Why We Love Laura Benanti
Let me start out by saying that I reluctantly fell under the charms of Laura Benanti, never quite sure what her exact appeal was. At this point in my mistaken existence, I had seen her ONLY in the 2003 revival of Nine playing Claudia and found her to be quite capable, but I was not sure what all of the hoopla was about. As much as I prefer to be always right, I have to admit that I was extremely wrong where Ms. Benanti is concerned. Several years later, my good friend and sparring partner Robbie Rozelle took me to see Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and to use an overused phrase, “I saw the light.”
In Women on the Verge…, I witnessed one of the most memorable and brilliant comedy performances as Benanti overcame some challenging material to steal the show. As the daffy and frenzied model Candela, she turned the David Yazbek ditty “Model Behavior” into a musical comedy tour-de-force. It was here that I fell in love with her talents and have been kicking myself ever since for each performance of hers that I have missed over the years. She received a Tony nomination for her work in this show and I was convinced she was a shoe-in. It truly was unlike anything I had ever seen before. This was not to be, but she did, of course, secure a trophy for her work a year earlier in the revival Gypsy.
Why does the world love Laura Benanti? Well, meeting her was my first indication that she was something special. After Women on the Verge…, my good friend and frequent sparring partner Robbie Rozelle arranged for me to meet Ms. Benanti in her dressing room. What I instantly loved about her was how immediately accessible she was and lacking in pretense. Her sense of humor was equal parts zany fun and wily sarcasm. Best of all, she didn’t act like a diva or star. She was a human being who graciously took the time with a total stranger who would soon be one of her greatest fans.
If you don’t follow Ms. Benanti on Twitter, I highly recommend doing so. The wit and the wacky fly there on a regular basis as she makes poignant commentary through the most delicious humor. She tells wonderful anecdotes about her life, delivers frank observations on the absurdities of the world, and is not afraid to be self-deprecating if it means her audience will laugh. She is equal parts Carol Burnett, Brett Somers, and Mary Martin. Perhaps this is why she continues to be so chameleon-like in her performances. She has played everything from Maria in The Sound of Music to Louise in Gypsy, from Cinderella in Into the Woods to Julia Sullivan in The Wedding Singer. Now she is poised to play Amalia Balash in the 2016 Roundabout Theatre revival of She Loves Me. What a wonderful role that will capitalize on her humor, her acting chops and her lovely singing voice. This will be the performance to behold come this year’s Tony Awards.
So, Ms. Benanti, I must thank my good friend and ever-annoying sparring partner Robbie Rozelle for being right on this one. You are a fixture in the firmament. You are the eclectic talent that Broadway needs and here is a wish that we will see your name blazing on the marquees for decades to come. Wherever that marquee is, I will do my best to be in line for tickets. It feels good to be right about this one…finally.