful guy to run the music and theater department and with him we
hired a staff and rewrote the program with them. But I also oversaw the
other nine departments. And it was great – a great opportunity to
integrate all these departments – all quite good but very separate.
For example – there is NOOOooo reason why anybody at that school
should be doing a musical to tracks – when we have an incredible and
arguably one of the best musical departments. I’ve never sung with a
track in my entire professional life – only an orchestra and they
should get used to looking at a conductor. And those students should get
used to musical theater because even though they might be playing
classical music in an orchestra, they might be supplementing their
income by playing music in the pit. And these students should get to
know each other because when I go to be inspired, I don’t go and see
musicals. I’m tired of musicals. I go to the ballet. I go to the
museum. There needed to be a lot of integration of skills - so that's
what I did. It’s hard to change the direction like that and people are
resistant to change – although I have to say that the parents were
amazing. A lot of parents were very angry at the beginning of the year
with the change and whatever – but I had to let that dissipate because
it was held over from years past. By November, they all “got it” –
which was really incredible.
CB: Was it more or less of a
problem the fact that you were a “known” actress. You know,
“here’s a Broadway actress coming into OUR high school..”
Nahh people were grateful, actually. The weird thing is that I don’t
think and I don’t think they thought I have a big career…but it’s
because my interests are so diverse.
wait – you say you don’t have a big career?
SE: No. I don’t. I’m not
the one… I don’t get invited to do the diva things at Carnegie Hall,
you know. I’m not on the A list in
CB: Yeah. But you’ve done
Film, TV, a ton of theater. You have the kind of a career that most
SE: I have the kind of
career that I want. But it’s not the kind of career that
New York City
“likes.” Beauty and the
Beast did me a great service. I think it was not at a time where Disney
was popular in
New York City
some might say that even today they aren’t “popular” because of
Yeah, but then every other producer on Broadway got the same deal that
Eisner got with Giuliani so they’re grateful – because of that deal,
all these theaters are being resurrected. Because of that deal,
Roundabout can have the American Airlines theater. And it’s all great.
In any case, I feel like yes. I am at this point and I have done some
great things and if I were to stop tomorrow I would have had a career
that absolutely accomplished all my dreams. I was talking to Marty Bell
(a great producer) about this very thing and he’s always been a great
supporter and I asked him “how come I find myself struggling?” And
he said “Because your brain isn’t satisfied doing just this.” And
that’s true. My mom actually said last year that “Wow. This is the
first job that you’ve probably ever had that actually takes every last
one of your brain cells to click.. click.. like putting together a
puzzle.” And I LOVE working in these other disciplines. Interestingly,
I wouldn’t choose to administrate again. I also produced a video
for children to benefit 9/11 and while I am glad we did it – I
wouldn’t produce again either. I don’t like being the person that
everybody comes to, to complain about other people. And that’s what it
ends up being. And I didn’t enjoy that part. But I did enjoy writing
the programming. I did enjoy directing the plays. It was a novelty that
I was someone who had starred on Broadway (they forgot about that pretty
quick and I became just Susan pretty quickly) and I was not easy on
them. I know that I angered a lot of people because I didn’t know
ANY of the kids walking into the position so I didn’t have favorites.
So the kids that had been favorites – all of the sudden, I
don’t know, might not have gotten into the show. Kids who had never
been in the show might have gotten the lead. I think my Eliza Doolittle
had never done anything. And she was brilliant too. She was great. The
kids, after initially getting over the idea that things were going to
change, had a great time with the change because they didn’t know that
they didn’t know. I wasn’t bringing in things that were miraculous
or original. I was bringing in the elements of the industry that I have
been working in for the past 15 years. Like the idea of PRE-PRODUCTION
for instance. How about that? (laughs). The idea of really researching
your role and the politics of
at the time that Eliza Doolittle was under the tutelage of Henry
Higgins. The idea of public education was a new concept at
at the time and that was what Henry Higgins was arguing for. And the
students were like “Really?” and “Oh wow!” and
you could really see their eyes light up. Four of them are in NYU right
now and I wrote their recommendation letters and it was exciting to give
one of those young men the chance to direct last year. And he chose and
directed “Parade” – I was so proud of him for choosing that play
and not “Grease”. So
being the Artistic Director was GREAT. But it was exhausting.
OK, so let's get a little current. You are back in Cabaret on Broadway.
First tell us about getting that "call"…
SE: First, I think people
are surprised from my performance – not that I think I am brilliant or
anything like that. I just think people “know me” and they don’t.
CB: Well Sally isn’t
Belle…and she certainly isn’t Kim McAfee
SE: Right. Belle’s not me,
it was acting. I’m an actress and I think people forget that and think
they’ve pegged you as whatever role you were doing. Actually, Belle
for me was more of a stretch in some ways. So anyway – they had called
a couple of times (for me to come back as Sally) when people have left
– they always had these spaces open and I’ve never been available. I
was doing a TV show for a couple of years and then the school thing. So
basically, when the school position ended, I was seriously considering
coming back to
. My agent called Jim Carnahan to say “hey” and just put it out
there that I was thinking of coming back to NY so if anything comes up
– but we were thinking more of something new…something else.. and I
think he was panicking because they didn’t have a Sally for September
and he asked when I was available and could I come in for two months.
And I thought ooof. I don’t know. Because I thought I was pretty
‘ok’ as Sally, but I was questioning whether or not it was the right
timing in my life. As in would I STILL be ok as Sally. Would it be
weird? And then I thought, no -
you know what? It’s been 3 years since I’ve done something here and
– it’s a brilliant production. I don’t think I could go back and
do a lot of things. I have done a few productions of South Pacific and
it showed me that I don’t like doing something I’ve already done.
But this show is very different. I was in an incredibly different place.
I think I have grown a bit and I think we all have with what’s been
going on in the world. It’s changed our priorities. Part of the reason
I went to work at the school was because of what’s been going on in
the world. I had just been working on a TV show that I thought was fun
but “Cotton Candy” – you know, disappears the moment you taste it
and I thought, “What am I doing….with my life… and where’s the
purpose in it?” The
school let me do that. But I also realized that the school was only part
of it and I have other things such as performing – so I came back, and
I am so glad I did. Cabaret is my favorite company I have ever been
involved with. So many of the originals are still there. I have so much
respect for them – talk about triple threats! They are quadruple
threats. And the newcomers (who are a lot of people that were on the
national tour) are SO talented. I love the production staff, the
Roundabout…Todd really appreciates the “actor” and what they do
and what they have to offer and he celebrates it in a way that others
don’t. Some producers don’t. I’ve been very lucky with producers
but I’ve also experienced producers that for them, actors are on the
lowest rung of the totem pole and it’s nice to be appreciated for what
you offer. I think my Sally is better this time. I think I am more
relaxed as a human being and not pushing quite so much. Also, without
even realizing it, she’s been “marinating” in my head for three
years. Coming back is different because I already know the background, I
already know EXACTLY who she is – I don’t have to work at that
aspect anymore, it’s just a part of who I am – and I love Rick
CB: So you said you know
exactly who Sally is. Who is Sally to you and what motivates her?
She’s a very lost soul and not terribly bright. I sort have always
imagined that she came from a very bright family and never understood
what they were talking about at the dinner table. She was lost and
couldn’t get attention for who she was and so she started rebelling
pretty early and ultimately took off and left home – met this girl
Elsie (of course) and happened to land in a place where she was special.
Not because of intelligence or anything specifically, but because she
had a British accent in
. She was a novelty act and I think she’s somebody who is very cunning
socially. While she’s behaving a certain way, she’s also observing
the situation and can figure out very quickly what gets a positive
reaction and what doesn’t get a positive reaction. I also think –
and a lot of this comes from Sam (Mendes) – at the end of the play she
is probably the wisest soul there. Because, although she’s not
intellectual, she is knowledgeable.
She would be a bad mother – she was never meant to be a mother
and Cliff is in denial. It would be living a lie and he says the he
never would have left her as long as there was a baby to which she
replies “What a terrible burden for an infant, Don’tcha think?”
And I think she’s right. Sam has always said that at the end of the
play that she’s the only one looking at her destiny with clear eyes.
She knows exactly where she’s headed and she chooses it. She’d
rather go out in a blaze. And everybody else doesn’t know where they
are headed. I really love her journey because she’s so damaged and
makes such bad choices and that’s much more true to life than the
people that always make the right choices. I love playing the heroines
because they’re great role models. Especially a well written heroine
like Sally because she IS odd. She is an outcast and thank god she’s
not someone who is waiting to be saved. And I love that about her –
she’s a great role model for young women.
CB: What advice would Susan
Egan give Sally, and what advice would she give to you?
SE: Oh. Well I think I would
tell Sally to love herself. That’s what I would say. And Sally?
Sally’s advice would probably be very surface like to name a new hair
conditioner or nail polish. (laughs)
CB: Ok, so you have worked
with so many different people during your career already. Are there any
people that stand out?
SE: The people who I tend to
love are the people who understand the balance of life because that is
what I’m hoping to achieve. I’m having a difficult time career-wise
to be honest, because I’ve grown as a human and balance is important
to me and this is an industry where maybe I’m discovering you have to
put everything into it to get something out. It’s just that I realized
I’m not happy with JUST that. And the people I admire are the people
that have found balance and understand priorities. Very bright kind of
people. I love Sam Mendes for his intellect and insights and for his
demeanor as a director. Carol Burnett. She knew everybody’s name
the first day. That means she had to sit down and study a list. She
understands the effect she has on people. I think there’s this
hierarchy of people who can have tremendous affect and Carol Burnett has
this (and she knows it) the ability to make someone’s day or to
devastate someone’s day but she actively CHOOSES to make someone’s
day. That takes energy above and beyond what is necessary and she does
it. She’s an incredible soul who has been through such heartache and
survived it. She’s an amazing woman and I’ve worked with a lot of
divas and then I worked with Carol Burnett…
CB: Who you
would think would have every right to be a diva..
SE: Even MORE right. And she
is so far from that. She’s such an exemplary model – like how and
when to pick your battles. She picks them and they’re very few but you
know when she picks one, she’s heard and she’s listened to. I also
love Michelle Pawk. I watched Michelle go through some very hard things
in Triumph of Love and she was brilliant in that play. She won a TONY
this year and I just thought “YES! Finally something good happened to
a good person.” She’s
really got it together. I saw her at the Roundabout a couple of weeks
ago and she said she’d give it all away tomorrow for her baby boy. She
“gets it”. Again, it’s about balance.
CB: What are your dream
roles (whether or not they you are "type").
SE: I don’t know if I have
“dream” roles. I have roles I would like to play. I’d love to do
Ariel in The Tempest. I’d love to do any of the “trouser” roles in
Shakespeare. I did that in Triumph of Love and I’ve always enjoyed
that. It killed me last year – I was offered Beatrice and I couldn’t
do it because of the school so that was a little sad. I’d like to do
some more straight theater. I’d also like to do some great films where
I actually do something. I’ve done a lot of film where I am around the
craft food service table a lot (laughs).
CB: What are some of your
SE: Sweeney Todd. I think
Guys and Dolls is a perfect show. I like so many.. but I think those are
two good examples
CB: Who are your favorite
SE: I’m grown more
“mature” in some of my tastes and interestingly it’s taken me very
commercial. I’ve learned to appreciate everybody for what they do
well. I’m still a Sondheim fanatic. I will always be a Sondheim
fanatic. Alan Menken writes the best music for women – ever! Nobody
can write a bridge like he can – he’s incredible. I recently did
some concerts with Jerry Herman and I think he is able to turn a lyric,
where the song is going somewhere and he will wrap it up in a couplet
that makes you just go “oh” and make your heart just fall. I love
Charlie Strouse and Susan Birkenhead. And Kander and Ebb just write
music that we respond to on a visceral level. They’re all brilliant at
what they do. Now, out of new composers, I like Jason Robert Brown very
much and his wife, Georgia Stitt – who I happen to be singing a lot of
her music in my set. Also Marci Heisler and Zina Goldrich (Taylor the
Latte Boy), I think, are the new voice of musical theater because they
capture women today. I liken them to what Nora Ephron does for film.
CB: What was the last show
you saw and what shows are you looking forward to this season?
SE: The last show I saw
was…Eddie Izzard. It was BRILLIANT! I love his humor. He’s
incredibly bright. You almost need a history degree to get all of his
jokes. He’s just terrific and I adore him and that he’ll get a laugh
ten to fifteen seconds later after everybody’s caught on…very witty.
This season I am looking forward to ALL of it. Wicked – I hope it’s
a huge huge success. I love Stephen Schwartz – he’s been away from
Broadway for too long and Idina and Kristin are fantastic together and
they have a great cast. I also like stories that are inside out where
nothing is black or white or green and white. And of course Little Shop
of Horrors. We needed to have a Broadway version of that..
CB: What's currently in your
SE: Well I am preparing for
a concert on the 28th (I leave Cabaret on the 26th)
It’s a brand new club act for me so a lot of rehearsal music. I
don’t normally listen to a lot of music actually. I like quiet. I do
like to listen to folk-rock. I don’t listen to a lot of theater music
anymore – isn’t that funny?
CB: So your new act, is it
just theater songs, or do you sing other types of songs?
SE: I throw some things in
there. I sang Billy Joel last time. I’ve got a Christine Lavin song,
“You Look Pretty Good for Your Age” that I sing. You know this new
act is an experiment for stuff and totally coincidently as I have been
putting the word out to get new music from different composers, the
music I’ve really responded to has been primarily music from women. So
I think that’s what I am going to do (record it) and just do it –
and then I’ll release it and know maybe it’s not as commercial as
the others.. but that’s ok, it just needs to be out there.
CB: What was the last book
SE: I am a voracious reader.
I was up until 4 in the morning last night and the night before (I’m
so mad at myself) reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.
Historical fiction about Anne Boleyn’s sister. I love historical
fiction but of course I love anything that’s historical non-fiction as
well. I read several books a week. Except last year I couldn’t. But
now I can because when I’m at the theater I have to be quiet a lot. I
have a list of all the books I’ve read on my website. And I am always
is search of a good book and almost always buy a book on recommendation.
CB: And finally, what's next
Well seriously.. I’m in this weird place in my career. In the
immediate future I will be leaving Cabaret on the 26th
because I have a bunch of concerts coming up that were scheduled
beforehand. And then I think I am going to come back here in January. I
feel that Tommy Tune and others were right - that I need to be in
. I also have another Miyazaki (the one that did Spirited Away) animated
film coming out (Howl’s Moving Castle) that I did the voice for and I
play opposite Michael Keaton and Cary Elwes – woohoo! And it’s very
different from the other ones I’ve done. It comes out on DVD I
think during the holidays. I have a Jennifer Garner movie coming out and
I did 3 other independent films. One of them “Meet Market” was
submitted to Sundance and has an amazing cast. So we’ll see…It’s a
really fun, modern day single scene story set in
. My story is very “Kissing Jessica Stein”-like. A lot of things I
did last year are coming out this year. And then I don’t know…I’d
like to find some time to start writing and things like that. But I miss
theater so I’m gonna come back here and see what’s going on. See if
I can get arrested…
For more information about Susan, visit
her online at www.susanegan.net