Laura Bell Bundy returns to Broadway after 15 years in 'The Cottage'
The Legally Blonde, Wicked, and Hairspray actress fulfills a long-held dream of acting in a Broadway play, the latest chapter in a long and varied career.
Fifteen years after her last Broadway stint in Legally Blonde: The Musical, Tony Award nominee Laura Bell Bundy is back in The Cottage, a comedy written by Sandy Rustin and directed by Jason Alexander. The Cottage is set in the 1923 English countryside, where everybody is fooling around with each other. (A far cry from Harvard Law.)
Bundy plays Sylvia, who’s married to Clarke (Alex Moffat) but dallying with Beau (Eric McCormack), who’s married to Marjorie (Lilli Cooper), who’s having an affair with Clarke. Got all that? The Cottage is a comedy about cheating, but it's also, says Bundy, an awakening.
“About a year after I left Legally Blonde, I ran into [casting director] Bernie Telsey,” Bundy recalled. “I remember telling him that I wanted to do a straight play on Broadway. It took around 14 years for that desire to manifest.”
She’s been busy in the meantime. “I’ve had different chapters in my life and career,” said Bundy, who grew up in Kentucky. Around 2009, she began a five-plus-year Nashville chapter as a musician. Next up, a Los Angeles chapter focused on TV, most recently The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder. Then, the mom chapter. She and her husband, Tom Hinkle, a TV and film producer, have a 4-year-old son, Huck.
Since 2021, it’s been the Green Acres chapter. Bundy lives on a 20-acre New Jersey farm with 12 sheep, four goats, and proximity to her and Tom’s East Coast families. New York Theatre Guide caught up with Bundy to discuss The Cottage chapter as she drove herself from “Kentucky, New Jersey” (her term) to the Hayes Theater, where The Cottage plays through October 29.
You starred in Sweet Charity on stage in 2018 in L.A., but how does it feel to be back on Broadway?
We did all of our rehearsals for this comedy without anybody laughing at it. We rehearsed for five weeks before we got an audience whose reactions were almost overwhelming on my nervous system. I thought, "I’ve got to pause here." It was exhilarating.
What drew you to The Cottage?
A week after I switched agencies, I got an offer for this play. Then I had a Zoom meeting with Jason. I read the script. I had no notes. I was attached early on before we had a theatre. It just checked all the boxes – the part, the play. Compared to a musical, a play is more doable than a musical, having a small child.
What specifically made you want to play Sylvia?
I have had the pleasure of playing two characters – Elle Woods and, now, Sylvia – who realize they're worth more than the love of the man. But they don't start that way. That seems to be a recurring theme.
Noël Coward’s works are said to inspire the play. Did you bone up on him to prepare?
I like to completely immerse myself. I read Noël Coward. I watched Noël Coward. I tried to find anything by Noël Coward online. I went through Private Lives, Blithe Spirit with Rex Harrison, and Present Laughter with Kevin Kline. I learned a lot about rhythm and the pace and the delivery of comedic lines from all of it.
What’s the atmosphere like backstage?
We are tight. We enjoy one another. After our first week, Nehal [Joshi, who plays Richard] made fresh watermelon martinis after the show. It’s a really nice vibe.
You and Britney Spears played bad seed Tina Denmark in the 1992 camp musical Ruthless! With the Britney musical Once Upon a One More Time running now, you’re sort of both on Broadway together.
I hadn’t put those two facts together. Somehow I’m always sort of doing this historical dance with Britney Spears. But that show spoon-fed me how to do comedy at a very young age, that is completely serving me now. Learning those lessons at that time in my life, I believe, was a huge part of why I played [my Broadway-debut role] Amber von Tussle in Hairspray.
You co-directed Lexington Theatre Company’s run of Legally Blonde in 2018. Did that experience change your relationship with directors?
It has made me a better actor and collaborator and made me much more empathetic and thoughtful and aware of the fact that the show does not go on without every person’s hard work.
You’ve recorded three albums and written dozens of songs. Is there a song you’ve written that speaks to where you are now?
Off my most recent album, it would be “Get It Girl, You Go.” It’s about women having it all and making shit happen in the world.
What’s next for you after The Cottage?
As an actress, I don’t know. As a composer, I’ve been working with Kristin Hanggi, who is a Tony-nominated director [for Rock of Ages], to turn my album Women of Tomorrow into a musical. I will be throwing myself into that as soon as this is over.
Top image credit: Laura Bell Bundy. (Photo courtesy of production)
In-article image credit: Bundy in The Cottage. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
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